10.1   What to do Before, During and After Interviewing

RESEARCH YOURSELF AND THE EMPLOYER - Know yourself thoroughly: your goals, your interests, your values, your strengths and your weaknesses. Employers will be asking you questions on all of these topics to see how well you fit with the position for which they are hiring. 

Take time and write out lists. Start by listing your long-term and your short-term goals. Where do you want to be in 3 to 5 years? Where do you want to be in 7 to 10 years? What are your interests? What knowledge do you have that you really want to apply? What are your greatest strengths? What are some of your weaknesses, and what are you doing to improve?

Know the employer thoroughly before your interview. Research as much as possible through the web and by visiting the job site and meeting with current employees to gather information about the available positions. You will want to know as much as you can about the specific expertise you will be using so you can go back and study notes from past classes and read current articles on industry related topics. You will want to study as if you are preparing for a final exam. Successful candidates have told me that they spend about 6 hours studying before an interview.

Now put together what you know about yourself and what you have learned about the employer and figure out how you fit the needs of the position and the organization. You will be asked questions like "What is your understanding of the position?" "Why are you interested in this position?" and "Why do you believe you would be successful in this position?"

Interviews are not really a mystery if you understand that employers are looking for a candidate that fits with their organization. They are going to ask you some standard questions. After a few interviews, you will quickly discover that they all ask pretty much the same questions. You can prepare for standard questions by reading chapter 10.2 part B - Interview Questions Study Guide which explains what employers need to hear from you in your interview answers.  If you have time, I also suggest reading  "Knock 'em Dead" by Martin Yate. It also includes some really good answers so you can see what makes for a good answer. 

For techies check out "Cracking The Coding Interview" by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, which Google recommends to anyone who makes it through the rather intense Google filters all the way to an interview for software engineering positions.  

ZOOM INTERVIEWS ARE A CHALLENGE SO LEARN TO USE VIRTUAL TOOLS. Employers now use a variety of video conferencing systems.  You need to become comfortable with interviewing online.  Start by getting a Zoom account.  Many employers use other systems such as Microsoft Teams, WebEX, GoToMeeting, and Skype. Take your video interview seriously and prepare by practicing with a friend using at least one of these tools and becoming comfortable with answering questions, sharing information, and how you look. This is a real interview that shows the employer you know what you are talking about.  

Preparation and practice are key to a successful interview. There is no room for flubs or nervousness. The more you practice the better you will feel.  On the scheduled interview appointment time, show up early just like you would for an in person interview. You should have received a digital invite to the virtual meeting room.  If you have not received it by the day before, contact the person who scheduled the interview and request one. Be sure to download the necessary software long before the interview so you can troubleshoot any software problems that inevitably will occur... making sure your camera and microphone are properly configured.  

The worst thing that could happen is to fumble the start of your interview with a software malfunction. You are demonstrating that you are smart and that you are not only ready for an interview but you are fully capable of working remotely, especially if you are hired during the shelter-in-place orders. 

What happens during the interview

RELAX - Interviews are just like any conversation with a new person. Employers will size you up based on how relaxed you are, if you are dressed appropriately, if you know how to shake hands and just how well you handle meeting new people for the first time. 

Little things like showing up a little early, smiling, being confident and being extremely well prepared make all the difference in the world. I recommend that you show up at least 20 minutes early, (be sure to use the restroom before), do breathing exercises and review your notes, your resume, and your portfolio before your interview.

You can expect that you may be interviewed by several people over the course of the day, so don't double schedule yourself. (Ask in advance what the schedule is so you are prepared for whatever comes your way). Share all information with enthusiasm with each person even if you end up saying the same thing seven or eight times.

My absolute best recommendation is to walk into every interview with the following thought on your mind... "If this job doesn't come through, something better will." That thought running through your brain gives you confidence even when you have been interviewing for three months and you are just about panicked that you will never get a job. I promise you that you will get a job... Chances are that if you are reading this book you don't qualify to be permanently unemployed! 

Bottom line - getting the job is going to require that you find the job, with the right company, and that you are extremely well prepared for the interview process. It will happen.

What to do after an interview

DEBRIEF AND FOLLOW UP - After an interview you will want to sit in your car (or at your computer) and scream or disintegrate into a little puddle. Resist the urge... Instead immediately write down everything you remember about the interview. This will help you prepare for your next interview by allowing you to analyze your performance and do better in your next interview or salvage the interview with a plan. What questions were you asked? What did you do well? What did you do poorly? What do you wish you had done or said that you did not?

Next, send a thank you note to each of the persons who interviewed you. Thank them for the time they spent interviewing you and tell them that you appreciated the opportunity to share your interests and career goals. Tell them that you would welcome an opportunity to work in their company and tell them why. If you feel you could have answered a question more effectively, tell them what your answer would be now that you have had time to think. Many people that I have helped over the years have told me that sending a thank you note was the thing that distinguished them from the other candidates and got them the job.

One candidate who received five offers during the coronavirus crisis told me, "Sometimes I like to dazzle the interviewer with a written card.  With Shelter In Place (SIP), the interview is a great opportunity to make sure to get the email addresses of ALL of the interviewers and to follow up saying "thank you" shortly after the interview." His suggested,  "Be gracious, and be appreciative of the opportunity to interview."

Always follow up a few days after an interview with a phone call. Tell them that you are “just checking on the status of your application” and tell them that you are very interested in the job. One employer told me that he waited for candidates to follow up with a phone call and did not hire anyone who did not call. Many people are afraid of being pesky. Very few of the people I work with are pesky. People are much more likely to let the ball drop than to be pesky in this situation.

Luck has nothing to do with interviewing well. Preparation and planning are everything!