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Last week we talked about how to write a resume that will get you to an interview, which is the resume's only purpose. So now the company is looking at your concise resume, which highlights your accomplishments and skills, and they want to interview you. Now what?

Paul Sturgeon

September 28, 2011

4 Min Read
Talent Talk: Three Tips to Ace Your Job Interview

When many of us think of an interview, we think of a series of questions and answers. The interview is not a fact-finding mission. Actually, how about this; let's quit calling it an interview and start calling it something that is closer to reality - an audition.

Like many of the topics in Talent Talk, we spend a few paragraphs discussing what a thousand books have detailed. You may recall I advised you to save your money on resume-writing books. You have my blessing if you want to read in detail about auditioning skills; it is that important. Right now, I'm going to give you the three best tips I know for acing an audition.

The first is done before the audition, but you will use it throughout. Prepare. Joe Paterno said the will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital. Research the company, starting with its website. Read every news article from the past year, know what its markets are, who its customers are, where it makes its money, what new products it has, who its competitors are, and so on. This will help you understand the context of specific questions, and reference what you have learned when you answer questions, which will impress the company.

But don't stop there. Research the specific opportunity you are auditioning for and the people in front of whom you will be auditioning. No matter how great your personality, education, skills, and experience are, if the hiring manager and their boss don't think you are the right fit for the position, or won't make them look good, you will not get hired. Put yourself in their position and plan how you will show them the fit between what they are looking for, and your qualifications.

Second, here is my most secret tip, the one that people thank me for over and over again. It is born of two basic principles - the long-term memory doesn't work well under pressure, and you cannot possibly prepare for every interview question you will get. Have you ever been asked a question where you did not give a good answer, only to think of what you should have said an hour later?

The solution is to write down 3-5 (if your career has been longer, this might be 6-7) success stories in your career, such as projects or teams you have led or been part of. It is okay to take this with you to the audition in your notebook. What you will find is that, if you are ever initially 'stumped' for a response, by referring back to this list you will be able to answer virtually any question. I have had candidates tell me afterwards that this worked so well they almost felt like they were cheating.

Lastly, be prepared to finish strong and move the company to a decision on whether you are right for the position, and to the next steps. About 95% of candidates tell me after an interview that they thought it went well. What I want to know is, "How did it conclude?" A date cannot be considered great without a goodnight kiss, right? If at the end of two hours, the interviewer stands up and says, "Thank you for your time", that did not go well.

Before you leave, you should understand the process and the time table for bringing you on-board. But you also want to know if you are the gal or guy, don't you? Ask a question similar to this, to everyone you talk to during the process: "Do you have any questions about my ability to succeed in this position?" If there is a big negative, and it is real, then better to know right away instead of leaving and thinking all is well. Also, if it is not real, you can correct the misinformation on the spot.

About the author: Paul Sturgeon is business manager with KLA Industries based in Cincinnati, OH, an executive search firm specializing in plastics and polymer technology. If you have a topic you'd like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for his blog, e-mail Paul at mailto:[email protected].

About the Author(s)

Paul Sturgeon

Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at [email protected].

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