Are you prepared? You’ve landed that Big Interview…. Now what?

Businesswoman sitting in busy waiting area

You’ve been waiting and they finally reached out and want to bring you in for an interview. Now what? Are you prepared to make a lasting first impression? How do you stand out from the rest of the candidates? What is it that makes employers what to bring you back for another interview?

First impressions are everything in a first interview. The employer is checking to see how you handle yourself not only physically but mentally as well. Being prepared for this first impression can make all the difference between being rejected and being brought back for another interview.

If you were introduced to this potential employer by way of a recruiter, they should be setting aside time prior to the interview to prepare you properly for what may come. Great recruiters will not only tell you where the interview is but offer you insight into a potential employers’ personality as well as any other people you may possibly meet during the process. If you came upon the opportunity on your own, you will need to prepare yourself. So how do you do that?

1.  Research: Research is the KEY to being prepared. Recruiters will tell you to research, research, research! Start with the company website. You should know their website inside and out. Find out if the company has recently been in the news. LinkedIn is also a valuable tool in finding out more about who you will be talking to during the interview but don’t forget to Google the interviewer as well. They may have written interesting articles or recently been in the news as well. Having this knowledge and being able to bring it up during the interview process will impress your future potential employer. Employers want to know that YOU are interested in them. They want to know that you are taking the process seriously and that you took the time to find out everything you could about them and the company. A few hours of research can make all the difference in the world and set you apart from the competition.

If your potential employer, for instance, just launched a new product and they are very excited about its potential asking them about it will get them talking about something that they find interesting. Engaging a potential employer in a two-way conversation about their current company creates a positive impression if you keep the conversation professional. These two-way conversations will make you stand out and leave the potential employer feeling that you were knowledgeable and engaged.

2.  Questions: What you say when asked “Do you have any questions?” is a key indicator to the potential employer of how seriously you are taking the possibility of joining their company. A potential employer never wants to hear crickets when they ask this question. I always tell my candidates to come up with at least 5 to 10 questions that they want to ask during the interview. Some questions may be answered in the course of the interview while new questions may come up. Don’t be afraid to jot those questions down and refer back to them later.

Great examples of questions are:

What is the career path for this position in the next 5 years?” This question tells the potential employer that you see yourself in the position for at least 5 years AND that you see yourself performing well enough to be promoted.

Can you tell me what you love about the company? Why did you come to work here?” This is an excellent engagement question. It will not only get the potential employer talking but it will give you insight to their vision of the company and over all personality.

Can you tell me about someone who was in this role that performed well? What was it about them that made them stand out?” This question will help you to understand the expectations that the potential employer may have for the role and let you assess your own ability to perform well under those expectations.

3.  Honesty: So, you’ve been asked the dreaded “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses” question. Although many employers don’t ask this question anymore many still do so it’s better to be prepared to answer it honestly. Potential employers are looking to see how you handle this question. Do you have to wrack your brain to come with a weakness? Be honest… we ALL have things we could improve on. They want to see if you are forth right with the information or are you going to be nervous and fumble. You should state your weakness first. Tell them that you know it’s a weakness and that you strive to improve on it every day. Then end with your strength.

4.  CLOSE IT: The interview went well so far.. you were prepared, honest and engaging. Things are starting to wrap up and there is an uncomfortable and awkward silence as the potential employer starts to get up and move you toward the door. You want to move forward but how do you do that?

What you do now can make or break the interview. No matter what level you are in your career from entry level to c-suite you need to close the interview. I’m always surprised at how few candidates know how to easily do this. It doesn’t have to be complicated or long and drawn out. You don’t have to relist ALL your endearing qualities again. The easiest and most effective way to close an interview is to simply state: “Mr/Ms potential employer, I like what I’ve heard. I’m interested in the opportunity. what’s the next step?

Being prepared for an interview should never be taken lightly. Whenever I am preparing my candidates. I always give them adequate time to do their research and come up with questions about the company and the potential employer. Take your potential employer seriously and they will take you seriously. Coming prepared will be the best use of both your and your potential employers time.

Remember research is KEY and walking in prepared will make you stand out above the other candidates, don’t be afraid to ask questions, be honest and Close it! You’ll do well.

Thoughts from a Frontline Recruiter

Forbes recently wrote an Article by Dawn Graham entitled Here’s Why Career Switchers have a huge advantage in this job market. I believe it’s a fairly accurate article on “the new normal” of today’s job search. However, here are some thoughts from a front-line recruiter.

