The Job Interview – Is Not About You!
What should you do when you repeatedly fail the 1st or 2nd job interview? What is the real problem? Is it you?
Last Friday, I received a text message from one of my clients. It just read ‘nailed it’ with a smile face. This sort of message is always a great way to finish the week, but this one was particularly nice as this client had been unsuccessful in his previous interviews before he decided to hire us for some job search coaching.
He was consumed by an extensive 8 month job hunt in which he had experienced a wide range of emotions: joy, depression, reflections on his worth, and a particular hard evaluation of his skills after he had failed to secure a job after his 3rd job interview in 6 months.
He was a very enjoyable client to coach, but what immediately struck me was his perspective about the whole interview process. It was completely wrong. He had done what so many jobseekers do. He had focused all his energy into ‘his look, maximising his interview personality skills and optimising his resume’.
In short, he did not get the job because he failed to make the interview about them, instead of him! What my client needed was a revelation; an “ah-ha” moment. It was the shortest and most effective coaching session I ever gave.
He needed a monumental change in his approach and so I advised him that extensive research was required… a process around understanding both the company and the role he was seeking there. What I coached him was about preparation. I made him understand that when you prepare, ensure to always remember that it is firstly about them and secondly about you.
If you understand this and if you prepare properly, you will nail the interview and get the job.
So, if you are called in for a job interview,
here is what you need to do – one step at a time.
Step 1: Understand the Company
Read & learn as much as you can from the Annual Report
These reports are usually not overly exciting but they are certainly very useful for the jobseeker to understand the goals, mission, and specific prospects of the organisation. A lot of useful information is contained in these corporate documents.
Including the letter or message from the firm’s CEO
This will tell you about the firm’s leadership. It will give you an impression of their journey and, more importantly, it tends to help you to gain a good understanding of the organisation’s culture from the top-down. Don’t just skim over it. Instead, pay attention to see if it highlights something, such as whether the organisation is facing difficult times or experiencing strong growth. It may also provide some discussion of the firm’s future aspirations. Future aspirations would be important, for example, if you are interested in international travel and the CEO expresses the desire for the organisation to expand globally.
And the introduction of the other members of the leadership team
The members of the leadership team and/or corporate board are typically introduced with a brief biography. Pay attention and utilise this information to conduct brief individual research on the industry background of each member in order to understand the philosophical slant of the organisation. This will enable you to assess or forecast more broadly where the organisation may go in the future.
Don’t forget the financial reports
If you can stay awake you will notice that there are some key parts of this report which you may well need for your interview. One of the first questions asked by hiring managers or interviewers is often along the lines of, “What do you know about this company?” This is where you can make an impression. You don’t have to be an accountant or financial expert to understand the document in front of you. They usually follow a common format. Part 1 of most financial reports usually contains a complete overview of the mission of the organisation and a brief history. Moreover, for the larger organisation, there is often a breakdown of the separate business units.
This part serves a two-fold benefit: (1) allowing the reader to understand the organisation; and (2) assisting the reader in understanding the company’s terminology.
Get it? You see, paying attention to this will provide shared meaning between you and the interviewer…because you will know what you are talking about!
Now don’t stop there!
Included in the annual report is usually an analysis of economic factors affecting the financial statements and the impact on future business strategy. This information can help you decide if you even want to pursue the opportunity.
Step 2: Conduct a Proper Social Media Review
The second step is to conduct a social media review of the company utilising Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Most businesses will issue virtual press releases in relation to brands, emerging technology, game changing trends, and mergers and acquisitions through social media. Read and catch up on as many articles as possible on the organisation for a period of time through each of these mediums to determine what is important to them. Make notes and take them with you to the interview and when the time is right, weave this knowledge into your responses. But when you do it, let them know that you are reading from notes and that you found this or that information interesting or notable.
Also check deeper and see if the company has other content such as blogs written by business segment managers and individual contributors. In essence, if the company is providing you with a glimpse behind the wizard’s curtain, then you can use this useful information and strategically present it during your interview. Another nifty tool is to examine the feedback left by others on the company at Glassdoor.com.
Step 3: Read Up on Related Trade Magazines
Let’s say I am an IT expert. If I was to job search, I would specifically target high-tech organisations. But, to properly understand the overall scope of this industry I need to focus on reading related trade magazines, such as: CIO Magazine, Wired, PC World, Technology Review, etc. Doing this will give me a great outlook on the industry as a whole and the ability to bookmark specific information relating to the particular company I am interested in. Doing this will also increase my ability to communicate with the interviewer on an operational level. Good interviewing is about good communication and, more importantly, what the listener hears. It’s about creating a connection.
Your Last Step: Understand the Job Role
It really does not take much to research and understand the role that you are applying for.
Always examine the job description
When you apply for a specific position, be mindful of the requirements associated with the position. Please, stop applying for those positions that you are really not qualified for. It is a total waste of time. … Sorry I got side-tracked for a moment. J
Ensure to fully analyse the job description and the whole job ad. I always suggest to my clients to use a highlighter and to go line by line to properly capture the key points that the company is looking for. Once you’ve done this, ensure to honestly reflect the key requirements and skills on your own professional history. This is the basis of the preparation of your resume. Your resume should not be bland and boring or static. The resume is a dynamic document that should change and align to each position that you apply for. Don’t just copy & paste your resume to every job you apply for. However, ensure to remain honest.
Finally – try to connect with incumbents
Informational interviews with those who currently hold positions similar to the position you are interested in can pay dividends. If you aren’t sure how and where to find a connection, start with your LinkedIn network. If you can’t find anyone there, contact us. We are happy to help you out with some tips and insight. This informational session will provide you with a clearer understanding of the job, common learning curves associated with entering the field, and best practices to implement. Second, this process will build your professional network within your field. It really helps to meet and share your passion with everyone you can.
Assess your learnings and the information provided above. Include it in your resume toolkit and interview preparation process.
This is our simple, yet effective process for interview preparation. Just embrace that the interview is more about ‘them’ than ‘me’. So get ready, do the work to prepare for your interview and don’t forget to hunt wisely!