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May 19, 2010

The ABCs of Interview Prep

3 Essential (and Easy) Steps to Take Before Your Next Job Interview

Benito M. was nervous.  Despite having a killer resume, rock-solid credentials and being selected for an interview from a hefty pool of applicants, his anxiety was high. The job was ideal for him and he definitely wanted it.   
 
Fortunately, Benito made a wise decision and spent an hour on the phone preparing and strategizing.  Together, we explored the issues likely to arise and how to clearly articulate that his experience and talents equipped him to address, meet and exceed the employer's needs.  By the time we were done, Benito was relaxed and confident.  He aced the interview and, yes, landed the job!  

Prepare on your own or with a coach...
just don't overlook these three key elements.

Here they are -- the ABCs of preparing for that all-important interview:

A - Take A Tour: Interview prep research doesn't get much easier than surfing the web!  These days, you can find a wealth of valuable information and insight online.  Top of the list?  Read the organization's website...all of it!  Especially press releases describing recent news.  Do a web-wide search to discover the perspectives of others.  If you're switching fields, research the industry that's new to you.  Read website bios and LinkedIn profiles of anyone you'll be meeting to take advantage of possible connections -- you may find that you share an alma mater, previous employer, professional association or better yet, a personal connection!  (See C below.)  Take notes so you can refer to specifics during your interview.  Remember, too, that YOU can be found just as easily, so clean up any sites you own and profiles you maintain on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  The results of my web searches prior to coaching sessions have convinced several jobhunters to remove questionable items from personal web pages and to use more professional photos and e-mail addresses.

B - Be Ready to Boast: Working on jobhunters' resumes, I identify the strengths and talents that set them apart from other candidates.  I translate job responsibilities into solid on-the-job achievements (and on-the-volunteer-job achievements for moms returning to work and for students).  These statements are critical because they preview what you can bring to an organization -- and that's what employers will want to discover when you meet.  So be prepared to describe exactly how you engineered the accomplishments you did.  Be specific about how you initiated a project, envisioned an idea, set goals, designed strategies and "game plans," played a pivotal role on your team, motivated others, presented to senior management, served as a liaison between divisions or constituencies, measured success.  Use "I" more than "we."  Cite your unique contributions.  Provide figures, dollars and percentages when reporting results. 

C - See whom you know: Now, more than ever, the best way to get a job is through networking and the same is true for interview prep.  Find someone you know, can wrangle an introduction to, or can become acquainted with who works at the organization you're about to visit.  Then, ask for suggestions or advice.  You may simply affirm your research or you may hit the jackpot with inside information about the background and experience they're really seeking, salary range, upcoming projects, likes and dislikes of your interviewer - all priceless intelligence!  Recently, I coached an applicant nervous about interviewing for a part-time opening when she really wanted a full-time job.  Once she checked with an "inside" friend, she discovered that a team member was planning to leave within the month, vastly increasing the likelihood that the position would become permanent! 
 
Well crafted, your resume and cover letter get you in the door.  Next is the interview.  Like Benito, a bit of advance preparation can help assure that you plant your foot firmly through that door...and not in your mouth!