“Prepare your silken coat before it rains, and don’t wait until you are thirsty to dig a well.” The quote is from an unknown source but is very good advice in all things that matter. Having the foresight to anticipate those things that are more certain than not to come before us, will most likely have a positive impact on the outcome of the experience. Actors do it, speakers obsess over it and emergency responders make it their most important life’s rule.
For job seekers, preparation for a potential interview is critical. With the intense competition in the job market at an all-time high level, making a credible first impression is essential to improving your chances of getting that perfect career opportunity. Be aware, the need to be prepared begins before the in-person interview. It begins with the phone screen, the call from the recruiter or hiring company. Here are a few tips on how to answer that all important phone call:
- Be sure everyone in your household is aware you may be receiving calls from recruiters and companies. Always answer the phone in a polite, professional manner, and ask family members to do the same.
- Do not interrupt an existing conversation to take another incoming call. Putting a call from a prospective employer on “Hold” may permanently put your potential next job on hold.
- Treat every phone screen as if it could be your next opportunity. The goal of the conversation is to win over advocates to your job search efforts, keep the conversation light, straight forward and professional.
- Construct a professional and positive voice-mail message for when you are unable to answer the call personally. Be sure not to make it cute, funny or entertaining.
Once an appointment has been secured for a personal interview, begin the process of preparation by investigating the company, the particular job being interviewed and the interviewer. Seek all available information on personalities, corporate culture, and what is most important for the employer when identifying the appropriate candidate. During the interview, expect to be asked open-ended questions. Questions that require you to give real life examples of how you handled prior job related challenges. Anticipate, in advance, topics that may be open to discussion during the interview and script a few potential responses. It may not come up, but being prepared will avoid being caught off guard.
Have questions you want to ask the interviewer prepared in advance. Knowing what is appropriate to ask, and what questions should never be asked, can be a bit intimidating but a few “must ask” questions like: Is the position being back-filled or is it a new position due to growth? Why did you choose to work for the organization? What do you like best, and what has been a challenge? What can you tell me about the individual to whom I would report? The answers will provide useful insights into management’s expectations, the potential for growth within the organization and the management styles and personality traits of prospective supervisors and associates. Career experts agree that asking questions during a job interview is the best way to determine whether the organization is the right fit for you. It is also a great way to show the employer that you’ve done your homework and that you’re enthusiastic about the job opportunity.
Finally, remember to ask the most important question of all. What are the next steps?
It is vital to know what happens after the interview and to establish an expectation for follow-up. This will also help gauge the company’s level of interest in you. Secure the interviewer’s contact information and be certain to immediately follow-up the interview with a thank you note.