You've found a company that seems like a good fit for you and could be the next move in your career. You meet all the requirements and have passed the phone interview. The next step is going to be an onsite interview. Here you’ll meet with the hiring manager and other supervisors to discuss the role, your fit within the company, and determine if both you and the company want to move forward with this opportunity.
Research and Preparation
Before you go to the interview, you need to gather as much information as you can about the company you’re interviewing with. You may have done some of this already if you had a phone interview, but you should still take some time to research the company even more in depth. A lot of information can be found be reviewing the company website, third party research sources such as Hoover’s, news sources, trade journals, industry directories, and simple Google searches. Consider what product or service the company provides, and what makes the company unique within its industry. Look at how long they have been in business, how successful they have been, and focus on their recent successes. Also look to company press releases for new information about where the company is going in the future.
You should also get a clear idea of what agenda for the interview is. You can find this out by talking with your recruiter or hiring manager you've been working with. Try to find out information about the people you’ll be interviewing with from both the human resources department and the role’s department. Look them up on LinkedIn to get an idea of their career and current role. Different companies have different interview processes, so be prepared for the format of this company. You could be meeting with one person, with a panel of 4-5 people, or with 6-10 people throughout the day. If you have an idea ahead of time what the process is going to be, you’ll be a lot calmer and able to focus on the content of your interview.
Preparing for Questions
During the interview you are going to be asked a series of questions so that they can get a clear picture of your capabilities and career. It can be helpful to anticipate questions and prepare answers. One of the most common questions that come at the beginning of an interview is Tell me about yourself. This question is asking about your business skill sets, not your personal self. Here you should give your two minute overview that highlights your relevant skills and accomplishments.
Some other common interview questions are Why do you want to work for our company and What are your strengths and weaknesses. When answering the first question, you should demonstrate that you have given some thought to where you want to work, and that your strengths and skills will make you a valuable part of the company. Tell them that you are impressed with the company based on your research and see an opportunity to make big difference with your skill set. You want to show them that you want to work for them because of what you can do for them. The second question can be answered by describing an accomplishment that your strength contributed to, and giving a weakness that can be perceived as a strength. You could describe how your management skills increased the output of your department by 20% and how sometimes you get so focused on your projects you end up working late nights.
A practice becoming more and more common in interviewing is asking behavioral questions that ask for specific examples of how you handled different situations in the past. These questions are best answered using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique mentioned in the previous chapter. This works as a basic outline that will keep your responses focused and fully give what the interviewer is looking for. By describing the needs of the situation and the result of your actions, the interviewer will get an encompassing understanding of your past successes and sense of your future performance.
The best way to prepare for an interview with all these sorts of questions is be familiar with examples of your strengths, skill sets, knowledge, and experience. It’s not enough just to be familiar with your resume. You need to be able to provide short stories that showcase examples of your skills and accomplishments. You can never predict exactly what questions you are going to be asked in an interview, but by reviewing your career and thinking of all that you've done, you can be prepared for a majority of questions. Separate your background into the five categories that follow, and prepare five different examples that fit into each category. Think of examples that are significant, that you were directly involved in, and that you can demonstrate or quantify the achievement. By doing, so, you will have already thought about 25 different examples, one of which will work for 70% of anything you are asked in an interview.
You’ll be able to apply these examples to almost any situation or question, so come up with a good set and be ready to use them in the interview.
• Operations Tasks – These are noteworthy accomplishments within your day-to-day operations that show you do your job significantly well, including high performance results or updating a process within your department.
• Problem Solving Tasks – These are company problems that you are an active participant in solving, such as reducing costs or increasing quality so that the company can operate most efficiently.
• Challenges – These are problems that require an extraordinary amount of effort and outside-of-the-box thinking to overcome, may not have a precedent, and have an extensive workload.
• Product or Service Launches – This is when you took an active role in launching a new product or service, which may include bringing something to market or implementing a new internal function.
• Innovations – This is the creation of sometime new, such as a method or design, which streamlines efficiency or improves the role you’re in.
After you’ve finished all your preparation, the day of the interview will finally come. Remember, first impressions will have an effect on the interviewer’s perceptions, so appear consistent with the message you want to give. Ask your recruiter or human resources manager if you should wear a business suit. If you’re not sure, wear the suit, as it’s better to error on the side of being neutral and conservative. Get a good night sleep the night before so that you are rested and awake today. Arrive at the interview 30 minutes early so that you don’t have to worry about running late and can have a few moments of calm to collect yourself after getting there. You should be conscious of your body language from the moment you enter the lobby. Don’t slouch or eat anything while waiting. If there is any literature or newsletters available look through them. This will show your interest in the company and may familiarize you with some information not available elsewhere. Make every effort to be at your best today.
Every interview has three parts, a beginning, middle, and end. Be prepared to go through all of these steps for each person you meet with. When you meet the first interviewer, greet them with a warm handshake, good eye contact, and a smile. Speak in a firm voice to display confidence. Start out positively and maintain it through the entire interview. There should not be any negativity about anything. Now is not the time to discuss politics, the poor weather, or even your favorite sports team, in case you’re for an opposing team. Keep everything positive and focused on business. If your interviewer makes a joke, humor him, but don’t be the one to start making jokes. Use your common sense with what is appropriate to discuss beyond the scope of the interview.
After the greeting, sit down and begin. Be sure to sit up straight, lean a bit forward, and be attentive. Spend the first few minutes building chemistry with the interviewer. You both want to get to know each other, so work to make the interaction comfortable. They will start out with the general questions here, so you’ll most likely begin with your two minute overview.
