Deep breath. Relax. Interviewing isn’t as hard as it’s made out to be.
If you’ve always struggled with job interviews, there’s probably a few adjustments to your approach that can make a world of difference in how you’re remembered by those doing the hiring. We’ll start by identifying the goal of a job interview from a candidate perspective, and lay out a template to simplify your road to achieving it. Like everything else in life, you get out what you put in – it’s all about the prep!
Your goal is to leave the room having painted a picture of a confident, qualified candidate that fills their area of need.
Everything you need to leave a said impression is available to you. Become an expert on the job description and the listed requirements, and gather as much information as you can outside of what they’ve listed. By understanding as much about the role as possible, you’ll understand why they’ve listed certain qualifications – by understanding the reasoning behind every qualification, you can anticipate and prepare for their line of questioning.
After gaining a thorough understanding of the job description/requirements, navigate to their website – become intimately familiar with who they are, what they do, and who they do it for. You need to be able to regurgitate and explain this without using the precise words from their site.
Look at their “About Us” section, and rewrite the message in your own words. Anybody can memorize, but few take the time to truly understand – you’ll convey a thorough understanding of the problems they aim to solve, as well as the ability to contribute to their efforts. When this inevitably comes up in the interview, after summarizing what they do, tack on an extra sentence that is positive and somewhat subjective.
- For example, let’s say you’re interviewing with an IT consulting company in Chicago that focuses on managed services for the healthcare sector.
- Every tool listed, every ability desired – they all have a purpose with regards to that specific organization’s vertical. Begin your preparation by reviewing any/all materials on the targeted company as you can (website, the LinkedIn profiles of individuals currently holding the targeted position, etc.).
- What do they do? Who do they do it for? What makes them different than others operating in the same space? With those things in mind, try to determine why they listed what they did. There’s more than one way to hammer a nail, but they chose this hammer for this nail – why?
- When the opportunity arises within the early parts of the conversation, you’ll be ready to flex this knowledge and start strong.
- “I did some research on your organization before applying, I noticed that your consultative efforts are mainly geared towards clientele in the Healthcare space – explains why you use [X software suite] over [Y software suite], and why you’d value [Tool A] over [Tool B].”
- Follow with the positive/subjective observation: “Obviously I want to work with a savvy organization, which is what drew me to apply here. It makes a lot of sense that XYZ company would focus on the HIPPA compliant IT space, seeing that Chicago is absolutely saturated with healthcare companies. Being a forward-thinking group that’s on their way to cornering a valuable market is exciting to me.” This opinioned sentence is vital for two reasons; it confirms that you’re thinking critically about the opportunity and that you won’t just accept any job offered to you – subtle, indirect flattery.
Now back to the preparation. When reading the job description, really hone in on the top 3-5 qualifications: those qualifications can be technical skills (i.e. Helpdesk role), personality or character traits (i.e. sales job) or personality AND technical skills (i.e. hands-on manager). Come prepared to gently steer your answers towards what they deem most relevant. Prepare any success stories from your past that highlight those required traits or skills. Most can’t think of answers like that on the spot!
- You’re interviewing for a Field Tech role: continually steer your interview answers towards demonstrating your ability to work autonomously – if they hire you, the manager can trust that you won’t need your handheld.
- Each time you’re given a question, whether it relates directly to your Field Tech experience or not, steer answers to touch on autonomy and dependability. For example, if you get asked: “What type of jobs are you interviewing for?” A good answer might be, “I’m looking for positions that allow me to have some ability to function independently. I enjoy the challenge of solving problems on my own and prefer not to escalate unless absolutely needed. I’m here to solve problems, not to create more work for the rest of the team.”
- Or “How would your current manager describe you?” Everyone talks about being a team player… They’ll love to hear you say something along the lines of, “I’m trustworthy, I stay on task, I am reliable, and I deliver.”
- If you’re interviewing for a Managerial role, different highlights, but same approach. Instead of highlighting your own independence, highlight the ability to instill that trait into those under you. “The health of any organization is affected by individual performance at every level; I love to watch my team operate efficiently and continuously improve, at a micro and a macro level. You don’t get to watch things hum unless you put the work in, and I’m always focused on optimizing every cog in the machine. The manager’s that make people better are the one’s employees want to work hard for – and that’s my priority.
- Let’s say you’re interviewing for a Helpdesk role at an MSP: steer your answers to be able to work in a fast-paced environment, your ability to multi-task and handle multiple trouble tickets concurrently. You’ll also want to highlight your ability to interface well with c-level clients. Make sure that they know “No matter who calls in, or how frustrated they are, nobody I connect with will hang up frustrated that they weren’t heard. I may not be able to solve every problem – but every client will know their problem will be solved as soon as humanly possible.”
There may be more qualified candidates, more talented candidates, more educated candidates than yourself – there often will be. Most people craft an “interview persona”, trying to land different jobs using the same generic approach. How hard a person works to get a job is a pretty good indicator of how hard they’ll work at the job – make an effort to be prepared, and it will pay off.