Step 3 to Land a New Job: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare for Interviews

Have you ever heard the real estate quip that the three most important things about buying a house is location, location, location?  The idea is that the same home can be worth a lot more (or less) depending on its location. So, real estate agents say it three times for emphasis.  The same idea can be applied to today’s blog about preparing for an interview.  Two candidates with the same experiences and credentials can be viewed as more or less appealing based on their level of preparedness for an interview.  

As we’ve covered, landing your dream job sounds great but takes a lot of work. HR4D Consulting is here to help you break it down into manageable steps to make it feel a bit less overwhelming!  Our 5-step guide includes the 5 main steps in the process with 5 key tips for each step. We’ve already covered what it takes to write a killer resume and using your network.  Hopefully by this point you have been invited in for an interview!  So this week we are going to cover step 3 – preparing for an interview!  

I’ll continue sharing each of the 5 steps with you in a series over the next 3 weeks, but if you are one of those people who want it all at once, email us here and we can send you the guide now! 

Step 3:  Prepare, prepare, prepare for interviews  

  1. Be a Problem Solver.  Most people think about how to answer the question “why do you want to work here” before an interview.  And, the typical answer includes providing the reasons the company or job is appealing for them.  This is certainly interesting to the interviewing team.  But, the most important thing you are trying to demonstrate in an interview is how you can help solve the problems the organization is facing.  Companies are filling a job because they have a problem to be solved, and they are most interested in what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.  Try to find out why the position is open and what the major issues are that they are facing.  You’ll be in a stronger position if you can find this out ahead of time by talking to your network or considering their point of view.  You can then answer their question in a way that demonstrates your excitement to help them solve their problems.  But, if you aren’t sure before the interview, make certain to ask these questions as part of the interview and try to work it into your answers.

2. Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions.  Most organizations will ask you at least a few behavioral interview questions, or questions that start with “tell me about a time when…”.  Not all companies will explain this to you, but they are looking for you to use the STAR method in your answer: describe the specific Situation; share the Task you were responsible for; explain what Action steps you took to address the problem; and what Result was achieved.  Knowing how to answer these questions is critical. Organizations are using this interview method as a way to assess that you have demonstrated experience in the situation they are asking about. They want you to be specific and they want to know what you did.  If you answer too generically or hypothetically, or only talk about team actions, it is a red flag.  

3. Identify Your Best Career Moments.  We all have those moments in your career that you are most proud of or feel like you made a huge impact.  But, when in the spotlight of an interview, remembering your best achievements and results is nearly impossible.  To make sure you are the most prepared, before the interview sit down with a trusted friend or advisor and brainstorm your best career moments (remember STAR).  Write down a handful of examples that you want to find a way to highlight during the interview.  Having them fresh in your memory and available in your notes makes it more likely that you can pull one of these golden nuggets out when you are answering a tough behavioral interview question!

4. Do Your Research.  You will almost certainly be asked what you know about the organization. Be certain you have done some research so you can speak knowledgeably – what does the company do and what is available publicly in the press or online.  Not knowing anything about the organization makes it appear to the interviewer that you don’t care very much about the job. You should also be sure you know who you will be meeting with for your interview and do a little research on that person.  LinkedIn is a great resource that can usually provide you a bit about the interviewer’s career history, so take advantage of it.  Being able to drop in a comment about a mutual interest, volunteer experience or the same university can make a big impression.  

5. Prepare for the “Typical” Interview Questions. You may feel like the typical interview questions are softballs, but you can still fail to stand out if you haven’t prepared ahead of time.  There is lots of advice out there about how to answer several of these questions, but here the top tips for five of the most common ones: 1) “Why are you looking for a new job” should never be answered with something negative about your current or former employer; 2) “Tell me about your background” should be answered with a succinct answer that takes up 2-5 minutes at most – you don’t want to spend your entire interview rehashing your resume; 3) “What are your strengths?” should be answered with 2-3 key strengths and be ready with an example that demonstrates each one; 4) “what are your weaknesses?” should be answered with something you are genuinely working on – nobody likes it when someone says their weakness is something that is really a strength; and 5) “what questions do you have for me?” should be responded to with 3-5 thoughtful questions – if you don’t have any questions it again looks like you don’t care very much about the job. 

Another typical question is about compensation. Answering how much you are currently paid or how much you want to get paid is a bit tricky and my advice varies by person.  Send me an email or message me on LinkedIn if you want to talk about your specifics.

There really is no such thing as being too prepared for an interview.  I know you are busy but be sure to set aside time for your preparation so you can walk in feeling confident and ready!

Next up in this series – how to nail the interview. In the meantime, prepare, prepare, prepare!

Jennifer is a seasoned leader and executive coach with more than 20 years experience including as a Chief Human Resources Officer overseeing the HR and Communications functions. She is a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation.

HR4D’s mission is to ensure our client organizations fulfill their visions, by adopting their goals as ours, creating solutions that are right for them, and making the people who hire us professionally successful.  Contact us to learn more!