Blog 3/5/2015

Make Your Own Luck: How To Prepare For Interviews by Leslie Juvin-Acker

Job interviews can wreak havoc on our confidence. It’s exciting to think of a new opportunity in one hand, but stressful knowing that we’ll be judged in another. What can we do to take an interview from two individuals looking across a table at each other to looking into the future together? Job seekers need more interview advice than the same old brush your teeth, show up early, and don’t be a kook and play it cool stuff that we can find anywhere on the internet. Interview luck depends mightily on preparation. Are you ready?

In the words of Rob Dyrdek, make your own luck and in the words of Oprah, luck is when preparation meets opportunity. So, let’s ask the questions that’ll prepare us to seize our next opportunity.

When I coach job seekers for interview preparation, there are three main questions to ask ourselves, each with their own subset of varying questions to test our preparedness:

- What do I know about the company?
- What do I know about the job?
- What do I know about myself?

What do I know about the company?

When we ask about the company, we’re going deeper than where they are, what they make or do, and what they have to offer employees. We’re talking about understanding the company’s values, their overall mission, and goals; Goals can be long term and short term and can include financial, product, market, logistical, cultural, and other strategic goals.

Additionally, we want to take a look at the company in relation to their competitors to better understand where they stand in the market. We want to know what are the company’s present strong and weak points, what makes the company special in relation to others, and what are their present notable initiatives.

Some questions to ask:

- What are the company’s values or important ideals?
- What are some of their strategic goals that would explain why this position is open?
- What do I know about the company’s recent financial performance? Are they struggling or thriving?
- What makes this company special compared to its competitors?

Knowing about the company and their specific needs, values, and goals helps demonstrate a deeper understanding about the issues they face. Interviewers are impressed to see candidates who know their stuff and it makes getting down to what’s important - you and the job - faster and easier.

What do I know about the job?

Once the research has been conducted about the company, we’ll begin to get a bit more perspective on the job and why it’s so important. It’ll help us identify issues that the position itself must tackle and the type of person they need to fill it, which will take us to the next question, What do I know about myself?

Most of the time, we can find out what there is to know about the job in the job listing, but the information we really need to know goes deeper than what’s on paper and it’s our job to find out what it is. What are the real issues that this position is facing? It’s up to us to do some digging by researching newspapers, websites (like Malakye), industry related organizations, friends who work there, and anyone who has insider knowledge.

Also, by asking about the job itself, we can decide if it’s right for us and if the partnership between ourselves and the company will be a right fit in the end.

Some questions to ask:

- What is the purpose of this role? Has the role evolved since it was initially created?
- What are the core responsibilities? Goals and objectives? What are their timelines?
- Why are they hiring for this job? Did someone move on, get fired, or couldn’t get the job done? What’s the real answer?
- What does this job pay or offer in relation to similar jobs in the industry? Does it meet my needs personally, professionally, and financially?

Knowing about the job is key to interview success because it shows that we understand the specific needs that we can fulfill, which makes it easier to sell ourselves. Afterall, the goal of the interview is to get the interviewer to imagine us already at work, even if we’ve never done the job before.

What do I know about myself?

Tell me about yourself is most often the dreaded interview phrase. It essentially asks what has been our journey up to this point and how has it brought us to the interview. I can’t tell you how many students and professionals I’ve worked with that give me that deer in the headlights stare. Have hope! It can be answered with finesse!

A lot - and I say A LOT - of people ask me why it’s so important to know about themselves during their job search. It means everything: knowing what we want out of our life and career, how the company can benefit from our specific offering, what we need to be happy and do our best at work (environment, culture, salary, benefits), and so forth. Asking some simple and powerful questions can help us understand ourselves in relation to the work that we do and it makes convincing and motivating someone to hire and pay us what we deserve that much easier.

Some questions to ask:

- How does my short term job search fit in with my long term career strategy?
- Why do I want this job? (Beyond our inner caveman saying, Me want job. Me want money!)
- What are my key transferable skills and on-the-job experiences that I can offer?
- What are the benefits of hiring me (instead of the other 500 applicants) for this position?
- What are the gaps or weaknesses that I have to explain? How can I explain them for my benefit?

Pulling it all together

Preparing for an interview with the right questions takes us from uninformed to empowered. Every job and every applicant is different, so answers will vary from position to position and person to person, thus making the process of researching and developing your awareness both a challenging and fascinating process.

It’s possible to be unable to find all of the answers to our questions. These unanswered questions can be great to ask interviewers, which takes care of the “Do you have any questions for me?” part of the interview. Having questions for interviewers can make us seem more insightful and considerate to the multidimensional aspects of the job.

At the end of the day, when we know about a company and where it stands, we have greater insight about the job we’re interviewing for and its ultimate purpose. And, when we are aware and confident about what we have to offer, we can easily make the connection between their needs and demonstrate why we are their ultimate solution. With some preparation and the right opportunity, we will have known we have succeeded in making our own luck when the interview transforms from a simple exchange of information to an action-oriented conversation that has our interviewer imagining us already at work saying, “Let’s do this.”