As a marketing professional at an executive search firm, I hear a lot of conversations happening around me throughout the day. One that happens often, and tends to stick with me, is hearing our search consultants prepare candidates for upcoming interviews. A majority of our candidates have spent 5, 10, or even 20 years at their current organizations, so they don’t have recent interview experience. Because of this, our consultants devote time to making sure they are ready and comfortable for their interviews. Although every interview will be different – because every employer and role is different – I’ve often wondered whether there are some commonalities to the guidance our consultants share. So, I went right to the source, and based on our consultants’ feedback, I’ve compiled their leading suggestions.
We always tell people to do as much research on the employer as they can, and that’s sort of the obvious thing to do. However, digging deeper to find information such as webinars, podcasts, white papers, and case studies prove more useful at this stage in the game because they offer insight into the vision and values of the organization. They also give you a feel for how the company views themselves in the marketplace, and what they think differentiates them from others. This information is useful to shape the way in which you frame and phrase your interview responses, and should also make you feel more confident.
This may also seem like a given, but just like Step 1 this requires a bit more effort than expected. As you re-read the PD, draw specific situations and experiences throughout your career, such as key financial initiatives, training and development processes, and tangible results, that speak directly to the relevant qualifications section. Should market trends over time be worth discussing, line those up to match your changes in perception, process, demands, and achievements.
Not only do your questions show your enthusiasm, but they can also be used to guide the interview to be slightly more conversational than formal. There’s a possibility you may be given the chance to steer some of the discussion, and you always want to steer it back to the employer. Ask them direct and candid questions to extract information that will allow you to fully understand the positives and negatives of the role and company.
Do some background research on the people who are interviewing you so you can find some relatable context. Where they were previously employed, where they went to school, and how they’ve transitioned throughout their career will give you ways to relate their career trajectories to your own experience. It’s hard to pivot mid-interview when you find something out and if there are no similarities you may know going into it to explain your thought process in more detail.
This one is my favorite because I never thought of it, and you probably haven’t either! Consider meeting with an industry colleague, mentor, or advisor to discuss how the interview went – what the chemistry was like, positives and negatives, and your overall interest level. On a scale of 1 to 10, if your interest isn’t at a 9 or a 10, talk to them about what you feel you need to learn so you know what you have to accomplish if there’s another round of interviews on the horizon.
This step is suggested after the previous one because it gives you the opportunity to expand on any areas or additional examples that you wish you would have mentioned, and some of those could be fleshed out during your after-interview meeting. It also gives you a chance to reiterate your industry expertise that shows just how long you’ve been ingrained in it and what you learned from the time spent. Your note shows both respect and interest. If you can handwrite it, that’s a plus, and is likely to make you stand out from the others.
Your first interview truly sets the tone for how the process is going to play out and whether you’ll be a preferred candidate. If it has been a while since you’ve had to worry about interviewing, do yourself a favor and hone in on how you present yourself, as well as do the heavy lifting when it comes to pre-interview research. With more information and preparation, you’ll be more confident and comfortable, and that will allow your genuine interest and capabilities to come through more clearly. Good luck!