How to Prepare for an Interview

How to Prepare for an Interview

April 02, 2017 | Mike Sweeney

Here are a few tips for preparing for a job interview.  These are an amalgam of insights I have received throughout my career from many different sources.  I've done mock interviews on video, over the phone, and in-person to find the keys to success.  These tips have helped me transition from the US Army to a boutique winery, from a 25 person family-owned consulting shop to an organization with over 5000 people in 50 countries, and from heavy manufacturing operations to IT. The tips have helped others land jobs they never thought they could get. These are my cliff notes.

Step 1. Conduct Online Research (Company)

Research the company, main competitors, and the industry so you get a little background. Come up with a question or two that you can use or things you can weave into to the conversation. Use Google, Glassdoor, the company name with “in the news”, and any financial data you can find. The research is up front effort, so do it when you feel like the job is likely to be a fit.  It goes a long way if you're aware of the major industry players and some of the key issues they are facing.

Step 2. Conduct Online Research (ROLE/COMP)

Review the job description and look for the 3 main things needed for success in the role. Think of this as a 3 legged stool that provides support for success. The idea of the 3 legged stool will come in handy later during the interview. Look at the compensation range from a few similar positions on and similar sites. Keep looking until you know that the range you want is valid. If you can’t make a case for the range, you're going to have to take a less aggressive negotiating stance. It shows respect if you’ve read the job description a few times to get a sense of the role.  Look on O-Net to see what they say about required competencies.

Step 3. Prep the answers to the obvious questions:

  • Tell me about yourself. This is where you need to take control of the story. If you hear this question out of the gate, you know it’s an opportunity to explain why you are a great fit for the role. See a previous blog for more details.

  • Why are you interested in the job, company, industry? This is what you are looking to answer while you are researching. It has to be honest and authentic to you.  Don’t tell them what they want to hear.
  • Why are you leaving your current opportunity? Make sure it’s clear that you are moving to vs. moving from something.  Everyone knows you never badmouth your current company.  A new organization will think you’ll do that to them. Immediately make this about what you want and not what you don’t want.
  • What are your strengths? You don’t hear this one as much anymore, but this falls into the camp of know thyself. You need to be able to articulate your 3-5 strengths.  It’s even better if you can connect these to how you operate in situations that match their needs.
  • What is your biggest weakness? Don’t look for something easy. Look for something true. “I work too hard” is a cop out. “I’m lazy" is a bad idea. The construct here is to demonstrate real self-awareness and communicate what you've done and what you currently do to manage the weakness.
  • What are your compensation needs? This one is something to have ready based on the comp research you’ve done. They can ask and you need to return with a question about the range for the job. Sometimes they’ll share it and sometimes they won’t. If they press too hard, then be ready with “I am looking for opportunities in the range of X + (X+20-25).” Don't tell them what you currently make. It’s none of their business. 
  • What questions do you have for us? This comes from the research and they have to be thoughtful. What do you really want to know? I like to mix in some strategic and tactical.  “If you were to hire the perfect person for this role, what would be different in 12-18 months after?” That one is good to get a sense of how they measure success. “How would you describe the culture in [department X] vs. the overall company culture?” I like to ask some simple ones as well. “How often do we meet?”
  • Accomplishment stories. Think through specific examples where you demonstrated results. What are the results you are most proud of on your resume? In truth, know all your bullets. See the next step for a framework I use.

Step 4. Prepare for the BBI (Behavioral Based Interview)

These questions start with "tell me about a time" or "can give me an example when".  There is a fool-proof formula to nail these questions in 2 ½ -3 mins.

  • State the accomplishment (measurable).
  • Outline the situation/challenge.
  • Give credit away (to team, luck, peers, etc.).
  • Explain your role - what you did and how you did it.  Keep this organized and on point with at least one of the 3 legs of the stool.
  • Restate accomplishment at the end to bookend the response with the accomplishment.

Step5. Prepare the closing

Use the 3 legs of the stool as the final bookend.  Reiterate your strong interest, thank them for their time, and explain how your experience in X, Y, and Z will help them [INSERT BIG RESULTS].

Works every time...

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- Mike Sweeney, 





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