There are many articles on how to succeed in interviews. We all know you should have a firm handshake, be prepared for the “what is your greatest weakness” questions, and be nice to the receptionist. This is not one of those articles.
Here is a checklist for acing your first job interview.
1. Research the organization
Do your research on the organization! People tend to just do a few minutes of research before they head off to the interview. You should know the company inside and out based on available information to outsiders. Know about their history, future, team, and culture. Read up on the people interviewing you.
This will help you not only answer their questions, but it will also give you more confidence in facing that dreaded interview question “So, why do you want to work for us?” If you know where they’ve been and where they’re going, you can give them an excellent answer.
2. Research the people
Research on LinkedIn and Twitter are important, but here’s something else people rarely mention. Look at the person holistically and figure out what they are looking for from the interview. It will be easier for you to answer all of their questions if you can see it from their perspective. Consider:
- Their values;
- Priorities and responsibilities;
- What their challenges are;
- What they’re trying to accomplish in their role;
Knowing these things will allow you to anticipate what questions they will ask. You will be able to tailor your “pitch” to match the person you are speaking with.
Be sure to do some personal research as well and see if you have any friends or hobbies in common.
3. Tell your story
We live in a world of stories. The story you tell in your interview is the magic key for getting the job. You should be able to weave all of your different attributes into one narrative that says, “I’m perfect for this job, now give it to me” (in a less aggressive manner).
Identify three messages about yourself that you wish to convey as part of your story. They can be values, characteristics, or skills, and should absolutely be tied to their hiring criteria. Examine the job description and everything you know about the organization and determine what they want to see from you and how that relates to your strengths.
Once you have these three things, come up with a story for each. Show how your achievements relate to what they need. When possible, use a story to answer a question. Politicians do this all the time. It doesn’t matter what question they are asked, they quickly reach back to their “stump speech,” which is the only thing they are interested in discussing.
If you know your stories, you are in control of the narrative, the impression you leave on them, and most importantly, the interview itself.
4. Ask the hard questions
The key is taking control of the interview. This is as much about you as it is about them. Many people say it, but it’s true. Acting this way will make you appear to be controlling the interview, which is exactly where you should be. There is no point in spending time with a crappy organization, so it’s best to find out as soon as possible.
Here are some of my favorite questions to ask during an interview.
What are your biggest challenges at the moment? What are your goals for the year? What will I be able to contribute?
This question always receives a good response. The questions make you look good, and the answers help you frame your story.
How they make decisions, how the team is structured, the current strategy, and so on. The process varies depending on the type of position you are interviewing for. In traditional athletic training interviews, you should generally ask stuff such as:
- If I have an issue, what is the line of command?
- What are your main concerns for the sports medicine department?
- What does my budget look like each year?
- Do you offer opportunities to attend continuing education events?
Answers to these questions can be very insightful. It shows both where they are as an organization, as well as their thoughts and feelings towards sports medicine and athletic trainers.
Their response reveals how much they know and how much they care. In a different type of role, these questions will be different. Consider what these questions would be for the role you’re interviewing for. It can save you a lot of time.
At the end of the interview, you should ask about the next steps, but you can also inquire about anything they didn’t see that they’re looking for. Despite being awkward, this is useful when you’re presenting your case. It’s often a quality or skill you possess, but it didn’t come through when you spoke with them.
Be sure to send a thank you email as soon as possible, preferably mentioning some specifics from the interview. Feel free to add more thoughts about a topic you discussed. If you have something of value you can offer (perhaps an article or resource you mentioned in the interview), you should definitely do that. It makes you look smart.
Now go out there and ace that interview!