The middle portion of the interview is the meat of it. The interviewer will ask about your significant accomplishments, strengths, skills, and experiences. This is where you will use the examples you thought about in your preparation. For each question, think about which example will best answer the question and showcase your capabilities. Don’t be too long winded in your responses; keep them quick, concise, and effective.
You should not be dominating the conversation at this point. If you’re talking 90% of the time, you are taking too long to answer the questions or are too inwardly focused, and have probably lost the interview. This should be a dialogue, with you and the interviewer each talking about 50% of the time. Good listening skills just as important to communication as good speaking skills. If the hiring manager starts to talk more in the conversation, it is a good sign, as he is trying to tell you more and attract you to the company. If you feel you are starting to talk too much, try to reel it back in and ask more questions.
The interview is all about an exchange of information, so you should also have a list of questions in mind that you need to know about the role and the company. You should ask about the past, present, and future of the job. You want to know where the company has been and where it is going. The interviewer will tell you about the requirements of the job, but they may not tell you where the job has been and where it’s going, unless you ask. The most effective conversation is going to be a 50-50 dialogue and asking questions shows that you are actually interested in the role and want to understand what it’s about.
Remember, these questions should not be about salary or benefits, as these will be discussed in a separate negotiation. Unless you are asked about salary specifically, do not bring it up. If you are asked, it is alright to disclose your current compensation, including salary, benefits, and bonus, but be sure to emphasize that you are currently focused on learning about the opportunity and are open to discussion assuming they see you as a fit candidate.
Don’t save all your questions until the end of the interview, ask them throughout. It can actually be very beneficial to ask some questions at the very beginning, because you can tailor your answers to make them even more relevant. If you ask and learn a role involves working with difficult customers, and you have past experience doing so, you can bring that up sooner. You’re more in tune with the company’s real needs and able to make an opportunity to show why you are a good fit, rather than waiting for an opportunity in the interview. If you wait until the end with your questions, you may find out something you wish you knew earlier when answering their questions. Keep the conversation a 50-50 dialogue.
It’s very likely that you will meet with several people on an interview. When you meet with the second person, you must interview with them in the same manner you interviewed with the first. If you get to the second interview and don’t ask any questions because they were all answered in the first interview, the second person will end up with a less positive impression of you. It’s also good to ask the same questions of the second person, because they can offer you a different perspective. If you meet with the directors of two different departments, they are going to have different views of the role you’re interviewing for. If you feel uncomfortable asking the same questions, add the words from your perspective. You will probably get contrasting answers, which is a very good way of getting a sense of the job. Keep in mind, you could actually meet with a third or fourth person beyond and you must do the same with them.
You should also have a few sets of different questions to ask the different people you speak with. What you ask a human resources manager is going to be different than what you ask a department head. Make sure the questions you ask them are related to their area. There are a few questions that you may want to ask of everyone, which may be about their experience with the company or the company culture. Fitting into the culture of a company is a very important part of your success there. Corporate culture encompasses the work environment, company values, leadership styles, and personal qualities of the group. The interviewer will ask questions to see if you will fit in, but you should also ask questions to ensure that this is a culture you can work well in. The questions you ask should give you an all encompassing picture of the work environment of this company.
Throughout the entire interview, you need to maintain an air of confidence and positivism. You must pay attention to your body language. Avoid distracting habits like pen clicking or foot tapping, sit up attentively, and maintain eye contact without staring. Body language is going to be very reflective of your state of mind. You don’t want to feel anxious or uptight, because the interviewer will sense it through your body language. Body language is reflexive of your state of mind, so you need to need to manage your mind. State management is the practice of controlling your mind and self to feel confident, collected, and to project that in your outward body language.
So how do you control your state? The first thing to do is stop telling yourself you feel nervous. When preparing for the interview, get you facts in order without getting frenzied and freaking yourself out. Make a one page paper with a flow chart with bullet of what you want to discuss and how you are going to answer different questions. Read through it until you know it without the paper so you don’t even need to bring it to the interview. Now that you have all the information in your mind, you need to associate relaying that information with confidence. This is done through visualization. Relax and think of a time you were feeling absolutely powerful and successful, bringing your mind to that state. Now visualize yourself arriving at the interview, walking in, shaking hands, sitting down, and beginning. Go over all the information from your cheat sheet and instill it with confidence. Do this again and again, and it will create an association between feeling successful and the interview. Just as an athlete puts in hours of practice so he can get in the zone for the game, you should go through this process several times so that you are ready for the interview. The most successful people use this technique when preparing for any sort of important interaction, so go through this simple process to give yourself the needed confidence for the interview.
When the interview is coming to a close, you need to thank the person for their time and ask if there seems to be anything you've left out. The short interview time does not allow for you to detail all aspects of your experience, so ensure that you have given them all the important and relevant information. You can also ask them how they feel about your candidacy for the role, do they see you as a good fit, is there anything lacking, or how do they view your strengths. Have a brief conversation asking about their experience with the interview and what the feel will be the next step. They may invite you then for another interview or give you a time frame for when they will contact you. If you've met with several people they probably want a chance to meet as a team before giving you an indication of how you did. Thank them all for their time and remember to follow up with them over the next few days.
Now you should write a thank you note to all the people you met with, but remember that this note is about more than just giving thanks. Simply writing thank you for your time and insight doesn't really convey anything. An effective thank you note will also express your interest in the job, what went well in the interview, and why you think you’d be a good fit. It strengthens the association between you and the role and will help in showing that you are the ideal candidate.