Is there a job interview in your future? Are you prepared for it? Really prepared?
I’m retired now and barring some major unknown problem, I will never again have to sit through the grueling and stressful struggle that is a job interview. But the last couple I went through in my working life weren’t that bad. In fact, I nailed them. Here are some of the techniques I employed to find employment.
The reality is that in today’s economy, people don’t stick it out for the long run anymore. A gold watch and a retirement party, that was something your dad did. Today, the easiest way to get a promotion and a raise are, unfortunately, to change companies. So, job interviews are likely something you will find yourself doing again and again. So be prepared.
You know how to prepare for a job interview, right? It’s not your first rodeo. You’ve freshened up your resume. You’re dressed for success. You’re primed for the usual questions. Why do you want this job? Why are you leaving your present job? Where do you see yourself in five years? I always hated that one. Where do I see myself in five years? Probably interviewing for the second job after this one.
But there is a lot more preparation you need to do. A job interview is a performance. It’s not enough to know your lines; you have to be ready to perform and capture your audience. This starts, in small part, with the resume. A resume isn’t merely a list of things you have done. Nor is it the do-all, end-all, that will get you the job. The primary purpose of the resume is to simply get you the interview.
So, include everything that will do that simple job and nothing else. Don’t go the old school route of crafting this masterpiece resume, then have a hundred copies printed up on vellum, watermarked stationery. Nobody gives a shit. The gatekeeper is going to look at dozens, perhaps hundreds of resumes. Yours needs to stand out. And paper type isn’t going to cut it.
One way to do that is to craft each resume for the individual company. Include things that will be pertinent to the exact business and position you are applying for. You want the gatekeeper to glance at your resume and think, this person is a perfect fit. Also, and some experts will disagree but include one tidbit of personal information. A hobby you love or an accomplishment you are proud of. This will make you appear as a person, not just an applicant. In addition, it may provide a talking point in the interview.
And that will come from the second part of preparation; research. Don’t make the mistake of applying for dozens of jobs and stacking up several interviews a day. This is a life-changing event. Treat it with the respect it deserves. One, maybe two interviews a week is all you can do if you are going to do it right.
Researching a company is much easier than it was pre-Internet. Everything you need to know and a great deal you don’t is right there on their website. Study any press releases they have. This will not only give you insight but bullet points for conversation in the interview. “Hey, I read where you guys did that thing with that stuff. Pretty impressive.” In the endless parade of applicants, it doesn’t take that much to stand out.
But don’t limit your research to the company website. Get good at web research. Dig a little deeper. Follow every link on the site to external sites. Find backlinks to their website to find what others are saying. Go to sites like GlassDoor and GlassCeiling. This will give you some inside looks at the company. Who knows? You may discover this isn’t the place you want to work.
Know the company as well as you possibly can before the interview. Understand what they need and how you are uniquely qualified to provide it. Be knowledgeable, but not cocky.
Attitude is everything. Of course, you need to dress for success and present yourself in the best light. But all that will be lost if you are nervous, scared, or show a hint of desperation. Whether it’s real or not, you need to convince yourself and them that they need you more than you need them. You want the job, but you don’t need the job. Exude confidence. Again, there is a fine line between confidence and cocky. Cocky only works on some people. Confidence works on almost everyone.
If it’s real, so much the better. This is why it’s always best to look for a job when you don’t need one. If you get the job, great. If not, you’re okay where you are. Even if you are happy at your present job and plan to stay for a while, it’s a good idea to interview occasionally if only to keep in practice. Once every couple of months, find that dream job you would love to have and go interview for it. Practicing a thing is the only way to get good at it.
Part of the confidence you portray is to get the job. But remember, a job interview works both ways. You are also interviewing them. The person you present in this interview will be the person they hire. That’s another good reason for changing jobs every few years; you get to reinvent yourself.
In my last job interview, before we sat down in the conference room and got to business, they took me on a tour of the office. At one point, they got to a room filled with computers, networking equipment, and a lot of old junk. “This will be your office.”
“No. It won’t.” You’re hiring a VP of Information Technology. I don’t know who I’m replacing, but I’m not going to be stuck in a backroom closet. They didn’t look too happy, but we continued. During the tour, we passed two vacant offices. I stopped at the nicer of the two and said, “This will do nicely, but I’ll need a new chair.” I pointed to the five-year-old computer under the desk, “and of course, I’ll need a new laptop.
I remember as I walked out after it was done and passed by the conference room, the owner was talking to my future boss, “Well, what the hell else does he want?”
Set the tone now. You will live with whatever impression you make for a long time.
But again, confident, not cocky. If possible, you need to create a rapport with your new boss. Find some common ground. This may come from that personal note you added to the resume. Maybe they are interested in the same thing. Or it may come from your research. The About Us page of a website will almost always feature some personal information. Hobbies and interests are best, but past employment or education are things to fall back on. Find one thing you can work into a lull in the interview, probably toward the end. “Hey, I saw you like, “ whatever.
If all else fails, a quick look around the office if you are lucky enough to interview in the boss’s personal space. As you walk in, exuding confidence, of course, do a quick scan around the room to find something personal. On my next to the last job, I was shown into the owner’s office. As I sat down, I noticed a picture of a boat on the wall. “Is that your yacht? What is it, thirty feet?” That initiated a short conversation that set the tone for the rest of the interview.
Finally, there comes that second or third interview, where you know you have it. Maybe they’ve even offered you the job. Now it’s time for one final push. It’s like at the car dealership when you’ve finally negotiated the deal, and they’re preparing the paperwork. “How about throw in some floor mats?” On my last three cars, I got them to give me one of the fancy logo coffee mugs from the parts department. I used to kid that my $30,000 coffee cup came with a free car.
You need to do the same with the interview. You’re at the point of no return; it’s time for your final asks. It will be a lot easier now than six months down the road. “The salary isn’t quite what I was hoping for; maybe you could offer a signing bonus.” Most CEOs will jump at the chance for a single capital outlay than tying up money in payroll for years.
And don’t forget vacation. Don’t settle for that two weeks is standard guff. Tell them you have worked up to X weeks at your last job, and you can’t settle for less. Or ask for another week. Or two. Once you start, you will be stuck on the same track as everyone else. Now is the time to improve your position.
Job interviews are no fun. But prepare properly and execute efficiently, like you would any other task. Make your next job interview the last one you need.