Preparing for the Interview

Artie Lynnworth has over 40 years of management and hiring experience.  He is the scheduled speaker for the May 26, 2011 meeting of the WorkSource Professional Network.  He’s also the author of “Slice the Salami One Slice at a Time: Tips for Life and Leadership.”   We had a discussion about jobseekers and interviews.

CM: In your opinion, what’s the biggest mistake most jobseekers make when getting ready for their interviews?

AL: They don’t seem to be really prepared.  And it’s not because they don’t want to be.  I think it’s because they go about it backwards.  Most jobseeker I have coached used to prepare for the interview by focusing on themselves: reviewing what they want, what they can do, what they have done in previous jobs.  The only thing wrong with that approach is that it’s all about them instead of the company.  Real preparation starts with putting yourself in the mind of the employer.

CM: Where do you get that information?

AL:  You can start with the job listing.  Usually, the company tells you just what they’re looking for.  You take their needs and stated expectations and start looking at your resume from the company’s point of view.

Taking Artie’s advice, I researched a recent IT job posting on a local company’s website.  Here are a few of the important “Activities and Responsibilities.”

  • Drives systems integration activities through broad information technology expertise and strong teamwork and communication. Coordinates with the project team, business partners, and vendors to resolve issues. Facilitates discussions among diverse groups regarding system integration tasks to gain consensus on meeting project goals and objectives.
  • Advise technology management and business partners in the purchase and usage of software, hardware, user-device, and communications technologies to fully support a business function.
  • Facilitate the introduction and integration of new technologies and application architectures, collaborating with cross functional teams and suppliers.

What’s interesting about this listing is the emphasis on teamwork, consensus, communication and collaboration.  That’s a clear message to an applicant that the company assumes you’re technically competent; they’re also looking for someone with great people skills.  In your interview, you’d better be prepared to discuss how your communication skills played an important role in a technology decision or project rollout. 

There’s a formula for that, by the way.  Artie and I both subscribe to the S*T*A*R method of interviewing (find a previous post on that here.)  The interviewer will ask you to describe brief scenarios about how you used special skills or solved problems, each illustrating a specific activity or task required by the job. Each “story” should explain the problem, a set of actions and the results in quantifiable terms.  This model is called the S.T.A.R. model (Situation, Taking Action, and Results.) 

Work on preparing to talk about the job’s critical skills using the S*T*A*R method.   It’s one way to prepare for an interview putting the company’s needs first.

5 thoughts on “Preparing for the Interview

  1. Wyman Stewart

    Thanks for the excellent reminders and the link. I will be sure to read the S*T*A*R* post. It’s a hard habit to break. Reminders are needed.

    Some loosely related questions I rarely see written about:

    1.) How to deal with an interviewer who says, “Oh, the Want Ad description is incorrect”? (When asked the correct job description this may elicit a response ranging from “what’s your experience” to a correct job description. I leave these interviews feeling like I’ve been on the old game show, “I’ve Got A Secret.” However if I guess the secret, they change the secret.)

    2.) How to deal with an interviewer who starts the interview by explaining the position advertised is not the one you’re interviewing for? SURPISE! (A.) Rare cases the job is a better one. (B.) Many times you’re given vague hints about the position; too vague. (C.) Worst one, too often, the position open is lower in all respects to the one advertised. Bait and switch, I call this.

    3.) How do you deal with job ads at interview time whose description is quite broad, which you may fit, so you apply, but the interviewer is no help at interview time?

    Employers have your cover letter and resume, but can be as secretive as the CIA at interview time. What gives? An interviewee’s time is valuable too! (Don’t blame me; it’s not me.)


  2. examples of good interview questions…

    […]Preparing for the Interview « @work: a career blog[…]…


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