Congratulations!! Your resume and cover letter did their job! A Corporate Recruiter called and conducted a telephone interview, and has invited you in for a preliminary face-to-face interview!
The recruiter’s task during the hiring process is to collect information that enables him or her to accurately rank order the available candidates. While there are other methods of collecting information for use in the candidate evaluation process, such as contacting your personal references, conducting background checks, administering tests, and so on, the face-to-face interview remains the employer’s single most important source of information about you.
In every interview, the company is evaluating whether you have the “right stuff.” Do you have what it takes to work effectively in their organization? Oftentimes, that means more than whether you have the specific skills to perform the tasks listed on the job description. Having the “right stuff” can include:
- Your Attitude
- Your Work Ethic
- Your “Presence,” or the Professional Image you portray
- Your level of Initiative
- Your Leadership Skills
- Your ability to Motivate yourself, an others
- Your Knowledge of the Company
- Your Interest Level in the position
- Your ability to accurately assess your own abilities, and limitations
- And many, many others
Many times, you will go into the interview without knowing what “intangible attributes” the employer values. You will be responding to questions without knowing what response the interviewer considers the “correct” answer. For example: The interviewer says, “Would you rather work on individual projects, or as a member of a team?” Is the “right” answer individual projects, because the interviewer is looking for people who can work independently and without close supervision? Or team projects, because the interviewer is looking for people who work well with others?
In interview situations, the “correct” answer is always the truthful answer. Don’t waste your time trying to second-guess the interviewer. It rarely works. And if it does work, it may result in your receiving a job offer for a position you won’t be happy in (because you don’t really possess the attributes required to be successful).
Your role, as the interviewee, should be twofold. First, to present the most descriptive self-portrait possible during the initial interview. Second, to collect information you need to decide if this is a position you really want. To accomplish these dual objectives, you need to be prepared. What follows are some general “do’s and don’ts” to help you not only get prepared, but to also land the job and career you want.
Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses in relation to the skills the employer requires in the job. Refer to the requirements listed in the ad/paperwork/communication that caused you to apply for the position initially. If possible, ask the company for a copy of the job description, and any other information they have on job requirements, prior to your interview. If you ask, many companies will allow you to talk to someone already performing the work. Use all information you can collect about the position to determine whether: a) you’d actually want the job and b) how your past experiences and skills match with the job requirements.
About the Company
Collect information about the company. At a minimum, get a copy of the most recent annual report and study it. Many companies have web sites that provide a wealth of information about operating results, products, company culture, and so on. Search the internet for recent articles about the company. Based on the information you collect, try to identify ways in which your skills, work habits and values support the company. Also, identify any items about the company you want to clarify during the interview.
Think of a couple of examples of how you have made contributions to a previous employer. The examples could include ways in which you redesigned work processes to improve the efficiency of operations, or motivated employees to higher levels of performance, or saved money through better controls over budgets or spending. It’s very common for interviewers to ask for these types of examples, so be prepared!