Rules of Engagement In Career Search – Preparing For The Interview: Part 1

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS
In my last posting, I discussed some of the out of the ordinary things that people have been encountering as they work towards getting a face-to-face interview. In a prior post, I discussed the telephone interview and the way to get ready for it. In this post, I want to start sharing with you a “peek behind the curtain” in preparing for the face-to-face interview.

When I work with my clients and they tell me that they have been scheduled for an
interview, I tell them to find out the “Rules of Engagement” for their interview. This means that the day before the interview, I recommend that clients  contact the admin about: how
long they are scheduled to be there for the interview(s); the person they are
interviewing with to learn/discover any common denominators they may share (Ex.:
When you research the interviewer on LinkedIn, you may discover you went to the
same college, or shared an old company, etc.); get a handle on what the process
will include; gather contact information for follow up thank you notes; confirm
the appointment time;  etc.   I want them to find out how many people they
will interview with; who they are: gather their contact information for follow
up as well as to research these individuals as well for common denominators,
etc.; will the interview be all in one day or will it be conducted over several
appointments; etc.  This is very valuable information. If you are able to gather names, go to LinkedIn and find out whether or not you have any connections to the people you will be interviewing with.  It will also give you something to help establish rapport. In addition, you can have the person you are connected to give you information about the interviewer(s) and company and possibly put in a good word as applicable. By finding out how many people you will be interviewing with you also can get an idea of how long the interview will take. This way, you will be able to determine if you can schedule another interview,
pick up your kids after school, or a myriad of other tasks.

Now that you have the information from the admin, the next part of the preparation
involves completing an interview prep sheet which will contain a whole host of condensed
information about the company to help you show off your company knowledge and
ask intelligent questions during the interview. Rather than have a very large
file to thumb through, I have created a succinct form that guides you through
all of the necessary information to garner about the company. So what is
included on the form?

To start, write out the complete name of the company so there is no mistake.
Google as much as you can to find out the name of the Hiring Decision Maker
(HDM). See what you share in common. Write out the company attributes. Now you
are prepared for the question: “What do you know about our company?”

Create a list of questions to ask during the interview. “Ask questions during an
interview?” Yes. This process should be a dialogue, a conversation, NOT
the Spanish Inquisition!   Interviewing is like the dating process. It is
where you get a chance to see if things are going to work out or not so in
addition to the interviewer, you should prepare questions as well. There are
those questions that I like to call soft questions such as “Tell me about
the new product that was launched recently.” Then there are the hard
questions like “What are the immediate challenges that you are
facing?” The hard questions are to be asked after a few of the soft ones
because it is only after you have established some rapport with your
interviewer that the interviewer will feel comfortable answering these more
difficult, intimate company questions. Another question to ask is “How do you
define success for this role?” The answer to this question provides
tremendous knowledge. It lets you know your goals and objectives for the coming
year!

By the way, one other preparation point that many people do not realize is that it
is all right to take notes during the interview. You can come prepared with a
notebook and take LIGHT notes during the course of the interview. The most
critical notes you will take will be to write down the company challenges that
the Hiring Decision Maker discusses with you. At the very end of your
interview, you will be including this information as you “marry”
yourself to the position. You may not remember these points so it is important
to have it delineated in your notes.

In my next posting, I will be delving further into preparation for the interview
process. Please leave me a comment and let me know if this helped you. As
always, if you are in career search and find you could use some assistance from
a career coach, please feel free to contact me at lindavan@myexecutivecareercoach.com.
I wish you every success. Let’s get to work!

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