Which is more important: a stellar resume or great skill at interviewing? Interviewing, of course! So why do clients spend inordinately more time wordsmithing resumes than preparing for interviews? You are different. You understand that an interview is a sit-down presentation and that far from preparing answers to difficult questions you remember from past interviews, your time should be spent on what your want the interviewer(s) to remember. Instead of seeing yourself as a victim, a single person sentenced to life in a singles bar, you took responsibility for how the interview unfolds.
1. What’s your agenda? On a 3 x 5 card please write the three ideas you want them to remember about you. This can be your excellent problem-solving skills, your ability to work seamlessly with a smorgasbord of people, and/or your negotiation skills. You get to pick. What you choose to leave with them should reflect what you learned from a careful reading of the job description and from contacts.
2. Interviewing most resembles a rally at tennis. Your job is to return the serve every time. It is not to make dunk shots or aggressively drive points home. That may mean answering a question and then asking one. It should feel like a conversation, not as if you’ve been called on to defend your choices. NOTHING is as dreadful as interviewing someone who’s every answer leaves the impression he/she is defending past choices. You left your job for two years during the Great Recession to care for an ailing parent. Own it. You changed jobs five times in ten years. Tell us what you learned from that experience. Anything sounds reasonable if you explain why you made that choice. One woman said she quit her job to stay home with her children because she couldn’t earn enough to pay for child care. “Last year I returned to school for my MBA. Now I can.” I would have hired her on the spot but then I’m a sucker for a full-bodied work ethic. If you don’t have an answer for a question say so. “I haven’t done that,” is so much more salable than trying to make up an answer on the spot.
3. Please, please be current on your resume. If you haven’t reread it in a few weeks do so. I don’t expect anyone to remember all the details of his/her past but know what’s on your resume, especially if it’s several pages long. I am amazed at the people who can’t remember what happened two jobs ago. Someone may ask!
4. Let the interviewer have a peek at the real you. Don’t come across as homogenized. Smile when you answer a question. Don’t give too much detail. Let them ask if they want more. (A rally at tennis.) Always wear a jacket as you won’t present yourself appropriately if you’re blue from cold.
Finally, no caffeine on the day of the interview. Even the most experiences interviewee gets nervous. You can drink decaf coffee or soda for one day. If you think you’ll go into shock without an espresso try tea.
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