Interviews don’t have to be scary. Make your interview a mere formality on the road to landing your dream job.
Imagine yourself in the market for new winter boots.
You walk into your favorite shoe store, and a friendly assistant approaches you. “Hello!” she exclaims, while beaming her most customer-friendly smile. “How can I help you today?”
“Well, I’m looking for winter boots,” you reply, and go on to describe the boots: “I’d like them in black, calf-high, with a fur trim. I don’t like heels, but I do need the sole to have a decent grip.”
The assistant appears to be taking mental notes as she nods her head enthusiastically. You notice this spirited zest and cautiously add, “Oh, just so you know, they’re for my next vacation. I’m heading out to Antarctica.” You leave out the part about being on the final leg of your 20-must-see-places-before-you-die trip. She has enough details.
The assistant leaves with the instructions and, moments later, returns with an armful of boxes. Slowly, she opens the lids and starts to reveal the treasures.
“I think you’ll love these,” she claims, handing you a pair of red ankle boots.
Seeing the disappointment on your face, she grabs another pair. “Oh these. These are simply perfection.”
The camel-colored concoctions most certainly are not.
Twenty minutes later, you find yourself on the bad side of frustrated and wonder if anything you’d requested resonated at all.
This story has a point: When the shopper is your potential new employer, and the friendly assistant is you, the last thing you want to do is hand over red boots when black ones were requested.
In other words, know what your interviewer wants before you begin handing them solutions. ( to tweet this thought.) Get inside their head and figure out what their most pressing needs are. And proceed to show them how you’ll fix them — in your resume, your cover letter and .
Do your homework
As an interviewee, your job isn’t to show up at the interview prepared to answer questions. Your job is to have answers prepared in anticipation of questions.
If the very thought of this makes you shudder with fear, fret not. It’ll take some work, but it’s easier than you think.
Whether the interview is a done deal or you’re trying to break into a new business, knowing what issues your hiring manager is facing is the key to getting noticed.
- Interview people. Reach out to people in the business. Use your network to create warm introductions. When speaking to the employees, ask them about challenges they face in the business and their team. Get as much detail as you can.
- Go online. Many businesses participate in industry forums and communities. LinkedIn is the biggest place. Seek out where your target employer is and read the latest updates. A wealth of information awaits you.
- Speak to competitors. Businesses in the same industry face similar issues. Again, ask your network to make warm introductions and speak to employees of competing businesses. As well as understanding what challenges they face, this will help in researching the competition of your interviewer. Everyone likes inside information.
Bulletproof your resume
Armed with your background information, your next step is to .
Given the challenges and issues you’ve noted, what can you do to solve them? What have you done in the past that displays your skills and abilities in fixing the issues? What expertise can you provide that the employer doesn’t already have?
This is difficult to do. It’s up to you to think creatively and dig deep. Once you know what the answers are, write your resume to include them for every relevant job you’ve done. Use different formatting techniques (bold, italic, changing text size) to draw the eye to those specific areas.
And while you’re perfecting your , know this: 80 percent of your competition won’t think of doing this. They’ll turn up at the interview ready to answer questions using knowledge of their experience alone. And you? You’ll turn up with the answers the employer previously only wished had existed.
D-day arrives. Are you prepared? You will be, right? Because in addition to research on competitors and the killer resume you created, you also prepared examples of how you can be of value to the interviewer, didn’t you?
No? Let’s fix that.
When you note the key issues facing the interviewer and find solutions, your focus will be on how you can lead those solutions. Write these down in detail, create a case study and make your solution visible. Why?
The power of paper: When you’re in the interview room and you’re ready to talk about your solutions, don’t just discuss them. Pull out the paper that has the magic case study or detailed description on it and hand it over to the employer. “Let me show you something I’ve created,” you’ll exclaim, handing them your paper.
What impact does this have? It gives them a solution to their problem. It shows them you have initiative. And it makes their decision to hire you easy.
Much like if the assistant had brought those black, fur-trimmed boots with a good grip.
Taking these steps will put you in the front line of 80 percent of those competing for the same job. You’ll have done your homework. You’ll have networked with your future colleagues already.
And the interview? It’ll be a mere formality.
Razwana Wahid writes at Your Work Is Your Life, a service dedicated to making your writing work — to sell, to convert, to connect. Read more at or follow her on .