By: Cate Murray | Updated: 2015-05-06 | Comments (1) | Related: More > Professional Development Interviewing
When it comes to interviews, a quote by Benjamin Franklin says it best – "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." When you take adequate time to prepare for interviews, it results in: better performance, decreased anxiety, a more enjoyable interview experience, and leaving a strong, positive impression on your interviewers! Yet on a weekly basis, we see candidates who failed to even look at a company’s website, think through why they’re qualified for a position, don’t know how to communicate their key strengths, and can’t answer basic technical questions. Remember, even if you’ve been on numerous interviews in the past, interview preparation is key if you want to be a strong contender for any opportunities you’re considering!
Our 'Interview Coaching Webcast' hit on our formula related to interviewing… Preparation + Practice = Strong Interview Performance! In addition to investing time preparing for your job search and interviewing as a whole, it’s important to dedicate time preparing for each individual company and interview you are considering an opportunity with.
Here are our top suggestions for effective interview preparation:
1. Review your resume, LinkedIn profile, personal/professional website, and any other online portfolios to refresh yourself on your experiences, successes, and struggles.
- Nothing on your resume is off limits during an interview, so we recommend taking the time to familiarize yourself will all aspects of it. Start with re-reading your resume and note any skills or technologies that may be outdated. It's fine to have those on there, but you may want to spend time refreshing your skills or studying up on those technologies in preparation of the interview.
- Ensure you can explain any potential gaps in employment, any short-term positions, why you left each opportunity, etc.
- Review your top achievements, responsibilities, involvements, and any other relevant experience you'll want to share during an interview to display your skill set and expertise. It’s important to not just focus on your career highlights, but think through some of the struggles you’ve encountered, as they often have led to your best growth opportunities. What did you learn from the issues and struggles you faced? During an interview, it’s important to show that you are willing and able to learn and evolve from your mistakes. Managers like to see candidates that have thought through potential concerns (lack of experience with a certain technology, outdated experience, etc.) and come up with a plan of attack for these missing skills or experiences.
- Once you've spent time reviewing your past accomplishments, think through how you’ll effectively communicate why you’re a fit for the role and how your background will help you be a successful, contributing member at the company.
2. Think through what's truly important to you in a company, team, manager, opportunity and technical environment. Once you’ve identified this criteria, draft relevant questions that can help you gauge this information.
- As you reflect on past positions/companies, write down what you enjoyed and valued from working there. On the flip side, write down any challenges or frustrations you’ve experienced that you’d like to avoid in the future.
- For each interview, you want to make sure you're interviewing the company and person you’re meeting with, so you can determine if the role and company will be a good fit for you. Ask questions that will help you distinguish if that opportunity and environment will be a match based on the criteria you’ve identified. For example, if working with new technologies is important to you, asking a question such as “How quickly does your group typically implement a new version of SQL Server once it’s released?” will help you gauge if that company is an earlier adopter of technology.
3. Learn about each company and the individuals you're speaking with through online research and consulting with Recruiters. In addition to checking out their website, do online searches and look at what the company has been sharing via their social media channels to get the most current information.
- Most hiring managers ask candidates what they know about the company, so you want to be prepared! It's important to know the basics about the company, but also think through why you want to work there / what attracted you to the role. Those are topics managers often cover early on in an interview. They can also be a great conversation starter into other areas like goals and visions of the company, team, manager, etc.
- In addition to knowing what industry they're in and what services or offerings they provide, it's nice to know other initiatives that might be important to them. Maybe it's wellness offerings or community involvement, but either way, it shows that you did your homework!
- Frame questions that demonstrate what you’ve learned from your research. In addition to showing your initiative, it'll give you an opportunity to learn more about the organization and their priorities.
4. Invest time in technology training and looking at technical and market trends. The goal is to determine what skills are the most in demand by the employers you’d be targeting, and then start developing or enhancing those skills.
- Identify a recommended resource for learning about what technologies are in demand. Some of our favorites include Thoughtworks Technology Radar, Gartner and Wanted Analytics. You can also learn a lot about trends via user group/community involvement and by asking Recruiters who are dedicated to SQL Server.
- Our Vice President of Training and Development recommends that you invest a minimum of an hour a week in developing a new skill/technology. Especially if it's a skill/technology that lots of companies are starting to look for, investing 2+ hours a week in developing a knowledge base around that will only help increase your marketability!
To summarize, even if you've interviewed a lot throughout your career, you never want to risk not getting selected for a position because another candidate was more prepared than you. Managers can tell when you've done some prep work, and that’s always seen in a positive light. Therefore, keep these key points in mind:
- Take time to prepare for overall interviews AND invest extra time for each individual company and position you’re considering.
- Review your past experiences, key achievements, challenges, projects, etc.
- Think about what's important to you in a company/team/position, and draft some questions that will address those.
- Learn about each company you're considering via their website, social media channels, online searches, and asking anyone in your network who may work or has worked there.
- Figure out what skills/technologies are in demand and then invest additional time developing at least a basic knowledge base around those.
- Look at a list of common interview questions and jot down notes on how you’ll answer.
About the author
Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.
Last Updated: 2015-05-06
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