June 20, 2018

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10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going on My First Interview

There are 10 concrete steps you can take to increase the probability of being invited back for subsequent interviews, or for raising the probability of a formal offer being extended to you.

First, be prepared. It can’t be emphasized enough the importance of being well prepared for a job interview. Your degree of preparation speaks volumes about your interest level and conscientiousness. In addition to increasing your confidence, solid preparation will help you to give articulate answers and ask pertinent questions.

In order to make the best case for your candidacy for a particular job, you need to be prepared with information about yourself AND about the job, company, and field. It’s difficult to make a case for a match if you only have information about one side of the equation. Keep this concept firmly in mind: If you don’t find out what your prospective employer’s problems are, there is no way to project yourself as the candidate best able to solve them.

Second, interview companies for your job - don’t let them interview you. In the final analysis, you don’t’ “get a job.” You “pick one.” For most job seekers, this is an important attitudinal distinction. Many of us forget that the decision to accept a position is far more critical for us than it is for the employer. If they find that they have made a mistake, they just have to go through the recruiting process again. For the individual, you have just invested “x” amount of your professional lifetime that’s gone forever. When you look at it that way, the “selection” you make begins to take on a different perspective.

Third, your most valuable interviewing skill is listening. By listening carefully, you communicate respect for the interviewer while being able to focus single-mindedly on the questions you’re being asked, the way they’re being asked, and any hidden meanings that may lurk within them.

Fourth, keep interviewing. The tendency for many candidates is to let up a little on your job search efforts after you line up one or two interviews. If you let up, and the expected job offer doesn’t materialize for one reason or another, your pipeline is empty. Weeks could go by before you’re able to set up initial interviews at newly targeted companies, with a concurrent erosion of your precious cash reserves - not to mention confidence, self-esteem, and morale.

Fifth, try using props during interviews. Props are work samples and other documents that display your talents, reveal your style, and make you a more memorable candidate. For instance: Fashion models, graphic artists, and ad agency people typically present portfolios, and so do carpenters of recent projects by utilizing “before and after pictures” Whenever possible, work these props into your discussion but never force them on the interviewer.

Sixth, statistics prove the person who is interviewed LAST has the best chance of being hired. Why? Because the last interviewee benefits from all the previous applicants the hiring authority has seen. Previous interviewing helps hiring managers to crystallize their thinking and further define the position in their mind. Of course, you’re not aware of this. You only remember the great interview you two had. You don’t want to appear pushy or desperate, so you the hiring authority meets other candidates. But as time goes on, you’re getting further and further away from the new requirements. When you’re contacted by a representative of the company to set up an interview, simply ask what times are available. Once you have heard the times, select a time that will make you one of the last applicants to be interviewed. As soon as a firm time is established, start researching the company and analyze what is important to the hiring authority. This way, you not only increase your chances of getting the job but also having the new job go smoothly.

Seventh, candor creates trust, not suspicion. A large component of many interview questions is the search for reassurance. Hiring people is difficult and mistakes are costly. So, interviewers crave reassurance that you will fit into the organization and solve the problems you’re being hired to address. They want to have their confidence level raised. Most us have flat spots in our past and some of the more successful people among us have been through major failures. These flat spots and failures can build strong and insightful individuals. Whether an interviewer sees this depends on how candid and articulate you answer the questions.

Eighth, continually build common ground. When the initial interviewer says that you’re being advanced onto the second interview, try to find out the business philosophy of and information on the second interviewer. Ask a question like: "Does this person feel the same way about (insert your key issue) as you do?” You will get information you need to find common ground with your next interviewer. A wise strategy on your part would be to continue using this technique for each successive interview.

Ninth, write down the questions you personally would find most difficult to answer. Then practice answering them, using either a video or tape player to record what you say. Listen for ways to make your answers more precise and effective. Additionally, get three-by-five inch index cards and write out interview questions. Place yourself in the interviewer’s position. What kinds of questions would you ask an applicant for this job? What would you be looking for? Repeat the process until you’re completely comfortable with what you hear. This flash card and recording process is time-consuming but it will give you the poise, self-assurance, and confidence that you’re looking for.

Tenth, don’t suffer from negotiating impairment syndrome. Unfortunately, many job seekers relinquish their negotiating rights for such poor reason as:

  1. The company said the salary was non-negotiable because the starting pay was already budgeted.

  2. I didn’t want to offend my new employer by holding out for more money. Besides, it seemed to be a fair offer.

  3. I can’t ask for a higher-than-offered salary right now; I just came out of a bad situation (bankruptcy, termination, or divorce).

  4. I’ll wait until I‘ve had a chance to prove myself.

All of these responses have a “yes, but” quality. For example: “Yes, I would have negotiated, but I’m currently unemployed … or I’m a career changer...or I don’t have a college degree.” Job seekers who give “yes, but” excuses for accepting less than they’re worth suffer from negotiating impairment syndrome, which is characterized by a discounting or outright denial of opportunities to negotiate for more money.

-Joe Hodowanes, Career Strategy Advisor

J.M. Wanes & Associates

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