The person who gets the job offer isn’t necessarily the one who’s most qualified. It’s the one who interviews the best.
A savvy job seeker knows careful preparation is the key to a successful interview. To become the number one candidate, you must:
- Think ahead about your interviewer’s questions
- Develop a list of your own that will intrigue your recruiter and help you make a good career choice
Understand the Job Description
To get ready for your interview, find out about the job’s description and qualifications. Do your research to ascertain the experience, skills, personality traits and values the position requires. Also ask about its activities, training, compensation package and career path. The more you know about the job in advance, the easier it is to discuss why you are the best candidate.
Research the Company
Check out the company’s website to learn about its products, services, revenue, mission, culture, number of employees, locations, growth pattern and direction. Consider how the organization fits your background and career goals. Based on what you’ve discovered, how will your skills, personality and values contribute to its goals and bottom line?
Think about What the Recruiter Wants to Know
There are some typical questions interviewers often ask. Prepare yourself to answer them. Here are a few common questions and some tips to keep in mind when formulating your answers.
“Tell me about your background (paid work experience, internships, volunteer work, hobbies and extracurricular activities).”
Always keep the job in mind when you are talking about your background. Interviewers want to know if you can fill their specific need.
“Why do you think you’re a good candidate for this position?”
In responding to this question, you may allude to your experience, skills, traits and interest in the position/company. Be sure to customize what you say for every interview. Otherwise, your “ideal” response may sound like it’s coming more from a beauty pageant contestant than a to-the-point management trainee.
“Why do you want to work for this company?”
Make your interviewer feel special. Tell her why you are drawn to her organization in particular.
“What are your strengths? How do they relate to your work?”
If you know your skills and how they fit the job, this is a no-brainer. If you aren’t prepared, you’ll lose an excellent opportunity to rise above the competition.
“What are your weaknesses? How might they impact your performance?”
Your ability to identify weaknesses tells the interviewer you understand yourself and your motivations. Employers want to hire individuals who are self-aware and willing to grow. Candidates who say they can’t think of any weaknesses or blurt out their deepest personal misgivings aren’t prepared for this question and suffer accordingly.
Questions You Should Ask
Good questions sell you at least as much as good answers. They say you understand a situation sufficiently to ask about it. They also give your recruiter a chance to talk about herself and her work. People enjoy the opportunity to play the expert. The more your interviewer expounds, the smarter you get from both your perspectives. Some questions you might ask include:
- “I was reading an article in Fortune about your newest product XYZ. It looks very promising. What plans does the company have to maximize its marketability?”
- “If you could hire the ideal person for this position, what skills, education, personality traits and values would be most important? Why?”
- “How do you judge a person’s performance?”
- “What is the career path for this job?”
- “What are the strengths of this department? What are its challenges?”
- “Where do you see the company headed in the next three years?”
- “Tell me about your management style.”
While there are many other questions you might ask, these probing, open-ended ones will help you understand the position, the company and your potential management and impress your interviewer in the process.
Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979, which works with individual and corporate clients in career change; job search; executive, small business and life coaching; college major selection and talent management.
“One of the smartest minds in the career field,” according to Tony Lee (VP of CareerCast Operations at Adicio and former publisher of the Wall Street Journal’s Online Vertical Network), Besson began writing for the Dallas Times Herald in the early 80s. Having read several of her columns, Lee asked her to contribute regular articles to the Journal’s National Business Employment Weekly (NBEW) as well. Since then, she has been a triple award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and Senior Columnist for CareerCast.com, as well as WorkingWoman.com and Oxygen.com. At Lee’s request, Besson authored five editions of NBEW’s Premier Guide to Resumes and three of its Premier Guide to Cover Letters. She has also written articles and/or been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money and Yahoo among others.
Taunee has worked on community nonprofit boards and committees for over 30 years including Girls Inc., Women’s Center of Dallas, Girl Scouts and Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Volunteers of America and Mortarboard, among others. She was a member of the Leadership Dallas in 1987 and Leadership America in 2003.
In 1994, the Dallas Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development chose her as its “Professional of the Year”. Her NBEW columns were selected for the “Ten Best Article Award” in 1990, 1994 and 1997. In 1999, Alpha Gamma Delta, a 200,000 member fraternal organization, named her as one of three “Distinguished Citizens” at its biannual international convention.