Part 1 in a 2 Part Series on Interviewing Preparation and Strategy
For those of us in the staffing industry, the word “interview” is part of our daily rhetoric. As recruiters and account managers, a good portion of our day is spent interviewing new candidates, coordinating interviews between our clients and candidates, preparing our candidates for their upcoming interviews, and following up with our clients and candidates for post-interview debriefs. For many candidates, the word “interview” exudes feelings of excitement, confidence, and the promise of a new challenge or a new beginning. But for others the word “interview” provokes feelings of anxiousness, insecurity and dread. Regardless of where you fall on the interview love-hate spectrum, one thing is certain: the more thoroughly you prepare for an interview, the more confident you will be. And the more you interview, the better you’ll get. Interviewing is a skill that takes preparation and practice.
At Horizontal Integration, we do our very best to ensure that our candidates are well-prepared for their interviews. We arm them with tips, interview insights and as much client intel as we can gather. However, there are several things you can do to make sure you are ready and confident upon entering that interview room.
Before the Interview
Know What You’re Interviewing For: First and foremost, you should get to know the job description inside and out. But more importantly, know how your skills align with the requirements listed and be prepared to articulate how you will be able to contribute to those needs based on your previous experiences and accomplishments. Plan your responses in advance and don’t be afraid to take notes or talking points with you to the interview.
Do Your Homework: Take time to research the company, industry, and their competition. First stop: review the company website. Not only will this give you further insight into the business and what they do, but you may come away with a better understanding of their mission, values, and vision as well as their company brand and tone. In taking your research one step further, consider browsing recent press releases or news articles; find out what they’ve been up to lately, what recent accolades and achievements they’ve received, and what they are projecting to do in the future. Next up, visit the company’s social-media pages (this shouldn’t be too difficult, as most of us are no strangers to wasting time on Facebook and Instagram). Here you’ll get a sense of the company’s culture and maybe get a peek at what your potential new coworkers are saying and doing. Speaking of co-workers, take a few minutes to investigate those who will be interviewing you. Connect with them on LinkedIn and see where their career path has taken them. Perhaps you’ll have something or someone in common. Finally, if you have the time, consider researching key competitors. See what others in the industry are doing and how this company stacks up.
Practice, Practice, Practice: Practice makes perfect, right? Well, not always…but it certainly helps. And when it comes to perfecting your interview skills, practice is essential. It’s unlikely that you’ll be privy to the interview questions before you walk through the door, but by doing a quick online search, you can find common industry-based interview questions (Glassdoor is a great resource). Review these questions and think about how you would answer them. Then practice…out loud. Additionally, prepare yourself to answer questions about you, your goals, and your own work history. Practice speaking to your resume specifically and know exactly what you can bring to the table. Finally, be prepared to discuss any “red-flags” on your resume, such as gaps in employment or short stints at companies. This will come up, so be sure to prepare your responses ahead of time. Keep in mind, you may be thrown the unavoidable curve-ball question or two, but if you’ve taken the time to practice and prepare, chances are you’ll handle those (and the rest of the interview questions) with ease.
Dress to Impress: As the saying goes, “when you look good, you feel good,” and we think this is true. Prepare your interview clothing ahead of time and take some time to iron your trousers, steam your favorite dress, or polish your shoes. Although, you should look and feel your best (this being 100% subjective and clearly a personal choice), be sure that your clothing doesn’t detract from YOU…in other words, steer clear of distracting clothing options and err slightly more on the conservative side. You are the main event, not your clothing. First impressions matter, so brush the pet hair off your jacket, pick the parsley out of your tooth, and try to avoid getting that pesky coffee drip stain on your tie.
Resumes and Portfolios (if applicable): Although we live in a digital age, providing a hard copy of your resume on a good quality paper is a nice added touch. The interviewer will likely have a copy of your resume on-hand, however in the event that they don’t or should someone else pop into the interview unexpectedly, by printing off a few additional copies, you will be well-prepared. If you are interviewing for a design or technical job, be sure to bring your portfolio either digitally or physically and be prepared to discuss your work or contributions.
Get the Logistics Down: At this point, you’re mentally, physically and emotionally prepared for the interview. You’re looking good, you’re feeling good, you hop in the car, ready to go…and then disaster strikes. There is nothing worse than getting lost, stuck in horrendous traffic or a nasty construction zone, or finally making it to the interview site and not being able to find a parking spot within a 5-mile radius. Your stress and perspiration levels have now significantly increased and swear words have flown out of your mouth in every direction, all before walking through that interview door. Not a good look. Thankfully, this scenario is 99% avoidable. How? It’s simple. Drive by the location prior to the day of your interview. Is there construction? Is this a location that may be plagued by horrible traffic? Are there a bunch of one-ways that will confuse anyone in their right mind? Is there on-site parking or should you consider public transportation? Do a test run first. And just to be safe, on the day of the interview, plan on arriving at your location 15 minutes early, just to give yourself a little breathing room. Once you get there, spit out your gum, turn off your phone, take a deep breath, pull yourself together, and get ready to shine. You’ve got this!
Check out Part 2 of this blog for some helpful hints to help you successfully navigate the interview itself.