So you have decided to move on from your current employer. Now what? How do you get an interview and then how do you prepare for your interview? Let’s take a look at steps to getting that coveted job offer.
Years ago at the beginning of my career I had difficulty getting an interview, let alone a job. As I have gotten further on the jobs tend to come to me. Still, even if the manager comes to you with the offer you can lose it with a bad interview. So how do I ensure I get the interview and what do I do once I have it.
How to Get the Interview
Well, the first thing to understand about getting the interview I hinted at in my last paragraph. The easiest way to get an interview is through your contacts. As we’ve discussed repeatedly making those connections is the key to getting ahead. The reality is, those online job sites are practically useless. There is almost no way to stand out in such a large sea. So getting your resume and CV in front of the hiring manager is the minimum cost of entry.
Now, not all of us are heavily connected. So what to do if you have no in naturally. The answer is to find a way in the hard way. Use tools like Linkedin to search for connections between you and the company. Lookup the company and the department in google and Linkedin to see if you can find a name, number, or email. Do whatever you can do to get your resume in a hiring manager’s physical hands.
Defining a Good Resume
You want that resume and CV to stand out. Preparing those documents is a bit beyond the scope of this post. However, an article on the topic can be found here. At a high level, you want your resume to be clear, crisp, professional, and concise. You also want it to specifically highlight and be tailored to the job and company you are applying.
Focus on The Hiring Company’s Need
That last sentence is often overlooked. It applies to both applications and interviews. The best way to be successful with an application or interview is to tailor your approach to the hiring company’s needs. In the resume you should highlight those experiences or skills that apply to that need. In the interview you should highlight them and link them back to your interviewer’s specific need.
For example, suppose the employer is looking for someone to write software in a specific language. You should highlight in your resume your experience in that language as well as how you’ve used it. When you research deeper you determine they want Java experience to improve say their web applications. Well in the interview link that up.
Say you have X number of years experience working on Java on the web. Then pull out a specific example in the interview where you used Java to create web applications. The more specific the example, and the more apropos to the company’s needs the better impression you will make. Add hard number results where possible.
Follow Up On Your Application
Once you’ve sent the application, follow up after a few days validating they got your resume and offering to check if they have any questions. The key here is to stay top of mind.
Preparing For the Interview
So once you have the interview it’s time to start interview preparation. Again it all starts with understanding the job, the target company, and their need. Research, research, research! Once you have this information tailor some responses to those interview questions you will obviously receive:
- Why you are interested in the job?
- Tell me about yourself?
- What is your greatest weakness (see here for examples of how to respond <link>)
- Why should they hire you?
- What questions do you have about the job?
Remember to Plan to Ask Questions
A note on the last one. I would always ensure you have a few questions in your pocket. Questions show interest. You can find more common interview questions here.
Highlighting Your Experience in the Interview
After you have the outlines of how you will respond to the above questions also jot down some ideas about relevant experience and situations. As you do this think back to the company’s specific need. Be sure to speak to how your experience will fill that need.
Going back to our Java developer example. The company’s need might be to get a developer in for a major product release. So for this individual perhaps it’s good to highlight experience with that particular product domain, the ability to quickly acclimate to new teams, and your efficiency/accuracy as a coder. As noted before, remember to be clear/concise and use business results where possible.
Practice for Your Interview
Once you have your ideas you should practice. Ask others to interview you using your common questions. Practice in front of a mirror. Whatever it takes to be prepared for the big day. Note you want your partner or yourself to pay attention to both your actual answers and your body language. Both will play a part in your results.
Dealing with a Skill Gap
You probably should also ensure that your interview partner asks you about any skill gap you might have for the position. It’s ok to answer you don’t have all skills for a job. But you need to be able to turn that gap around into plus for both you and the company. Ie. I might not know how to do X, but my experience in Y means I should be able to pick this up quickly. Whatever you do, don’t lie about the experience you do not have!
Practice The Stall
One final area to practice is a stalling tactic while you think about the answer to unexpected questions. You could preface the answer with a few extra words, for example tieing back to the previous question or restating the question before you begin. In either case as great as a pregnant pause is in negotiation, you don’t want one in an interview.
The Day of the Interview
When the big day arrives what you do before the interview will be just as impactful as during. Ensure you get enough sleep the night before so you are on the top of your game. Read about what people at your employer wear to work (or observe others that work there). Dress like the job you want, based on their culture. Make sure you are presentable and professional. Then show up at least 15 minutes early.
Bring with you at a minimum:
- Multiple copies of your resume
- At least 2 pens
- A note pad
In addition to what you bring into the interview consider also bringing a spare shirt to leave in your car. I’ve heard of more than one person that has stained their shirt prior to an interview. Whether it be because their kid threw up on them or they dropped their morning coffee pre-interview. You want to be prepared.
One final thing to bring, your confidence. I had issues with this early in my career. I would be turned down for job offers because I did not come off as confident during the interview. Over time I grew out of it thankfully. That being said hiring managers want to hire people that are confident. It portrays an image that you either know what you are doing or have the initiative to find out.
So regularly remind yourself before the interview that you will knock it out of the park. Do some special things for you before the interview, and set-up some other things for after. Say you like donuts. Get a donut before your interview (or perhaps after if you are prone to spills (see above). In any case, put yourself in as at ease and good a mood as possible going into your interview.
The Thank You Note
So you complete your interview, now what? Always collect contact information from those who interview you. You want to write them a nice thank-you note after the fact. That note should not only thank them for your time, but also relate to the specific position.
Ie. callout your apropos experience again as to how it will help solve their needs. Mention how excited you would be to start working in this role. Show gratitude but also enthusiasm.
Finally, follow up again if you hear nothing back after about 2 weeks. Just casually check-in. If you don’t get the job, ask for feedback to help you going forward. If you do, then remember to be gracious.
Anything anyone would add?