You Got the Interview! Now What?
By Lynn Simon-Thomas
Manager, Diversity Engagement
I often get calls from friends, colleagues, and family members seeking advice on how they should prepare for an interview after they’ve already scheduled it. Usually, the beginning of the conversation is loaded with anxiety because the mere thought of interviewing makes many people uncomfortable and nervous. On one hand, I can understand because some interviewers put candidates through an experience similar to a Senate confirmation hearing. On the other hand, I find it confusing because when you apply for a job, that usually means you believe you’re qualified to do it based on your experience. And who knows your experience better than you?
That question is the basis for one of the first questions I often ask when interviewing a candidate which is, “Why did you apply to the position?”
- Are you seeking a more challenging role due to a lack of growth opportunity within your current organization?
- Are you feeling stagnant as you watch other co-workers and friends climb the corporate ladder?
- Are you looking for a significant salary increase?
- Or are you just exploring possibilities because a recruiter reached out to you?
Point blank, why are you seeking another job? And particularly, why this job?
I always ask this question because it forces people to take a step back and really investigate the “why” behind their job search. It also inspires honest introspection and self-reflection, which can help determine whether a position may be the right opportunity. When you unequivocally understand your “why” and you are self-aware enough to know your strengths, as well as the things you need to improve upon, you become a much stronger and appealing candidate.
In addition to knowing your “why,” it’s also important that you have a solid understanding of the current job description. Do you clearly understand the tasks you will be asked to complete if given the role? One way to obtain this clarity is to ask the recruiter to share some insights into what the hiring manager seeks in a candidate. Armed with that information, be sure to ask yourself if you truly have the proper skills needed to succeed in the role. If you don’t, that can be okay if you consider the opportunity a “stretch” role and you have the desire to obtain those needed skills.
If and when the opportunity presents itself, be sure to ask potential co-workers to describe the culture within the company and department, as departmental culture can sometimes differ from the overall company culture. Enjoying what you do, and with whom you do it, is extremely important for your emotional well-being. It can impact your daily motivation, drive, and overall contribution to your job and the company. Take an honest look within yourself to uncover what makes you happy in your current job. Try to identify those things that bring you joy at work and make you excited to start your day. The ability to explain what you need from a job, as well as the opportunities you see in your next role, can go a long way towards ensuring the role is right for you.
Finally, once you have a better understanding of the role and what the hiring manager may be looking for in a candidate, you should be able to clearly articulate what you bring to the table through relevant examples of how your current skill set makes you an ideal candidate for the position. Perhaps you helped to improve a vital process that saved your current department a significant amount of money. Or maybe you were instrumental in turning overall customer sentiment from negative to positive. Regardless, when you can demonstrate that you have the expertise and experience to help a potential manager solve the problems they’re currently facing, you dramatically improve your chances of landing the role.
To help you remember these guidelines, I’ve created a short list of tips that can help you ace your next interview.
- Know yourself.
- Understand why you want the job and how it will help you achieve your professional goals. Be able to clearly state the skills you possess that would benefit the organization, as well as those which you’re working to improve to ensure you’d be successful in the position.
- Understand the opportunity for growth/the career path the position could offer.
- If you can’t visualize how you can advance your career beyond the role, be sure to ask about the potential career path and available support structures that can guide you towards success.
- Attempt to obtain insight into the departmental culture.
- Emotional well-being is vital to success in the work world. Be sure to inquire about the working dynamics within the team to help determine if the opportunity and environment is right for you.
- Always treat the recruiter with respect.
- Never view the recruiter as a simple hurdle to clear en route to the hiring manager. As the “first line of defense,” the recruiter can be the most important person in the interviewing process.
Concentrating on these four things can help you navigate your next interview successfully and remove some of the pre-interview anxiety many people experience. Good luck!
Lynn Simon-Thomas is Manager, Diversity Engagement within Talent Acquisition. Lynn has over 15 years of experience in recruiting and diversity engagement. She serves as the diversity and inclusion subject matter expert focused on the execution of targeted diverse talent sourcing strategies.