Interviewing for a new career opportunity can be a high stress experience. The following are some tips to reduce that stress and to allow you to perform to your maximum potential.
Note: Candidates interviewing through The Weinman Group are provided with more extensive interview preparation guidance, as well as one-on-one coaching.
1) Research the Company
One of the biggest turn-offs for an interviewer is a candidate who has not done their homework on the company. Prior to an interview, a candidate should plan to dedicate at least an hour or two (more for executive level positions) to researching the company.
This research will allow you to: a) better articulate why you are interested in the opportunity, b) present your skills and experience in a more tailored fashion, and c) enable you to ask more sophisticated questions (thus setting yourself apart from the competition).
In addition to a thorough review of the company’s websites, Hoovers, Google Finance and Yahoo Finance can also be good sources of information.
2) Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
It’s not enough to have a good background if you cannot articulate it in an interview. No matter how talented and quick on your feet you may be, going into an interview and “winging it” is not a recipe for success.
Spending the time up front to think through your background and experience will have the benefit of a calmer and more polished presentation. It will also ensure that you are sharing the examples of highest impact.
At a minimum, a prospective interviewer should be prepared to:
- Articulate why you are interested in the opportunity
- To speak intelligently about your strengths (with detailed examples)
- To walk though your career history (being attentive to the transitions)
- To be able to provide detailed descriptions of your role on projects relevant to the position
- To be able to speak on Subject Matter Expertise relevant to the role
3) Anticipate Standard Questions
Certain questions can easily be anticipated and prepared for in advance. In addition to being able to speak to your career history and strengths, other questions can also be anticipated.
For example, if you are interviewing for an Audit position, chances are pretty good you will get some kind of question on how you’ve dealt with a difficult auditee, or how you manage relationships. If you are interviewing for a Management position, you can expect questions on how you have supervised or mentored staff, or how you have dealt with an employee that wasn’t performing up to expectations.
One way to anticipate potential questions is to put yourself in the role of the interviewer-if I were interviewing for this role, what would I want to know about the prospective employee? Looking at challenges typical of a particular role can also lead you to good questions.
4) Ask Excellent Questions
One sure way to separate yourself from the competition is to ask excellent questions. If the interviewer asks if you have questions, the answer should always be YES!
But you don’t have to wait until the end of the interview to ask questions; you can also interject good questions throughout the conversation to allow for a good two way flow of information.
This can have two benefits: 1) the answers to well-thought out strategic questions can allow you to better tailor your experience to the role, and 2) it can also give you a little breather and enable you to gather your thoughts.
The key, however, is to ask strong, intelligent questions. Avoid at all costs ME-centric questions about benefits, compensation, vacation, telecommuting, etc. These are irrelevant until you have secured an offer.
Instead, ask intelligent strategic questions. Some examples are:
- Questions that demonstrate you have done your homework on the company
- Questions that demonstrate you have a sophisticated understanding of company, industry or opportunity
- Questions that allow you to get into a “shop-talk” type of discussion with the interviewer
- Questions that demonstrate that you understand what is important to the person interviewing you
- Questions that set up an opportunity for you to showcase some of your talents
Finally, your questions should be tailored to the person/role interviewing you. You should have different questions for: a direct hiring manager, someone in senior management, a prospective business partner, someone in HR, or a peer.
5) LISTEN to the Question and ANSWER DIRECTLY
One of the biggest pet peeves of interviewers is candidates who don’t directly answer the question asked. This is particularly important in the Audit space. Many times candidates will answer “around” the question, but they don’t really get to the heart of it. This drives interviewers nuts.
It is critical to listen very closely to the question being asked, and then to try to hit as close to the center of the bulls-eye with your answer as possible. One helpful technique is to force yourself to pause before launching into your answer. Make sure you have really heard the question, and think about an appropriate and direct response.