Do you know how to prepare for an interview?
The most important thing to remember when preparing for an interview is: The Company is NOT hiring you, they are hiring what you can DO for them. The second thing to remember is interview performance is not indicative of job performance, which means the best candidate does not get the job, the candidate who interviews the best does. An interview is an opportunity and when opportunity meets preparation you get success.
How to Present Yourself During an Interview
Too often I get a call from the candidate after they leave my clients office after running through 4 or 5 interviews with various members of the team. As I pick up the phone, I am immediately struck by their enthusiasm. “Bob, thank you for sending me in to this interview, this is a perfect next step for me in my career. This opportunity has everything I am looking for. The company is growing, the hiring manager is someone I can learn from. I will have the opportunity to really create something.”
To which I say, “Great, tell me about how the interviews went.”
“Oh everything went fantastic, I really felt strong I answered all the questions really well, there was this one question I did not answer very well, probably not a big deal, but if I just had more time to think about it, I would have had a great answer for them. As soon as I got to my car I remembered the perfect example to share with them. Should I mention something about it in my thank you note?” To which I already know that the thank you note is now completely irrelevant.
The key to success in any interview is professional self-awareness.
If you have ever had the experience mentioned above where you left an interview and thought of a better answer to one of the questions on the way home in your car, you were not appropriately prepared when you walked in.
Ultimately you can avoid this scenario.
How to Prepare for an In-Person Marketing Interview
For every one hour of interview time, you want to spend an hour researching the company and four hours relearning yourself. If you have been in the real world for more than 100 days, you have accomplished many things and forgotten most of them. Trying to remember them on-the-spot in the middle of an interview is an incredibly bad idea. It only takes one bad answer to ruin your chances at the job of your dreams.
Think about it this way: you will accomplish ten meaningful things today and eight of them you will forget by the time you have dinner. You are already thinking about what you need to do tomorrow, not taking time to celebrate today’s successes.
To properly prepare, you need to sit down in quiet place and hand write out everything significant or interesting you have done in your career. You need to hand write it as most of us are more creative when writing by hand versus typing. You are going to break your background into 3 separate areas: first functional, second is leadership and third is culture. I want you to take time to go through every role you have ever worked in, this could be multiple roles within the same organization and answer some very important questions.
In regard to your specific job / function:
- What was it like to work at the company during this time?
- What were our challenges?
- What were my individual goals?
- Most importantly what were the quantifiable results achieved. What would I define as my biggest accomplishments?
- Why those results were important to the company.
In regard to your leadership ability: (if you have not had management responsibilities, you can skip this)
- What is my leadership style? Why?
- Number of direct reports in each of your previous roles and total # on your team.
- Top hiring success?
- Example of a time I turned a mediocre performer into a top performer?
- How do you motivate your team?
- Most difficult management decision?
With regard to culture:
- What was the culture of the organization?
- Did the culture help or hinder success?
- What would I have changed about the culture if I was empowered to do so?
Next you want to compare your accomplishments back to the job description and see how your successes exceed their needs.
After you go through all this one time this will become a working document. You will add notes in the margin as you think of them. You want to review your notes in detail three of four times prior to your interview. Leave the notes at home, you do not want anyone you are interviewing with to see it. If this is a phone interview DO NOT have the notes in front of you while you are on the phone. It is not appropriate to be fumbling through your notes looking for answers, nor do you want to sound like you are reading your answers.
The ultimate purpose of doing this is threefold:
- To bring all your significant accomplishments to the top of your mind where you can easily access them. You are now prepared to answer any question they ask because you know yourself. You can easily access your best answer every time.
- To increase your confidence in the interview.
- You will have such ready access to the best answer you will actually be able to determine in the interview if this is really a place you want to work.
Preparing this way will make every answer you give incrementally better, while making sure you do not have any of the big misses previously mentioned, when you add all those increments up it makes a huge big difference in setting you apart from your competition. The more senior the job you are interviewing for the tougher the competition gets and the more important this preparation becomes.