From Diana Booher—
There is more to an interview than showing up on time. Much more. Having recently landed an interview for an executive position at a Fortune 10 company, my client Melissa knew serious preparation was expected.
If you’re expecting to win the next big offer — whether it’s for a new job or a big promotion — pay attention to Melissa’s playbook. Here’s what she had already done to prepare for her dream job interview.
Preparing for the big job interview
Dive deep into the company’s research
A cursory check of the potential company’s website is not enough. Melissa researched her company website, of course, but also the sales and marketing literature for her products, articles written about the company, magazine and blog articles published by company employees, her social media posts, press releases, and so on .
In addition, through a friendship link, she even arranged an interview with a senior executive at the prospective employer about their values and culture.
Develop a list of possible questions
Melissa has developed a list of more than 40 possible questions that interviewers commonly ask: questions from various job search blogs, recruitment and career sites. Questions she had been asked in previous job interviews. Questions that friends had given her from their own job search.
Her extensive list included questions about professional history, personality traits, skills and leadership style, judgment, and future plans.
Write your answers
Before you say no way, given the amount of time I’ve put into it, think again. What better investment than planning your interview ahead of time?
I’m not suggesting that you spell out your answers word for word in every detail. But I recommend a list of bullet points and/or examples – just one word or phrase. If you formulate answers in full sentences, this is of little use to you for two reasons.
In the middle of an interview, there is no time to look at notes while answering questions. You also don’t want to memorize and recite verbatim answers. This type of recitation would make you sound canned and inauthentic.
Keep in mind that the purpose of these written responses (in a concise bulleted list of words or phrases) is for your preparation only and will not be used during the actual interview. You may remember poet EM Forster’s comment: “How do I know what I’m thinking until I see what I’m saying?”
Melissa prepared a 22-page document that included the expected questions along with her bulleted answers. Similarly, I prepare for my guest appearances in the media: questions (often prefaced by the interviewer) plus a list of bullet points I intend to make.
Without this preliminary work, the results can be unfocused discussions that stray far from the topic. (No doubt you’ve heard “rabbit hunts” like this on your favorite podcasts.)
Thinking and reviewing your future responses thoroughly enough to “know what you’re going to say” will produce thoughtful responses that are clearly articulated at the crucial moment.
Record new questions as you receive them
Unfortunately, when interviewing for a new job, it’s rarely “one and done.” The hiring process for most employers involves multiple interviews for candidates they are seriously considering: The “gatekeeper” interviewer. The HR interviewer. The supervisor interview. And often the senior executive interview.
As you advance to the next interview level, you will hear different questions. Your prep sheet—“talking points,” as executives call it for their own media interviews—should be a living document. That means keep updating it with new questions as you receive them. Chances are, you’ll hear them again during your second, third, and fourth interviews because potential employers are looking for inconsistencies in what you said earlier.
Prepare a CV
Rarely does the interviewer expect you to delve deeper than what you have stated on your resume. Reciting what your resume says proves of little help.
Instead, expect to go into things like projects and achievements: the steps involved in a particular project or results you’ve achieved. The “how you did it” when you’re talking about a great accomplishment. Gaps in your CV can also raise questions. So, be ready to dwell on anything listed on your resume.
Be prepared to do a case study
Some employers may ask you to create a small project or case study specific to the position you are applying for. Think of this as a test of how well you’ll do your job once you’re hired. Follow the directions and be comprehensive, detailed, and accurate—both in your content and in your presentation of the work.
Have a ready-made list of your own insightful questions
Never waste the interviewer’s time answering questions about things you could easily research yourself. Instead, appropriate questions should focus on things like responsibilities of the role you’re applying for, the culture, their expectations for your future in the organization.
Polish your structure and delivery – in person or virtually
It was at this point in her introduction process that Melissa finally contacted me. She knew that all the research in the world wouldn’t compensate for bad delivery — especially bad virtual delivery via Zoom or any other platform.
Some applicants spend almost all of their time on the above steps and very little time on their delivery. Big mistake! A polished delivery makes all the other groundwork worthwhile.
Sophisticated delivery flows from practice. Poll yourself by recording your answers on Zoom (or another platform) and then listen to the replay or read the transcript. Or ask a friend or colleague to conduct a mock interview and analysis with you.
Demonstrating personal presence will prove critical to your success. And practice makes that possible.
The last step? If you get the big deal, celebrate!
Dianna Booher is the bestselling author of 49 books, including Communicate like a leader. It helps organizations to communicate clearly. Follow her on BooherResearch.com and @DiannaBooher.