by Amy Gallo
You’ve just landed a job interview for a position you really want. Congratulations. Now, you know you only get one chance to impress, but how exactly do you do that? Given all of the conflicting advice out there and the changing rules of getting a job, it’s no wonder that job seekers are confused about how to best prepare for and perform in an interview.
What the Experts Say
One common piece of advice is to “take charge” of the interview. John Lees, a career strategist and author of The Interview Expert: How to Get the Job You Want and Job Interviews: Top Answers to Tough Questions, says this advice is misleading: “The reality is that the interviewer is in control. Your job is to be as helpful as you can.” Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, a senior adviser at Egon Zehnder International and the author of Great People Decisions, agrees: “You need to help interviewers do the right thing since most of them don’t follow best practices.” According to Fernández-Aráoz, who has interviewed more than 20,000 candidates in his 26 years as a search consultant, most interviewers fall prey to unconscious biases and focus too heavily on experience rather than competence. It’s your responsibility to make sure this doesn’t happen. Here’s how.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
Most people know they need to show up to the interview having done their homework, but both Fernández-Aráoz and Lees agree that people rarely prepare enough. “You can never invest enough in terms of preparation. You should find out as much as possible about the company, how it’s organized, its culture, the relevant industry trends, and some information about the interviewer,” says Fernández-Aráoz. He also advises researching the specific job challenges. This will allow you to demonstrate you have what it takes to fill the role.
Formulate a strategy
Before you enter the room, decide what three or four messages you want to convey to the interviewer. These should “show the connection between what you have achieved and what is really needed to succeed in the specific job and context,” says Fernández-Aráoz. Lees says the best way to do this is to draft narratives ahead of time. “People buy into stories far more than they do evidence or data,” he says. Your stories should be concise and interesting. Make sure they have a good opening line, such as, “I’m going to tell you about a time that I rescued the organization.” Then, learn them like the back of your hand. Know how they begin and end so you can relay them without stumbling or sounding like a robot. Whenever possible, use one of your stories to answer an interview question.
Emphasize your potential
“No candidate will ever be perfect, and you will be no exception,” says Fernández-Aráoz. Instead of harping on where your resume might fall short — or letting the interviewer do the same — focus on your potential. This is often a far better indicator of future job performance. “If your past achievements are not directly related to the job, but you’ve demonstrated a great ability to learn and adapt to new situations, you should very clearly articulate that,” says Fernández-Aráoz. For example, if you’re interviewing for an international role but have no global experience, you might explain how your ability to influence others in a cross-functional role, such as between production and sales, proves your ability to collaborate with different types of people from different cultures.
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