It’s the time of year to apply for jobs. Whether you’re a college senior applying for your first “real world” job or an underclassman gunning for an internship, you all have one thing in common – the interview. No matter what, to some degree, you’ll be nervous going into an interview. Fortunately, you have control over how those nerves affect you. Being able to recognize that you’ll have those nerves, you will be able to tackle them head on, entering the interview well prepared and confident.
When it comes to interviews, the best way to tackle nerves is with great preparation. There are hundreds of methods to prepare but some of the best insight I’ve come across recently is from the Harvard Business Review. Looking at the interview through the mindset of the employer, HBR offers 6 steps to best prepare:
1. Learn all you can before you meet. Interviewers bring their experience to the interview. Nothing can substitute for knowing where they’re coming from. Master the available information on the institution. Read everything you can find about the company and the job — from public sources, the company web site, and anything they send you. Study the written job description and the requirements for candidates. Interviewers expect candidates to know this material. It’s the admission ticket.
But you can do better. Try out their products. Meet people who once worked there, as well as suppliers, customers, or others in the industry. Ask about the company and how they think the job would work. If you know similar jobs at other companies, consider how they might differ.
This foundational knowledge leads to all the other steps.
2. Prepare your own questions. Thoughtful questions show the interviewer you’re thinking deeply about the job. They show you’re a serious candidate. Among the most impressive lines of questioning are those that address how the organization operates. Get beyond the basics. If you’re interviewing at a company known for consumer marketing, for example, don’t ask, “Do you do much market research?” If they’re known for marketing, you can be sure they do market research. Instead, perhaps this: “How do market research findings influence product design?” Or this: “What are the differences in careers involving market research compared those in brand management?”
3. Make your case. Link yourself to the interviewer’s needs in the job. Come to the meeting with two elevator speeches — one if you have one minute to describe yourself and another if you have four or five minutes. Start with your personal value proposition (PVP) and tailor it to the job. Ask yourself this question: “If I get this offer, why might that be?” The answer includes your elevator speech.
Imagine questions interviewers may ask and how you’ll answer. Some may be about how well you match the job requirements. Others may be prompted by your resume. Are there gaps against their criteria? If so, how have you overcome gaps in the past, or how would you in the job?
4. Show how you’d succeed. Especially in later interviews, help interviewers judge how you’d do in the job. Show how you’d deal with the job’s challenges. Don’t suggest you have the answer to a complex situation they undoubtedly know better than you do. Introduce your ideas as a way to imagine how the job would be, and ask for their reaction. (“I assume the situation’s like this…If that’s right, then I’d need to do this to succeed…”) Do this well, and they’ll be thinking more about how they’d work with you than whether to make you an offer.
This line of discussion is important for everyone, and it’s essential for senior roles. CEOs and boards expect new senior people to hit the ground running.
5. Prepare for special interview formats. Consulting firms and others use case interviews. Interviewers at some companies use imaginary problem-solving situations, asking questions like, “How many marbles could fit in that jar?” If you’re pursuing these jobs, you must do well in these formats. The only way to build those interviewing skills is to prepare and practice. Several books show how to do that, including Are you Smart Enough to Work at Google? and Case in Point.
6. Synthesize along the way and adjust. You’ll prepare for the first interviews from an outside-in perspective. In later meetings, interviewers will assume you’ve learned from earlier discussions. They’ll expect more sophisticated insights and questions.
Perfect your Handshake. Mastering the art of the perfect handshake is critical for any interview and life.
Update your Facebook profile. Upload a decent profile picture & cover photo that represents you well. Then, make your entire page private. Everyone you meet is going to look before they meet you and/or after you leave.
Relax. You can’t be your best self if you’re racked with fear. Think of it this way, the interviewer wants you to get the job, really. They want you to succeed because they too have a job to do. They are tasked with finding the the perfect candidate and the faster they do the faster the position is filled and they can move on to their next responsibility.
Lastly, Bring a good pen. I’d hate for this to happen:
What interview advice do you have to offer? Leave your comments below.
[Head image via: www.cuetolawgroup.com]