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Nail Your next Job Interview before You Even Enter the Room

Nail Your next Job Interview before You Even Enter the Room

Job interviews generally fall into one of two categories. They are either a complete waste of time or they can be something that leads you to greatness. If you are looking for the latter, then here is the plan that I follow in order to keep #winning at job interviews.

The Week Leading up to the Interview

When it comes to wanting to nail your next job interview, the first thing you should do is outline the company’s ideal interview profile, or as I like to call it their IIP. An IIP is not the same as Ideal Candidate Profile, which is based on your skills and work history. You see, those are the things that got you the call. What I’m talking about are the things that make you look amazing during the interview and beyond.

The IIP is where you research, visualize and bullet point important notes so you can focus on learning and producing exactly what the company wants. Note, the key to doing this is thinking long term; you don’t want to pull a fast one and just be this person for the interview only.

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Contrary to popular belief, picking out what you are going to wear to an interview should not be the first step in your plan. The first step needs to be a research phase because it’s nearly impossible to dress the part without knowing the details of the part you are up for!

During the research phase, you need to act like a super sleuth and find out as much as you can about the following things:

  • The person(s) who will be interviewing you. Specifically find out who they are, what job they do and what they like.
  • The previous person who held the position. Can you dig and find out why they left? Were they a shining star or kicked out?
  • What is the actual position that you are interviewing for? Try to find out if it is a new position or existing so you can see what are you up against.
  • The company, including the culture, mission, charity work and news.

This type of in-depth research takes more than just going to the company website and memorizing a mission statement. Doing that is a given, and these days with the job markets being so tight, it’s not something that you will get interview brownie points for. Also, in the research phase you can set up Google Alerts with the company name to see what kind of juicy info you can get.

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Once the research phase is completed, the next step is to create a visual plan. To do this, try to make a mind map or checklist so you can clearly see what needs to be completed. Also, I highly recommend that you grab a friend and use this list to do a few practice runs.

Think of it as an interview to-do list that helps you remember everything. You need to reserve your energy for the interview so doing this will help keep the stress to a minimum. When possible you need to try and do this at least a week out from the interview as it may take you some time to secure everything you need.

On the checklist, you are going to write down the following things:

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  1. What you need to study before the job interview.
  2. What you need to buy or find before the job interview.
  3. What you will be eating and drinking on the day of the job interview (think fresh breathe people!).
  4. What route you will be taking to the job interview.
  5. What follow-up process you will be using after the job interview.

Now compile your list and get to studying the important stuff. Don’t skimp; this isn’t cliff notes the interview version. You need to be able to uncover the things that may help you answer, or avoid, depending on what the interviewer asks of you.

Once I was invited to interview at a large animal rights organization for a dream job that I really wanted. When I made my checklist, I realized I had inherited a car with leather seats and while most people could care less about what you drive to an interview, this organization may actually care. So I looked their building up on Google Maps Street View in order to see if there was a security gate where someone would notice what I was driving. Then I was able to weigh my options and make any last minute changes to my strategy. If I hadn’t done the research, it could have ended up being pretty embarrassing for me.

The Night before the Interview

On the night before your interview, you are going to need to review your study notes again and be sure there isn’t anything left to prepare from your list. Go down the checklist slowly and again, don’t cut corners. If you followed all of the above instructions, you should have a good list of everything you need for the interview tomorrow. Pull the clothing you be wearing out of your closet and hang them in a spot where they won’t be disturbed. Be sure and grab your shoes, sock and other accessories too.

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It’s now crunch time and with careful planning, you are going to be able to be 100% ready for your interview tomorrow. Remember to eat well, avoiding any foods with strong odors and get a good night’s rest.

The Morning of the Interview

On the morning of the interview, you are going to want to get up early, eat a healthy meal and check your google alerts one last time along with your bullet points. It’s been proven that positive self-talk increases confidence, so remind yourself that you are ready for this job and that you will nail this job interview.

Review your notes once more and practice your quick witted, but highly educated answers. Stay calm and know that you’ve just upped your game, and you are now officially ready for the interview.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via pixabay.com

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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