Five minutes into an interview, I can easily tell how well a person has prepared for our meeting.
Some individuals like to interview so they can practice talking about themselves.
The real winners, though, are those who focus on helping me connect the dots between my needs (first priority) and their qualifications (secondary priority). An interviewee can connect those dots only if he or she has thoroughly prepared ahead of time.
Two weeks ago I interviewed several stellar applicants for a key communications job. I observed certain characteristics among those who interviewed well, and it became obvious that prior to our meeting they had done the following:
- They studied the organization to learn about our strengths and weaknesses. They came into the meeting with a basic understanding of the opportunities and threats we faced. They had done their due diligence.
- From their research, they saw opportunities where they could make a difference. They envisioned the unique impact they could have. Prior to coming into the meeting with me, they had already connected the dots in their own mind.
- They anticipated that I might invite them to, “Tell me about yourself.” They rehearsed their response so it was not a redundant, verbal summary of what I’d already seen on their resume. Instead, they customized their “positioning statements” so they could describe themselves in a differentiated way.
- They Googled my name. They wanted to level the playing field so they could engage me in a good, interactive conversation. Before the meeting, they discovered on LinkedIn who I am professionally. They could also see who I am personally because my Facebook privacy settings are wide open. Some even found a few of my blog posts so they could learn what I think about various topics and issues.
- They used their existing network to establish a preliminary connection with me. I always pay special attention when a trusted friend suggests the name of a qualified person. Of course, job seekers who have already built a strong network of professional contacts have a distinct advantage.
- They looked for opportunities to share information about themselves ahead of time. I gave them such an opportunity when I sent an email confirming the scheduled interviews. The smart ones responded with a brief email containing additional information to help me interview them more effectively. Some attached writing samples. Others added a nugget of new information in the body of the email. A couple had email signatures with links to online content such as a personal blog or a website.