Top 3 Tips for SQL Server Professionals to Practice for Interviews
Quality interviewing skills can be extremely beneficial in helping land a great opportunity! We talk about the 3 Ps (i.e. Prepare, Practice, Perform) during our Interview Coaching Workshop. The second one, Practice, often doesn't receive the time it should from candidates. But practice makes perfect, right? Especially when there's a lot of competition; practice is key to performing your best. The most effective way to present your skill set, career goals, interests, and differentiators is to practice, practice and practice some more! Yet, despite this common knowledge, we've heard countless times from candidates after an interview that they: forgot to mention key experience, struggled to answer common interview questions, got nervous and forgot to ask any questions, blanked on a question they knew the answer to, and more! So, what are some specific actions you want to take in order to effectively practice for interviews?
Here are our top 3 suggestions for practicing for interviews:
1. Master your Elevator Pitch. Almost every interviewer will ask something along the lines of "Tell me about yourself". You want to provide a concise answer that clearly communicates your key skills, technical competencies, other differentiators and potentially, your interests! Pitches can also include a brief summary of your last position. Your Elevator Pitch should answer questions like:
- What's your brand (i.e. key competencies others value in you)?
- What have been your focus areas over the last few years?
- What contributions are you most proud of?
- What are your technical competencies?
- Why should I hire you instead of other applicants?
Preparation is an important key to success. Practice your Elevator Pitch in front of a mirror, on your way to work, or recite it in front of a close confidant. The more you practice, the more confident you'll be when it's time to answer this very important question.
2. Prepare a line of questioning. You want to ask at least 2-3 questions that demonstrate you've done your homework on the position and role. Asking zero questions is a quick way to get disqualified, as it can show a lack of interest, so don't let that happen to you! Here are a few examples:
- I noticed on your website that you currently have 10 locations nationwide. What are your plans for expansion? Where do you think the company is headed in the next 5 years?
- The job description mentions team culture and willingness to make others better. How would you describe the culture and the dynamic of the company and your team?
- I see you're using the latest version of SQL Server. Has the company always been good about investing in the latest technologies? How quick are you to adopt new technology, versions, approaches, etc… after they are released?
- What are the biggest opportunities and challenges facing the company / this team right now?
In addition, pay close attention to the "why should I hire you" or "why are you a good fit" questions. Surprisingly enough, we've found these questions stump quite a few candidates or they have a very canned answer prepared. Remember the achievements and accomplishments that are unique to you, and draw on any pain points the manager may have mentioned in the interview to reiterate why you're a good fit. Not only does that show that you've been listening, but it can help separate you from the competition. For example, if the interviewer references "they might be implementing QlikView" and you have an interest in that technology and have done training on it, you can say something along the lines of "that's exciting! I've heard great things about that tool and I've done about 6 hours of self-training on it."
3. Do a mock interview. Especially if you haven't interviewed in a while, you want to experience as close to the real feeling of an interview experience as possible. Doing 30-60 minute mock interviews is the best way to accomplish this, so where do you begin?
- Find someone you trust and someone whose opinion you value. Maybe it's a recruiter, a current or former co-worker, or a friend. Either way, you want a professional that will take it seriously and provide you with honest, constructive feedback.
- For the session, prepare as you would for any other interview. Research the company, familiarize yourself with your resume, practice your elevator speech, have your questions ready, etc. In addition, dress and act as you would for a real interview!
- Once the session is over, observe how you felt about the session. Did you come across the way you intended? Were there any areas you felt you could work on? Share this feedback with your mock interviewer and then listen to their feedback with an open mind. It's easy to get defensive when it's someone you know, so just remember that they're helping you out so you perform your best during a real interview! Solicit their feedback around not just your answers, but also your body language, the energy or passion you exhibited, the questions you asked, and your reaction to what they were saying.
- Finally, learn from your performance. Take their feedback and your gut feelings and evaluate how you'll come across to someone that doesn't know you. If you're not quite confident yet, practice and fine tune the areas of improvement.
Keep in mind that after you prepare things like your "elevator pitch" and questions, it'll be helpful to actually practice them! Dedicate time to the following to really stand out during an interview:
- For each position you interview for, write a list of all the reasons why you're qualified AND interested. This will help you remember and reflect on the job details, and it is also great for confidence and effective communication of your relevant skills during the interview.
- Practicing your elevator pitch in the mirror, on the way to work and/or in front of someone.
- Answer common interview questions, such as "why do you want to work here?" or "what are your qualifications related to this position?" in the mirror.
- Do a mock interview with someone in your field or your Recruiter who you trust to give you quality feedback and suggestions.
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.
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Article Last Updated: 2015-07-17