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5 Interview Basics

Veronica C. | April 18, 2011
All interviews are not created the same. Personally, I’ve been stuffed in a windowless room and interrogated by 8 different people without a break, but I’ve also been flown across the country and treated like a queen. I’ve gone to interviews in jeans and in power suits, and I’ve been interviewed by experienced professionals and complete idiots. Thank god there are a few basics that you can take to any interview, regardless of the environment or the people.
    All interviews are not the same - remember these 5 essentials
  1. Preparation – It may seem odd, but you actually have to do a fair amount of work for any job well before the company decides to reward you with a paycheck. Before your interview, learn all you can about the company, the industry, their competitors and any recent news that affects their business. You want to show the hiring manager that you are interested and engaged with their services or products and that you are the right person to help them address their challenges – remember, the interview isn’t about you, it’s about what you can do for them. Also, do your research on the person interviewing you. Being able to make some sort of personal connection can only benefit you as a candidate. Examples: you went to the same college; you play the same sport; your uncle is their best friend… you get the idea.
  2. Create Success Stories – This is how you package your experience into easily communicated stories. Think about it – what’s easier to communicate? A recital of your resume or a story about something you achieved? Each success story has the START format: what was the situation or challenge, the trouble it was causing, the action you took, the results, and the transferrable skill you bring to the prospective employer. So, instead of saying you’ve done marketing internships, create some stories – (situation) the company needed to release a new product on a deadline; (trouble) but the product hadn’t been tested; (action) so you created a FaceBook and Twitter contest inviting people to focus group that you created and moderated; (results – make them quantifiable if possible) 25 people participated in the focus group and 113 comments were delivered to the product and marketing teams; (transferable skill) you are able to do outside research on a challenging deadline and can work cross-functionally to synthesize and distribute feedback to the appropriate teams.Because a lot of you are in college or have recently graduated, you won’t have a ton of work-specific success stories. However, there are ways to package your school and life experiences in the same way to show leadership, innovation, work-ethic, etc. You should have a minimum of 5 success stories that you want to get across in any interview.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice – Your success stories should come tripping off your tongue as easily as recounting the awesomeness of last night’s concert. Show the hiring manager how at ease and confident you are by having a conversation – not reciting something you’ve memorized. Practice telling your success stories to various people, or at least just to yourself. Then, think about what types of questions would trigger which story. The interviewer isn’t going to make it easy. They’re going to ask you whatever questions they usually ask, that doesn’t matter – it’s up to you to find the opportunity to whip out the right story. Your goal in any interview is to be able to tell your best success stories for that job – a good performance takes practice!
  4. Address Obstacles Proactively – An interviewer shouldn’t have to point out a weakness, and if they do and you’re not prepared, you’re in trouble. One obstacle that recent grads come across is a lack of experience. The reality is that there’s probably going to be people with more experience than you interviewing for the same job. Be ready to address this and it won’t be perceived as a weakness. “I realize that I only have 1 year’s professional experience, however I did create several websites during my internships with X, Y and Z and for my community group.” Then launch into one of your success stories.
  5. Address The Issue of Fit – Remember that a job is only going to be successful (on both sides) if there is a good “fit” between you and the company. When it comes down to it, the hiring manager is going to hire someone they think others in the company will want to work with. When you go to the interview, reflect the culture of the company. Because you’ve done your research (see #1 above), you’ll know if the company is super professional or fairly low-key and casual. Show them that you could easily fit in. At the same time, you want to make sure this is a company that you can be happy and successful with. Ask a lot of questions: about the job, the daily duties, the culture of the company, their professional development programs, etc. Believe me, it’s not rude to ask questions – it’s actually a plus – it’ll show the hiring manager that you are engaged and you want to see if this can be a long-term commitment. If you keep these 5 things in mind, you’ll be prepared for any interview. It doesn’t matter where the interview is or who is doing the questioning because you’ll be prepared, practiced and loaded with relevant success stories!

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