Set Yourself Apart in a Job Interview Part 1

We’ve been in a tight job market for a while now but I frequently hear hiring managers say they just can’t find talented people to fill their openings. Why do we have this disconnect? I think it is partly because applicants don’t know how to “sell” their skills and partly because there are a lot of hiring managers who aren’t good interviewers. While I’d like to train every manager in interviewing techniques, that is probably not going to happen but perhaps, we can have some impact on job seekers to help them develop the skills they need to showcase themselves AND to get the job!

Research--Job seekers should focus a lot more attention on researching the organization before they go for the interview. There is a lot of information available on the web to help you learn as much as possible about the structure, mission, values, culture and more! Take time to use your Linkedin contacts to find at least one person you know who works there and ask questions about the leadership, the culture and whatever you think you need to know to be prepared for the interview. Check out the organization’s reputation on sites such as Glassdoor.com
Knowing a lot about the organization will help you prepare the questions you will ask of the interviewer (see part 2 of this series which will post next week).
Review—Look at all the material you have on the position—the job posting, your research on the organization, your conversations with current employees, their website, and more. Focus on how your skills fit what they are looking for and then, craft short stories (examples) of how your skills will meet their needs. These stories must be true and focused on how you are going to really add value to the organization. Practice your stories to get comfortable with them but don’t memorize them—be sure you can tailor your stories to whatever question you are asked. Ask a trusted colleague to ask you some questions so that you get really comfortable with responding with what sounds like a spontaneous comment.
No matter how prepared you are, you will probably be asked a question you haven’t prepared for—don’t panic. Take a quick breath and answer to the best of your ability. This will demonstrate you ability to think on your feet!
Attire—Dress appropriately for the interview. Find out from the people you contact what the dress code is and dress one level above. For example, if it is a casual workplace, men should wear a jacket and collared shirt but probably not a tie and women a simple pantsuit. Be sure to wear something you feel comfortable in but that doesn’t mean shorts, tee shirts or flip flops!
Listen—Let the interviewer set the pace. No matter how frustrating this may be, listen carefully and answer each question honestly. Don’t ever interrupt the interviewer! If you feel you haven’t had the chance to tell your story, at the end of the interview, ask if you might share some of your skills that haven’t already been discussed.
Bottom line—The interviewer wants to know what you can do for his/her organization so be sure you make that point early and often.
Follow-up—Always ask for a business card and send a note or email immediately following the interview and summarize your skills and how absolutely perfectly your skills match what their job requires (if this is true).

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