Thursday, April 30, 2009

Preparing For That Interview

Once more, I simply cannot stress enough about the importance of being able to interview effectively.

I was talking to a highly intelligent MBA graduate yesterday who had approached me for guidance to help him secure a job offer, and prior to our conversation he had gone for his twelfth interview in the last 6 months but yet to receive a confirmed job offer. During our session, what he said prompted me to write a little more about handling the interviews (or more specifically, the Job Interview, in case some may misunderstand it to be about doing a survey interview), and I hope that this article can somewhat provide some insights and suggestions to those of you out there who are facing similar challenges.

It really doesn’t matter how awesome and great looking your resume appears to be, how many successful stories and accomplishments you have behind you, or how much knowledge, experience and network contacts you have acquired. And I will bet my last dollar in my pockets (or for that matter in my bank account) that whether or not you are able to land a job will have a great deal to do with how you answer job interview questions effectively.

Again, it’s no great big secret that a lot of prospective employees lost the opportunity of landing their much desired job by not being prepared for their interview. As a result, they trip over all over the place with their words, say the wrong things and not answering to the question, beat around the bush, or simply resort to falsifying responses; AND hope that nobody will take notice. If you think you can get away with that, then I can tell you right now that you are DEAD WRONG. And this comes from all my years of experience as an executive recruiter, having to deal with candidates and clients on both sides of the fence, and it is a given that the interviewer can immediately see through that kind of farce, and will not give that person a second chance once the session is finished. Don’t let that person be YOU! There's no reason for anyone who is smart enough to allow this to happen to him or her, so don't try.

And this is true even for managers, professionals and executives who are usually articulate individuals with excellent careers and track records. More often than not, a significant portion of these people tend to do badly in interviews because of a lack of serious preparation, and the belief that their accomplishments will speak for themselves.

Another important note I want to highlight for those of you who are in mid level and higher positions – the interview is not only used for gathering information about your experience and qualifications, it is also a way of assessing your management and presentation skills. And every aspect of the entire interview process is evaluated. So beware of not having prepared enough for that next interview.

There are easily hundreds of job applicants competing with you for the same position. Never think you are the only candidate and never underestimate those who are competing with you. Unfortunately accomplishments don't speak for themselves and a well-prepared candidate with highly-developed interview skills often gets a position over a better qualified candidate that was poorly prepared. By putting in the time and effort, and commitment, in researching the best way to answer job interview questions, you'll give yourself a huge advantage over your competition.

Like I always say, you need to differentiate yourself from the others who are also in line for that same job opening. You can take a look at the PPT presentation I have embedded together with my previous posting “It’s all about the Interview” on April 28th for some pointers on the initial preparation to be done.

Another small little tip … there are several resources you can utilize to learn how to answer job interview questions and the very first place I would suggest that you look for that is on the net. There are seemingly an endless number of dedicated web sites on the topic of how to answer job interview questions. These are people who do (or had done) the actual hiring for organizations so they really know what they are talking about so you may want to consider listening to their advice seriously.

Another great resource would be career consultants or career coaches who will help you prepare to answer job interview questions. As I'm sure you already know, having someone out there to actually guide you through the entire interview process will enable you to put your best foot forward, be more confident and well-prepared, and ultimately placing you in the best light possible.

Regardless of whatever approach you take, by all means take the time and the effort to practice. In order to get a feel for how you would really answer job interview questions when you're sitting in the hot seat, ask a family member or friend to sit down with you and role-play the interview process. This can be incredibly helpful in preparing you for the real thing. All you have to do is write out several different things you are likely to be asked, and then come up with logical and real responses to these questions.

Nowadays, quite a number of interviewers are adopting the behavioral interviewing style. And to prepare responses for this, simply use the STAR model – that is, ST (Situation/ Task), A (Action), R(Results). I will be touching more on this in another article I am writing so stay tune.

It takes a lot of hard work, determination, effort, perseverance and self-discipline to get hired these days. By doing your homework and practicing the art of how to answer job interview questions, you will go a long way in helping yourself to land that job. Good hunting!

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