For the past seven years, serving as a career coach who specializes in the interview process, I have helped so far more than 400 people at all career levels and in all professions. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a recent college graduate, a systems analyst, or a high-level executive with an annual income of several million dollars. What all people have in common is the need to know how to prepare for a job interview. The reason is that the job interview is nothing less than a contest, whose rules are well-known to participants. There is only one winner, and all the rest are losers. Sorry, this is not the Olympics, where there are indeed three winners.
Meeting for the first time
Before I meet with a new client for the first time, I ask the person to forward to me a résumé and job description of the position the client is interviewing for. I study both documents thoroughly so that we won’t waste time on that while we’re together.
For the first session, I ask my clients to come to my office dressed as if the meeting were a real job interview. It gives them an opportunity to hear an unbiased evaluation of the impression they’d make when meeting someone for the first time. Nobody else can do that: not a spouse, another family member, or a friend. My comments are professional, friendly, and very honest. They give clients the chance to make adjustments before the real and coveted interview, if needed.
Next, with my client’s permission, I videotape the client for about 90 seconds while I ask three common interview questions. Subsequently, with the speaker on mute and while watching the recording, I voice my opinion almost unedited to share with my client the impression the client made while interviewing on camera. This part is very important, because the first impression is the lasting one, and it’s difficult to change it—especially after the damage has already been done.
Practicing mock interviewing
All of my coaching sessions last two hours at minimum. The first session is typically two and a half hours or longer. Before we start working together, I need to fully understand the person’s specific, individual circumstances. Listening to my clients’ stories takes time, but those stories are very valuable, and the time invested is well spent; I don’t watch the clock like a doctor who needs to see three patients an hour.
Then we start practicing mock interviewing. We start with “Tell me about yourself,” “What are your strengths and weaknesses,” “Why do you want to work for us,” and “What do you know about us.” We then go on to more-difficult questions such as “Aren’t you overqualified [or underqualified],” “Why are you having such a lengthy job search,” and so on. We practice answers for these for about two hours. The value I provide my clients lies in explaining what’s actually behind the asked question. In other words, what is the interviewer really looking for, and what is he testing the candidate for by means of these questions.
Asking interview questions is easy. Understanding what’s being tested is harder, but once understood, the answer is no longer difficult to produce. Remember that practice makes perfect.