You've done a great job of focusing your search, targeting companies, networking, creating a compelling resume and cover letter. Now, you're ready for the interview. Many job hunters spend so much time and energy trying to get to the interview stage but then not enough time actually preparing for the interview. This is a mistake that often derails job seekers. It's hard to overstate the importance of researching the company, analyzing the job description and preparing a sell sheet.
Research the Company
Start with the information available on the company website. Read and analyze the management team, products, recent news announcements, customers, competitors, channels, financial performance and company history. Other websites such as Yahoo Finance
, Edgar Online
and Business Source Alumni Edition
are also helpful to the research process. If you are interviewing with a public company, read equity research reports about the company. You can access equity research reports from your broker (sometimes free of charge) or from Thomson Reuters
Analyze the Job Description
Read the job description very closely and take notes about the key requirements and responsibilities. It's important to address these requirements during the interview, even if your interviewer doesn't specifically ask you about them.
Prepare a Sell Sheet
After you've analyzed the job’s main requirements and responsibilities, prepare a sell sheet where you list the key skills and expertise needed for the position and three relevant examples (in brief story format) from your experience that correspond to the requirements and illustrate your ability to add specific value. Skills might include leadership, communications, management, analysis and negotiations; they might be more specific areas of expertise like new product development, due diligence and valuation. Organize and practice your examples following the Situation/Action/Result format so they’re both compelling and concise for your interviewers.
Practice interviewing with InterviewStream
, a free, interactive video-based, practice-interviewing tool.
Practice interviews including feedback can be scheduled with any of the Alumni Career & Professional Development Coaches. While sometimes timing and preparing for an interview isn’t in your control, it’s wise to try to schedule practice interviews at least one to two weeks ahead of the actual interview. This is especially critical if it has been a while since you’ve had a formal interview and feel “rusty.”
Interviewing Do's and Don'ts
- Greet the interviewer with a firm handshake.
- Prepare an agenda for the interview.
- Use specific examples to back up statements.
- Focus your answers on what the company needs/wants to illustrate how you will add value.
- Arrive well-groomed, appropriately dressed, on time and wait in the right place.
- Arrive armed with good questions to ask the interviewer. Bring more than you think you’ll need, and focus on information you can’t readily get by reading the company’s website!
- Inquire about next steps at the end of the interview.
- Write thank-you emails or notes after on-site interviews to each person you met with or, at a minimum, to the person with whom you spent the most time. Don’t wait longer than a day or two after the interview to send these.
- Introduce a negative about yourself.
- Get defensive.
- Exaggerate your accomplishments.
- Try to control the interview.
- Cancel an interview unless it is an emergency.
- Discuss salary, benefits or vacations on the first interview.
- Take an interview just for practice.
- Accept a second-round interview if you are not genuinely interested in the role or the company.
Illegal and Stress Questions
While most companies today know to stay away from asking these questions of a candidate, it’s wise to be aware that it’s illegal for interviewers to ask direct questions on the following areas:
- Marital status, children
- Sexual preference
- Race, national origin
- Physical handicaps
- Religious affiliation
The key to determining if a question is illegal is whether the requested information is relevant to job performance. For instance, while asking if there are any reasons — physical or otherwise — you would not be able to perform the job is relevant and legal, asking if you have any physical handicaps is not. If it is not relevant, you need not respond.
Preparing to answer questions that could make you uncomfortable is critical to a successful interview. Questions are often asked to determine your ability to handle stress, adversity or disagreement. You should anticipate these types of questions and prepare responses to avoid getting flustered, appearing defensive, or simply being caught off guard. Prepare and practice solid answers to questions that focus on your “weak spots.”