How do I prepare for a job interview?
That is one of the most frequently asked questions I receive when I teach courses on interviewing skills. The answer is not hard. It can be summarized in two words:
Let’s start with research. You begin internally, asking yourself:
- What are my four or five signature strengths?
- What is my Value Brand Statement? — This is a focused explanation of why a prospective employer would want to hire you. It will vary with the job requirements
- How can I work those signature strengths into my answer when asked a CORE question?
CORE questions are those that allow you some freedom to promote your strengths and your value. One of the most common of the CORE questions is, “Tell me something about yourself?” Or, “Tell me something about yourself that is not on your resume that will help me understand who you are?” Others include: What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Tell me about your leadership style. Why are you interested in working for our company? What can we expect from you?
The reality is that many of the CORE questions are really gifts to a candidate who is well prepared and who has relentlessly rehearsed answers. One of the most common mistakes that executives make in the interview process is that they do not sell themselves. In a very competitive job interview process, not selling yourself can be the kiss of elimination. To be clear, going in and winging it with answers to these questions is really silly. In my 25 years of recruiting experience I found that the candidates who were exceptionally well prepared to answer these questions were more likely to advance in the search than those who did not. This is one very unimportant reason why the best qualified candidates only get the job only 35 percent of the time.
In my 25 years of recruiting experience I found that the candidates who were exceptionally well prepared to answer these questions were more likely to advance in the search than those who did not.
You must also research the prospective employer’s business. There is an amazing amount of information available in professional publications and on the internet about operational, financial and market conditions. You should dig deep. When you are asked, “Why do you want to work for us,” you should be able successfully drive that ball out of the park. However, there is a risk of screwing up. I have seen candidates who collected an impressive amount of information but then shot themselves in the foot when they tried to appear more knowledgable than they really were. Or they misunderstood and misused the information. If you have any doubts about an issue you surfaced in your research, you should seek clarification with the recruiter. There are other sources but you must be careful not to allow your research/clarification efforts to become too high profile.
CATEGORICAL questions also require research, preparation and rehearsal.
CATEGORICAL questions are those that focus on your performance over several categories. They are almost always defined by the scope of responsibility for the position such as operations, finance, marketing, human resources, quality/service, governance, etc. Here is how to prepare for these questions:
- Identify the categories by carefully reviewing the job posting, the recruiter’s summary or the actual job description. The latter is generally not as helpful since they are loaded with all the Joint Commission and regulatory language and do not reflect current conditions
- Recall and document the successes you have achieved in each category. Include relevant examples your successes
- Think about all the questions you hope they do not ask you, and then develop a killer answer for each. If there is anything on your resume that even remotely hints at sub-par performance or a quick tenure, you must be prepared. If you fumble and mumble, you will be out of the search, more than likely
- Now compose questions that you would ask if you were conducting the interview. Prepare answers with specific information that will help prepare you to answer the query.
People tend to remember stories more than they do percentages or other metrics.
Then rehearse. And then rehearse some more.
Remember, your answers will be more memorable if you can provide brief, focused anecdotes of your success. The interview process is about you telling your story. People tend to remember stories more than they do percentages or other metrics. Make it interesting but always stay focused on your goal of communicating your value in a meaningful and memorable way.
You have not been invited to interview for the purpose of providing a dry discourse on your success. You must sell your answers.
The prospective employer is looking for a reason to hire you. Give them one.
Join Chrishonda Smith, CCDP, SHRM of OhioHealth and John G Self, an author, blogger and executive career transition coach, for a dynamic MASTER COURSE on interviewing skills at the American College Healthcare Congress in Chicago, March 23- 26. This is one of the more popular and highly rated sessions of the Congress The session is at 2:15 PM on Wednesday, March 25.