Preparing for Your Interview

A little preparation before an interview can go a long way toward launching you successfully into your next job. Before your first interview, spend some time making sure that you are well prepared for the situations and questions that you will encounter.

First, make sure that you have your “elevator pitch” on the tip of your tongue. Before you enter the interview and after you leave, you might encounter any number of company employees, and you will want to clearly describe why you are there. Don’t be naïve, everyone you meet could be called on to offer an evaluation of you as a potential colleague. Nothing is more important than “cultural fit.” Your elevator pitch is two or three sentences that encapsulate your search, like “I’ve enjoyed success helping customers improve their e-commerce operations. I am looking for an opportunity to utilize my skills on a larger stage.”

Another impromptu interaction that benefits from preparation is the classic, “Tell me about yourself” opening. Before, during, or after the interview, your response should be the same: a capsule paragraph covering a summary of your background, a particular strength, and your next employment goal. Something along the lines of “As a full-stack web developer, I’ve helped a broad range of customers better portray their value to their customers. I have worked with various industries and software systems, with particular success with e-commerce rollouts. I am looking for the opportunity to lead a team working on international business systems for customers.”

So now you’re in the interview, the pleasantries have been addressed (and don’t rush those, they are critical), and it is time to get down to the tough questions. Many of the questions will probe your technical knowledge, and no last-minute preparation can help with that. Other questions are a bit more open-ended, many times starting with the phrase “Describe a time when—.” It is time to bring out your inner STAR! In this case, that means Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

Your response to these questions should follow that mnemonic, starting with Situation, where you set the scene. For example, “We were losing clients to a competitor that was undercutting our prices.” From there, you go onto Task, where you describe your challenge, “As the company’s business development manager, I needed to stem this loss of business.” That sets the stage for the real meat of the story, the Action, which describes what your did. In this example, “I performed an in-depth comparison between our services and our competitor’s so that we could describe how our prices were actually lower than theirs once you considered all of the added services.” Then you just put a bow on your story with the Result, as “As a result, we won back the lost business and actually grew our account base by 12% last quarter.”

As the interview wraps up, you may be asked if you have any questions. You do! Before the interview, you crafted several questions based on your research into the company and your potential role there. Something like “I have read that you are expanding into selling broadband services. How does this department support that business expansion?” Also, consider asking how your role’s success will be evaluated at the first performance appraisal. Knowing what is important to your success paints a good picture as to their priorities.

As the interview is wrapping up, thank them for their time and attention and ask about next steps and their timeline. Be sure to collect everyone’s contact information for your follow-up/thank you emails.

Interviews don’t need to be high-stress situations. With proper preparation, they can be a stage upon which you can showcase all your best attributes and demonstrate why you are the ideal candidate for the job.

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