1. I don’t see clients underpaying… yet. My clients in the CPG industry that are currently hiring are not offering less due to the candidate flood. I have not yet seen the candidate flood at least not at the level I’m recruiting in my industry which is consumer products.

2. I do believe that getting caught in the “internet ozone” is highly possible no matter how good you are. If your keywords don’t match and you are just applying for a job online you will get lost. To stop this from happening make a relationship with a recruiter that specializes in your industry. And I don’t mean just any recruiter. They really do need to work in the industry in which you want a job or you’re wasting your time. There are some very good generalist recruiters but most specialize in one industry and can’t help a nurse if they work in manufacturing.

Recruiters have the ear of the hiring manager. They have created a relationship based on trust and expertise and can help the right candidate rise above the madness. If a recruiter reaches out to you on Linkedin, answer them even if you aren’t looking now. You never know when you may need them in the future and they could also have an opportunity that would be too good to pass up.

3. Most hiring managers are very savvy at making hiring decisions. The author states So yes, as a candidate you’ll be dealing with the whims of unconscious bias and mood swings.” And although this could be true I don’t see it. Many hiring managers have created a process that is used to eliminate candidates that are not fit for the position. They are sticking to the process and not recreating everything because they have more candidates. I also don’t see mood hiring OR panic hiring.. Yet.

4. “Referrals” work. This is the best way to get a job in today’s market. And yes recruiters recommending you to the hiring manager works equally as well if not better than recommendations from an employee.

A recruiter is a trained professional that was hired by the company to cut through all of the noise and get to the right skill set. I have often heard “I’m interviewing X candidate because they were a referral but I don’t believe they have the skill set so please send me more candidates”.

“That number increased to 91% if the referral originated from a director-level employee or above.” Yes, I agree with this. If you have a relationship with a Director in a company that has openings USE that relationship. Don’t be shy. NOW is the time to call in those markers!

5. NOW is NOT the time to switch industries. I spoke with a top-level executive yesterday seeking a career change who mentioned he may be interested in making a change to another industry. I’ll give you the same advice I gave him NOT TODAY. In this industry, companies will be looking for a proven candidate who can help them kick start their company back to the levels they were prior to Covid 19. I’m not saying to squash that dream. I’m simply saying to put it in a drawer and pull it out at a later date. They will not want to train you today; they don’t have time for that.

6. ATS systems ARE your enemy. Applying online can be maddening. You will get lost.

Corporate recruiters are often working 40+ jobs at the same time on a national basis and can only spend a limited amount of time on each position so they may only get to the candidates who applied most recently.

If you think that applying first on a job is great… it’s not necessarily true. Most recruiters start at the top of the list and go down. The top is often the candidates who applied today, not the ones who applied first. That is just a hard truth. These recruiters try HARD to make sure they get to everyone but sometimes that is just not possible.

 Recruiters who work for an executive search firm often only work on 8 to 12 jobs at a time. You will be more visible working with an agency recruiter. However! And this is a big However. When cash is tight… like now… Companies put pressure on the corporate recruiter to find talent because they don’t want to spend money on external fees. So what should you do and who should you connect with to get seen?

 I know it’s really confusing but the answer is BOTH. Create relationships with recruiters… Corporate AND Agency. If the company “won’t pay a fee” you have the corporate recruiter. If you get lost in the “internet ozone” you have the Agency recruiter. You won’t know where you stand so just answer the call of the recruiter, connect live with them on Linkedin. Be friendly and sell your skillset even if you aren’t looking. The recruiter is your friend, the ATS is NOT.

7. “Fair or unfair, the internet is oversaturated with candidates, and even companies who engage these online hiring strategies have learned that the best hires come from trusted resources.” TRUE although the internet is ALWAYS oversaturated with candidates and the best hires ALWAYS come from trusted resources. YES, recruiters are trusted resources in most cases or the companies wouldn’t use them.

This was a thoughtful article and has some great advice, however, as a front-line recruiter my personal feelings are apparently a little different. I don’t believe you should switch industries today. I do believe you should create strong relationships with internal AND external recruiters. I do believe that you should answer the call of the recruiters that reach out, whether or not you are looking, to build a relationship that may benefit you in the future. I believe that sending your information to just any and all recruiters is a waste of your time and the recruiters’ time. I do believe that if you have a friend or acquaintance working for a company USE that relationship especially if they are Director level or above. Call in those markers and rise to the top.

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