Follow These Rules to Ace Your Next Interview

Originally published to LinkedIn on June 14, 2016

The moment of truth in the interview, will YOU be ready?

After putting in the exhausting amount of work it takes to secure an interview, in addition to the extensive networking, speaking with recruiters, pitching, and filling out job applications, you're hopeful that your resume and connections speak for themselves when you walk into the interview room. It’s clear you are talented; otherwise you wouldn’t be there, right?  

This is a common mistake that should always be avoided. What you must remember is that you still need to sell yourself…ok, I’m kidding, please don’t do that! Instead, allow yourself to be bought, only “selling” what is needed to prove to the hiring manager why you are the person for the job and why they should bring you in immediately. Restrict your self-promotion to the clearly required elements of the position that you have experience with. Avoid being overly confident at this stage of the game as it can be the difference between getting the job and never hearing from this employer again. 

There are five key steps you should take to prepare yourself for an interview with a hiring manager… 

1. Anticipate Anticipate Anticipate:

It’s crucial to understand and anticipate what the hiring manager is looking for.Reading extensively about the job, who you will be working with, how you will fit into their team or what you will need to do to be a successful leader are all things hiring managers would want you to know AHEAD of meeting with you. And yet most candidates fail at this first step. The way you prepare for this interview will translate to how well you do the job. 

2. Know How to Answer the Hard Questions:

Anyone who has ever been in an interview has had to answer the dreaded – “where do you see yourself in five years?” question, or “tell me about yourself” inquiry. It’s expected and all too common. You’ve got to be prepared for those, but how? If Googling the top five answers prepares you…go for it. But buyer beware…it will probably generate an answer the hiring manager has heard all too often – you won’t be distinguishable from the next interviewer repeating these answers.   

Or you can do what I always advise my career coaching clients to do…write down a list of 10 or so questions you think you’ll be asked, and write down answers to each (tons of studies have shown that things stick in your brain longer when you put them from pen to paper!) and begin practicing saying them out loud. Keep the answers short and to the point (no inspirational stories about Grandma, your college professors etc please). 

Don’t be stuck in a position where you are “hoping” they don’t ask you that dreaded question. Be prepared to respond to anything they ask you! A good way to do so is by following rule #3… 

3. Use the PnP Rule:   

When you find yourself up against a hard question in an interview that may have some negative connotation about your prior work experience or lack of specific job requirements, always use the PnP approach. Start with a strong positive statement(the capital P in PnP), then touch on the negative part of the question with a brief comment (the little n in PnP), and end with another positive statement (the final P in PnP). Most people in conversations are only focused on and truly remember the beginning and the end of a comment / response. If you have to discuss why you were let go of your job, I would recommend:

“It was an amazing opportunity for me to work at (Company ABC) with some fantastic colleagues, despite being caught in a corporate downsizing. However, it was a blessing in disguise, as I found this to be a great opportunity to explore other areas of interest and potentially bring my expertise and skill set within (specific industry knowledge) to a vibrant and growing firm like yours here at (Company XYZ).”

Be creative and always end with a positive. Even if the reason you left your last job wasn’t your choice, you can turn the situation around and show the hiring manager how you learned from it and can bring additional experience / "wisdom" from it. Hiring managers always prefer hiring “cup is half-full” candidates, those who saw the positives in previous positions, and they will see you as someone who will have a positive impact on your new team members.   

4. Be ready with original questions:

If you think an interview is one-sided and you should be the only one prepared to answer questions – you are wrong. You’ve got to come to the interview with questions, especially those that relate to the business. This is a crucial opportunity to flex your strategic thinking skills and show them you are truly looking at your future there.  

Instead of asking them the same boring “what are the responsibilities, what is the team structure, what is a typical day like” questions, ask them a question that not only deals directly with what they do for the company / group, but best of all, ask their opinion, especially regarding an industry-related question. People love giving their own opinions, and always like to be asked. I have yet to meet a hiring manager who wouldn’t prefer to hire someone who wants to know their opinion (and giving that hiring manager a feeling of being respected) versus a candidate who spouts off their own thoughts on things.

5. Practice Practice Practice: 

If you don’t practice for the interview, you won’t get the job. Take your notes to your kitchen, your bedroom, outside in the park or on the phone with a friend, and review your answers. Practice how you say them, what kind of energy you bring and your excitement for the role. I know I’m stating the obvious, but your performance substantially improves if you go into an interview brimming with confidence that you are ready for any question thrown your way. 

As a last word of encouragement….always express your excitement about the position and company. Too many people miss the crucial part of getting a job. SAY YOU WANT TO WORK THERE! It’s OK to admit you love the company, have researched it extensively, understand their culture and would love to be a part of a successful company. Many people can interview their pants off and forget this crucial statement and ruin their chances. Too many times hiring managers have come to me and said, “Well Joe was great and we liked him and all, but he never actually said he wanted to work for us.” Don’t be that person. Prepare, practice and you’ll be on your way to the first day of work at your dream company.

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