Win the Interview, Land the Job

April 26, 2017

A lot of job hunters are experts when it comes to designing the perfect resume, and even the most compelling cover letters. They may also be skilled at landing job interviews. But it’s almost universally true that the interview itself is where most job interactions breakdown. The fact is, no matter how good you are at everything else, if you don’t win the interview you won’t land the job.

Employers have become experts at weeding out hyped up resumes and cover letters. Even if yours are impeccable, the employer may be able to drill down to the truth during the interview process. That’s because a job interview is a one-on-one event, very similar to actual day-to-day employment interactions. It’s where employers test your head knowledge, while you don’t have the benefit of a written script.

You have to be ready to deal with that situation if you want to be more successful when it comes to job hunting. I’ve used these exact job interview strategies during my own career life, and with an unusual degree of success. I believe that they will benefit you too.

Learn All You Can About the Employer and Its Industry

When you’re in a job interview, the interviewer isn’t asking you to regurgitate your resume. Let’s face it that would be too easy. Instead, they’re testing your working knowledge of the job that you might fill. Unfortunately, they are probing for weaknesses, and those are much more likely to come out in a freewheeling job interview than on a neatly prepared resume. You will have to be prepared to supply that knowledge if you hope to land the job.

One of the best ways to do that is by doing plenty of research in advance. You should already have a thorough understanding of your job and your industry, especially of the challenges it faces and potential solutions that can help. But you should also have more specific knowledge of the company that you are applying with.

If it’s a large, well-known employer, there should be abundant information available about the company. Do a Google search a few days before your interview, paying particular attention to any information that has appeared within the past few months.

One good source for company information is their recent earnings report. Publicly listed companies publish their financial information each quarter, and sometimes provide lengthy explanations behind the numbers. These quarterly reports are a must read, as they usually contain the most current and relevant information about the company.

You should be fully prepared to “talk shop” about the company with your interviewer. That includes both asking relevant questions and making suggestions as to what the company or the department might do in dealing with their biggest challenges.

The more conversant that you are regarding the employer and their business, the greater the likelihood that they will extend you an offer of employment. You cannot afford to drop the ball on this first, crucial step. It’s the point where you are demonstrating to your interviewer that you are the right person for the job.

Create Your Own List of Questions

Prepare your own list of intelligent questions. They should deal with the company, the industry, and any big picture conditions that either face. They should never involve benefits, like retirement plans and paid time off. If you ask those questions, the interviewer is likely to conclude that you are only interested in drawing a paycheck. Save those lighter questions for later in the process, particularly after you have been made an offer.

The list of questions will serve several purposes:

  • It will make you come across as intelligent and engaged
  • It will help to overcome those awkward moments of silence
  • It will take the pressure off the interviewer to ask all of the questions, and trust me, that will be appreciated and remembered
  • It will enable you to gather important information that you will need in deciding if you even want the job
  • It can help you to minimize or even avoid being asked difficult questions

Keeping all of those advantages in mind, this is another preparation phase of the job interview that you cannot afford to overlook.

Rehearse Fielding Tough Questions that are Likely to be Asked

Despite your best efforts to deflect them, a job interview will require that you do answer some tough questions. Those questions could relate to your own skill set – remember the interviewer will be probing for exaggeration and outright lies. Questions are also likely to be asked that will test your knowledge of the job you’re applying for, as well as for the industry.

Before your interview, make up a list of questions that you are likely to be asked. You can base these either on obvious factors in your job classification as well as your industry, but also on previous interview experience.

Write out the questions, write out the answers, and then rehearse answering them verbally. The smoother that you are in answering the tough questions, the more likely it is that you will get a job offer. But if there are too many hesitations or missing answers, you’ll get nothing more than a form letter after the fact – if you even get that. That’s because the lack of ability to satisfactorily answer a tough question is an indication that there are gaps in your qualifications. You can anticipate this in advance and be fully prepared.

Be Prepared to be the Interviewer, Not the Interviewee

This is a strategy that you will have to implement when you are actually in the interview, but it will help if you mentally rehearse doing it before the fact.

Many job candidates go into interviews as if they’re going to the principal’s office and getting prepared to be grilled. That’s not the strategy that you should use. Instead, you should be fully prepared to take charge of the interview yourself. That means that you should decide in advance that you are going to ask most of the questions.

While it is possible that some interviewers will see this strategy as overly aggressive, the great majority will welcome it. That’s because it will take the pressure off the interviewer to keep the interview going forward. One of the dirty little secrets of the job hunting universe is that not all interviewers actually like conducting interviews or are even necessarily good at doing it. This can be especially true of managers, who are much more adept at running the day-to-day operations of their departments. They may not like conducting interviews at all.

If you come into the interview fully prepared to be the interviewer, you can put your interviewer at ease. You’ll also be able to control the flow of the interview, thus avoiding uncomfortable situations.

Becoming the interviewer also has a way of casting you as a self-starter. You’re not sitting around on the defensive; instead, you’re taking charge. That can demonstrate initiative in a way that the best resume or cover letter never can.

Just be sure that your approach is constructive, and never arrogant. You should handle the interview as if you are discussing a potential business venture with a friend.

Relax – It’s Just ONE Job Interview

This is a general philosophy that you should carry into the interview. In most cases, any interview that you go on will be with only one of many potential employers. You should never cast any interview as a do-or-die situation. Instead, view it as a step toward finding that right job.

Do your best to relax, realizing the fact that even if this particular interview doesn’t go well, there will be others. If you can relax, your interviewer will also relax, and you will have a much better chance at finding common ground. Personality does have a lot to do with whether or not you are allowed to go on to the next step in the hiring process, or if you even get a job offer. By relaxing, it will be much easier to build the kind of personal rapport that will move your candidacy forward.

This is not an easy mindset to get into, particularly when you are unemployed, and really need a job, or when the job that you are interviewing for represents a major career step forward. But it might help to psych yourself up by convincing yourself that the more that you can relax, the more likely it is that you will be successful in landing that particular job.

Good luck putting these strategies to work. They’ve worked well for me in the past, and I’m sure that they’ll work for you.

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