No matter what side of the desk you’re sitting on, an interview is an informational exchange that can change a life. What you say and how you say it is critical. As an interviewer, the questions you ask and the answers you give when asked questions, will determine if the person you are interviewing gets an offer / takes the position. The same applies if you are the candidate being interviewed, The answers you give and the questions you ask will also determine if you get an offer / take the position. An interview is an intense communication situation, even though we all work hard to appear calm and confident during it, no matter what side of the desk we sit on.
Interviews have three phases: pre-interview preparation, the interview itself, and the evaluation/follow up. Professional recruiters know how to prep and what should occur during each of these phases like the back of their hand, but for candidates interviewing for a position or managers responsible for interviewing the candidates who have made it passed the recruiters, what to do and what to expect may not be so well known. Here are some tips and strategies to get what you need from each phase.
Pre-Interview Preparation: For both the candidate and the interviewer, this is a time of investigation and research.
As the candidate, you should research the company online and learn all you can about it. Investigating a company online entails more than reading the “About Us” tab on the company website. Check out everything. Has the company made news recently? Check into their press releases. What are their products and services? Who are their customers? What is their mission statement? Are they domestic or global? Some company websites have information on C-suite execs…learn who they are. Check the company stock prices. Are they having a good/bad year? Why?
Going deeper…do you know the name of the person(s) who is interviewing you? If so, look at their LinkedIn profile. They have looked at yours. Knowing a bit about your interviewer(s) will not only give you good information, but will help the person seem less of a stranger the day you meet them. You may discover commonalities that will give you topics for small talk.
Finally, research yourself. Re-familiarize yourself with your resume and your LinkedIn profile. We all think we know what’s there, but review this information a few times. Why? Most interviewers ask at least a few behavioral questions. Behavioral questions ask you to recall situations, actions and outcomes that you have experienced in school or on-the-job. Often the question begins as a statement: “Tell me about a time when you… How did you handle the situation and what was the outcome?” Spend some time thinking about what the interviewer might ask. Review your resume with an eye to remembering actual situations prior to the interview. This will be of great help if called upon to recall a specific example.
If you are the hiring manager interviewing the candidate, the pre-interview prep period is equally important. If interviewing isn’t part of your daily routine, planning your questions ahead of time is critical. Plan questions that look for “fit” as well as skills and experience. Is the position a pressure-cooker? Ask for job-related examples of when the candidate has been under pressure. Hypothetical questions will get you hypothetical answers. Ask for actual examples. Remember, past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.
Candidates who pass the initial interview with the recruiter will probably be prepared with some questions for you as well. Determine what you will say if asked, for example, to describe the other members of the team. What qualities make a person successful on your team? What is the first priority you’d ask the new hire to tackle? Why do you stay at XYZ? Consider these questions prior to the interview so you are not blindsided or tongue- tied should you be asked.
The Interview: Here you are, face-to-face, in person or on Skype. Candidate or interviewer, everyone is working to be approachable, calm and make a good impression. Candidates, remember the interview starts the moment you give your name to the receptionist. He/she may well be asked for a first impression.
For both interviewer and candidate, the following points are important to remember:
- Take notes. The information exchanged in an interview is too important for you to rely on memory.
- Listen, listen, listen. Candidates – Don’t let nerves make you formulate your answer before the entire question has been asked. Interviewers – If you don’t hear an answer to the question you asked, ask again, probe, and follow up.
- It’s OK to pause and think.
- Eye contact is important.
- At the end of the interview, ask about/reveal next steps in the process. This makes everyone’s life between interview and offer/rejection letter easier.
Post-Interview Follow Up and Evaluation: Whew! It’s over. Now both candidate and interviewer are asking themselves how it went. If the interviewer did strong pre-interview planning, he/she will have gone into the interview knowing what they were looking for, asked planned questions to uncover that information, and after reviewing their notes know whether or not they got it.
As the candidate, check your gut on the way out of the building. How did the interaction with the interviewer, in many cases the “boss” of the position, feel? If your gut is saying “no, no, no”, pay attention to that and ask yourself why. Not every position is a good fit. Don’t let big money or a fancy title lure you into a situation where you will be miserable.
If your heart is soaring, pay attention to that as well. Think about what you will say in the thank-you email (yes, email is OK) you will send later that day. If you want the job, say so. Add a short plug about why you would be a good choice. Remember K.I.S.S. Keep it short and simple! If you were savvy enough to ask about next steps at the end of the interview, you will have your after-the-thank you-email next step info. If not, don’t be a pest no matter how eager you are. Give them some time.
Interviews are intense engagements and the above strategies are just the tip of the iceberg. There is an amazing amount of information online about interviewing and being interviewed. BrazenCareerist.com is one of my favorite sources for all things career. Go take a look, no matter what side of the desk you are on.