Whether you’re actively seeking new employment or just keeping an eye to the potential opportunities that exist in your area of expertise (or perhaps your area of unexplored passion), you’ve undoubtedly thought about the most important part of the job seeking process…the interview.

What will you be asked?  And more importantly, how will you respond?

These seem like the most pertinent questions, and most wouldn’t argue with that.  But what if I told you that there’s much more to the interview process than just the Q&A portion that first comes to mind?

Preparing to Interview for the Job

Before any questions may be levied, before any answers collected, there is an opportunity for every candidate to explore all of the variables that might affect his/her potential to land the available position.

Failure to do so, may or may not negatively affect job placement, but one thing is for sure…  Pre-interview preparation will never, ever produce anything but a positive affect on the process itself.  

Personal Reflection

It is often said that there is no more valuable investment than that which you make into yourself.  That premise adequately sums up the value of a pre-interview reflection.

What is it that you are looking for in a new position?  In an employer?  What are the company’s cultural drivers that will lead to your best effort and happiness?  

Understanding what it is that you truly want out of a career opportunity can make a dramatic difference in the way you approach and embrace the interview process.  Develop a clear picture in your mind before you meet with your first company interviewer.

What’s your Story?

When employers care about their company and culture, they care about who they introduce into both.   Don’t think that just because ‘you are you’, that you’re prepared to tell the story of you.

How often have you ever been asked, “so tell me about you”…?

Or more importantly, would you be able to provide a clear and concise answer to that question?  Further, would you be able to answer that question with a mind to the consequences your narrative might play upon your chances at landing a great job?

Most times, the answer is ‘no’.  And if that’s the case…wouldn’t you be well served by preparing and practicing a meaningful and tactful response to that seemingly simple question?

[ Let me provide some insight: The answer is YES ]

The best question I have heard an interviewer ask was (and this person was religious about asking every candidate regardless of role, level, etc): “What is your brand?”  If you can reflect on that one question and be able to articulate a story to reflect a concise story, it will help you in more ways than just trying to convince the company you are the right next hire.

Company Research

One of the most effective ways to prepare for the interview process is to become acquainted with the history, capability and presence of the company you’re interviewing with.  Not only does this show the person you’re interviewing with that you’re conscious of the company’s purpose, but it also shows them that you’re willing to put forth the effort necessary to be a team player.

As a recruiter, I am continually amazed by the number of candidates who do NOT take a few minutes to do this.  Come on…it’s easy and lack of time is not an excuse.  Check out their website on your phone, google their name, look up key executives on the company’s team.  15-30 minutes of effort as input to making a critical life decision!!

Prepare for Failure

Most often overlooked in the preparation process, is a person’s recognition that things may go bad.  In fact, they may go really, really bad.

So the question is:  What will you do when things go…bad?

Preparing for the worst possible outcome will force you to be better prepared for any situation you may find yourself in.

      What happens if the interviewer doesn’t seem to like me?

      What happens if the interviewer asks me a question that makes me angry or uncomfortable?

      What happens if I give an answer that makes the interviewer angry or uncomfortable?

      What happens if the interviewer tells me I’m not right for the position?

Forcing yourself to answer these questions in advance of the interview, will force you to anticipate and prepare for uncomfortable situations that might arise.  And the power of anticipation cannot, and should not be overlooked.

During the Interview

Now that you’ve thoroughly prepared for the interview, it’s time to sit face to face with company leadership, and put your best foot forward.  It’s time to put your preparation to the test, and to be the best person and future employee that you can be.  But there are a couple of things to remember.

Understand the Process

While this may be one of the most important days of your life, it is important to understand that the screening and hiring process you’re going through is just that to the company…a process.

It is a process driven by the need for both tactical and strategic skills.  It is a process driven by the need for quality individuals to bring expertise and influence to the corporate culture.

Once you understand that this process is important to the future of the company, and that it isn’t simply an inquisition of your past experiences and ability to quickly articulate your future goals, you may just be able to take a deep breath, and be yourself.

Don’t be afraid to ask Questions

Preparing for the interview process is important, so is understanding the goals of that process from the company’s perspective.  But while you’re considering these dynamics, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that the interview process is meant to be active.  More precisely, it is meant to be inter-active.  

Don’t believe that your sole role is to answer questions.  Rather, understand that a quality employer will appreciate your ability to ask questions.

Just make sure they’re thoughtful

Following up on the Interview Process

Now that you’ve prepared thoroughly and executed wisely, the interview process may seem to be over.  Not so fast my friend.  As important as any first impression is, so is the last.

Trusting that you’ve gone through proper interview preparation, understood the process, and asked some significant questions…it’s now time to close the loop by following up with the interviewer.

This can be as simple as a ‘thank you’ email, or it can be more personally tailored by reaching out via phone to all those who participated in bringing your interview to fruition.  In any scenario, the most important factor is that you acknowledge those who participated in your opportunity, somehow.

And remember, as important and meaningful as a follow up can be…the lack of follow up can be much, much more impactful.

Setting Your Mind for Success

You’ve prepared, you’ve interviewed and you’ve followed up…now what?

Well…it may seem a bit backwards in the process, but the final thing you must do, is to focus your mind on success.

It’s true that you need to carry a positive attitude into your interview preparation and execution, but it’s equally true that you need to assume and visualize the outcome you desire when completing the process.

Fixing your mind on success is not the end of the process, but rather, it is an exercise in preparation for those last few steps that will inevitably be necessary to ensure that success.

With adequate preparation, execution and focus on a successful outcome, you will take control of the interview process, and land the job you truly desire.