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Ask A Career Coach - Three Phases To Mastering The Interview Process

Let’s face it; interviews are hard to come by these days. There is a lot on the line when you finally receive a call to interview for the job and the self-imposed stress in itself is hard to manage.   Master the three phases of interviewing and you will increase your chances of landing that dream job. 

Phase 1:  Preparation/Planning

  • Carefully read the job description and identify the key qualifications and responsibilities of the position. Pay special attention to the key words utilized. The language used will also provide clues to the culture.
  • Create your success stories (Situation – Action – Results) to demonstrate how your skills align with the key qualifications of the position.
  • Prepare answers to questions you anticipate. Be prepared to answer general questions as well as behavioral interview questions. Record your answers or practice with a trusted advisor or career consultant.
  • Research the company via the company website, Google, Hoovers, and LinkedIn. Take special note of the company’s mission, vision, values, key clients, current initiatives, industry news. Prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewer that demonstrates you have done your homework about the company and are interested in the role. Also include questions about the company culture that will help you identify if the position is a right fit.
  • Research the interviewers on LinkedIn to understand their work experience, career path and anything you may have in common. Mentioning something you have in common is a great ice breaker. 
  • Prepare your portfolio:  include your list of questions, business cards, extra copies of your resume, articles you have published, or samples of your work.
  • Conduct an appearance assessment: is your interview attire clean and pressed, do you need a haircut or a manicure, are your shoes polished?  Remember first impressions are key.

Phase 2: Interview Behavior  

  • Arrive at the company 15 minutes prior to the interview.
  • Realize that you are being observed from the time you leave your car and enter the building.
  • Do not take personal calls or text while you wait; leave your cell phone in your pocket, brief case or car.
  • Demonstrate a positive attitude.
  • Greet the interviewer with a smile and a firm handshake.
  • Be respectful…wait for the interviewer to be seated; ask where to sit and if you can take notes.
  • Maintain good posture and eye contact.
  • Speak with confidence, a normal pace and avoid the use of slang or previous company jargon.
  • Listen and don’t try to take control of the conversation from the interviewer. Talking instead of listening will get you into trouble. The interviewer is trying to determine if they like you and can work with you.
  • Answer questions directly and if you don’t know the answer, don’t fake it. Ask for clarification.
  • Close by summarizing how you can add value to the company; sell your skills and abilities as a match for the position. Ask for the job (if you want it). Thank the interviewer for their time and seek information on next steps.
  • Ask if the interviewer will accept your LinkedIn invitation. If you don’t receive a job offer, you have made a new contact.

Phase 3:  Follow Up

  • Write a brief thank you email within 12 hours to each interviewer. Reiterate a key point from the interview or address how you can solve a major issue the company is facing.
  • If a recruiter was involved in the interview process, call them. Thank them for the interview opportunity and share feedback regarding the interview process.
  • Follow up with the interviewer prior to the date that was given for the hiring decision. You want to stay top of mind with the interviewer.
  • If the hiring process is delayed, continue to stay in touch with the interviewer without being pesky. Forward a link to an interesting industry article or a sample of your work they expressed interest in.  
  • If you don’t receive the job offer, write a letter thanking the interviewer for their insights and time. State your continued interest in the company and in any future positions that may open up. 

Paula Pope is a Senior Consultant with The Frontier Group. Her practice specialties are career coaching, outplacement/transition consulting and training and development