At The Job Forum, we discuss two kinds of interview processes:
The Informational Interview
Informational interviewing combines researching and networking to help you understand the job market, the specific responsibilities expected of an individual in the job function you’d like to occupy, and the needs, challenges, and particular attitudes you can expect department hiring managers to have. Once you understand these very well, you are prepared to present yourself in terms of the real benefits of hiring you. It does very little good to present generic benefits. Rather, with information, you can know ahead of time what your target company will particularly be looking for, so the benefits you present will be more likely to persuade. You can request informational interviews from a broad range of people. Be creative. Be brief. Ask more people, rather than fewer, such as:
- People in a different function, but at your target firm
- People at a more junior level, but in the type of department you’d like to work
- People who have the job title you’d like, but at another firm
Often a ten minute phone “networking” contact (that perhaps an acquaintance can open the door for you to set up), is more helpful than a longer “in person” informational interviewing appointment:
- More likely to be able to be set up by you
- More considerate of busy folks’ time
Always check the Internet and/or read up on the firm before an informational interview so you already know the basics on the firm and can go beyond the basics in an informational interview. In the informational interview, focus on finding out as much as possible about:
- What does it take to succeed in this job?
- What special challenges are folks facing in this kind of job or in this particular company now?
- What is daily life like at this particular job?
- What particular skills are currently highly desirable?
- Carefully check out your assumptions and hypotheses about the job, the company, and the industry so that you do not come across incorrectly in a future job interview
- Ask any questions your Internet research may have raised
- Ask who else, specifically by name, does the person know who may also be willing to talk with you and provide their perspective
- Ask if you may call them and use the person’s name as a “door opener”
The Job Interview
Prepare for you job interview by using the information you diligently gathered via the Internet, through reading, and via informational interviewing. Your objective is to obtain a job offer. You can decide whether to take it after it is offered.
Find out ahead of time what the company dress code is, try to learn what the pace and attitude at the company is and actively adapt yourself to it as appropriate for the position you seek. (For example, you may wish to speed up your speech, your walking pace, and your response time to match that of the firm.)
Bring a resume targeted to the job opening for which you are interviewing. Always bring hard copies, even if your resume was sent via the Internet ahead of time (who has the time for downloads?).
Focus on building a positive relationship with the hiring manager. The best way to do this is to expect to “like” them and actively convey enthusiasm, approval, and warmth, right from the start and throughout your meeting and phone, email, or thank-you letter follow ups. Actively listen to them. Ask questions about them. Focus on what it is that they need solved, fixed, improved, etc. by filling this job, by hiring you.
Use the information you gathered up front and in the interview to present the real benefits of hiring you. Do not assume the interviewer knows how to conduct an interview (or even a conversation). So come prepared with some friendly focused questions and with a short benefit statement of why you’d be great for the job (because you can solve the problems take responsibility, make things happen, earn revenue, save money, etc.).
Prepare ahead of time with some relevant stories from your past that demonstrate briefly each benefit you want to communicate about yourself. One to two sentences is best. You can add more if they ask for it or seem very interested.
Practice the way you plan to describe yourself and your background ahead of time with friends and colleagues to be sure you
- Sound confident
- You are brief and to the point
- You are persuasive
- You create a powerful image of you and the benefits you’ll bring to the job
Keep in mind that underneath it all, hiring managers want to know if they can trust you and can rely on you to take problems off their shoulders onto yours and achieve departmental and company goals. Therefore, information about your somewhat personal characteristics are very relevant. Perhaps without realizing it, the hiring manager is trying to find out or judge if you are reliable, diligent, smart, effective, a good leader (or follower), highly organized, a strategic thinker, fast paced, hard working, timely, resourceful, collaborative, etc. Use your track record to convey some of these persuasive proof points about yourself during your interview.
Assume your interview will be changed, delayed, or interrupted by phone calls or meetings. Use this situation to actively convey your flexibility and “good sportsmanship” and empathize with the manager and his/her “pressures” so you build a rapport. While in the office, develop relationships with the administrative staff as well and remember their names. Ask them how to email or call in the future, etc.
At the end of the interview with the decision-maker, ask what the next steps are. Ask who else might you meet at the firm. Ask what else the manager would like to know (could you send something, explain anything, add another personal reference to vouch for you, etc.). State your enthusiasm for the position and the company. Express sincere pleasure at starting to get to know the hiring manager. Explicitly state that you’d enjoy working for him/her…that you think you’d make a good team, etc.
Immediately and speedily send friendly, rapport-building ‘thank-you’ notes. Email is fine if the manager uses it. Voicemail, in combination with a messengered letter is also effective. Your goal should be to quickly define the interview as a success.