This is the in-the-trenches interview prep material used by top recruiters who only get paid if the candidate they are prepping gets hired. This is the stuff that really works.
Before we go any further, you need to know what your goal is here. Your goal is to get the job offer. You must not waste energy right now trying to figure out if you want the job. You have not been offered the job! You do not have to make that decision now. Take that pressure off of your shoulders. Your goal is simply to get the offer. The interview process can, and often does, result in both the job description and the compensation changing and improving. So don't distract yourself now wondering whether you want the job. Stay laser-focused on getting the offer. If you do this, you will likely not only get the offer, but you will improve the offer — it will be better than anyone expected it to be, regarding both job description and compensation. Make no mistake — your job here is to get the offer. If you don't get the offer, you will never know what the offer might have been, and therefore you will never know whether it might have been the right job for you.
Now that that has been said, you may be wondering how you will know whether you really want the job. That's easy. The method described below for handling the interview process, and the questions you will ask, will not only result in you getting the best possible offer, it will also result in you having all of the information you need to make an informed decision.
Research and Preparation
Go into the interview knowing everything that you possibly can about the company you are interviewing with and the person you are interviewing with. Know the history of both, as well as any news about both which has been recently released. Use LinkedIn, Facebook, Google and Twitter at a minimum. Be prepared to reference something very recent. You do not need a lot of this background information. Interviews do not allow time for a lot of information. You have to be focused and brief. The key pieces of information you want to mention about the person interviewing you can be written in three or four bullets on the top page of the notepad in the folio you bring with you to the interview. You absolutely should have a notepad like this, in a black leather folio, open on your lap during the interview. It will help you relax if you know that the information you need is written there in front of you. This information must be brief and bulleted and fit on the top sheet.
Be warm, fuzzy and friendly to start the interview. Be happy. People hire happy, positive people. Immediately prior to the interview you should do some things that make you warm, fuzzy, friendly and happy. Listen to some music that makes you want to dance. Go ahead and dance right next to your car in some reasonably private place near the interview. On the way to the interview have a conversation with someone positive who inspires you. Meditate or pray in a way that fills you with positivity. If you can do it without splitting your pants or sweating too much, do a little exercising and stretching. The bottom line is get positive and do what makes you happy — do what makes you smile! Now, walk in to the interview confidently knowing that you have followed the process described below and you are ready to win.
An interview has only two relevant topics. Everything else is off-topic. The relevant topics are:
* Why you will be great at job
* Why you want the job
Any time you are talking about anything else you are off-topic. If you are asked a question on any other topic you should answer forthrightly, in less than thirty seconds, and then transition back to one of the two relevant topics. Here's an example. If you have been out of work for six months or three years or whatever, you should explain that in thirty seconds or less, and then transition back to talking about one of the two relevant topics. Do not spend three minutes, or even two minutes, talking about something off topic.
Prepare a brief story of about a minute which demonstrates something about you that is very positive. It does not have to relate to the job. It should be something that makes you look good and feel good. What is it about you that people like the best, that you like the best, that is most impressive about you, that makes you really happy. Find something and explain it, in less than a minute, near the beginning of the interview, sometime in the first ten minutes, ideally in the first five minutes.Here's why. Relating this story will change you into a happier, more positive, more likable and impressive person. This is an important element of why you will be great at the job and it is not off topic, so long as it is told briefly.
Maybe you run marathons, or rescue shelter dogs, or volunteer at a nursing home, or teach English as a second language to immigrants, or love to cook meals for large family gatherings. Whatever it is, get it in there, briefly, because it will change the tone of how you communicate and it will change how the interviewer treats you. Make it relevant. Find a one-sentence way to connect it to the topic of why you want the job or why you will be great at the job. If you have trouble with this, get a friend or accountability partner to help you.
Let's get back to our two topics — why you want the job and why you will be great at the job. Here is your primary interview prep project.
Draw a line down the center of a sheet of paper. On the left side, list six to eight job responsibilities or requirements or qualities you believe the hiring authority will be looking to find in the ideal candidate. On the right side of the line, list six to eight things that you think will make you great at this job. Based upon the resume you have created with our system, you should have strong bullets ready to put here, with quantifiable achievements.
Your job now is to draw lines that connect the items on these two lists together. Your job, almost your only job, is to show how your achievements match what they are looking for. If this job is a good potential fit for you, you should be able to match these up nicely.
Now, on new sheet of paper, list these matching pairs of job requirements and your achievements. Above each pair, write down a question you can ask the hiring authority, a question which you believe will lead them to give an answer which will include the job responsibilities you have listed there. In other words, ask a question that gets them to talk an item from the list on the left side of your page, then be ready to talk about how that connects to one of your achievements from your list on the right side of the page.
Your goal now, which you should practice with a friend or partner or coach, is to ask these questions, listen well to the answers, and then respond by explaining how your achievements line up with the job responsibility just described.
This is very powerful. You have not told the hiring manager what they need. You have asked an insightful question, and they have responded by telling you what they need. Now, you are making the connection between their need and your achievements. Bingo.
Now, in summary form, this is what a successful interview looks like.
- Prepare thoroughly, including one page of bullets on a sheet in a folio. That page includes 4-5 bullets up top about the interviewer and the company, including one piece of current news. Next on that page are 4-5 sets of information. Each set includes a question, followed by a job responsibility the hiring authority is looking for, and one of your matching achievements. Keep this bulleted page open on the folio in front of you.
Dress more conservatively than necessary. When in doubt, go with the more conservative choice. Always.
Come in happy and enthusiastic. Do the things necessary to get that way immediately before the meeting.
Make warm, happy, fuzzy small talk for two or three minutes. Take the lead in transitioning into the actual interview by asking the "keys to the kingdom" question.
The keys to the kingdom question sounds something like this: "I've read the job description and I did talk to your internal recruiter, but I would love to hear it from you, in your words; would you tell me what you are looking for in this position?" This question is crucial because it tells you what is MOST important to the person who can hire you. This question should NEVER be skipped. It is hard to ask this question once the interview gets rolling along, because it is no longer as relevant. Do everything in your power to get this question asked EARLY in the interview. The best way is if you lead with it by transitioning into it after a couple of minutes of small talk.
Insert your one-minute personal story near the beginning of the interview to set a friendly and likable tone. People have good reason to like you. Make sure the hiring authority knows that and knows it early. Your story also makes you like yourself more and that helps too.
Prepare a summary of your career, but keep it short. Don't mention anything negative — no matter what. No negatives. Keep it positive. Skip over or be very brief with things that are off topic. For instance, if there is a gap in your resume, address it with something very simple and very brief — one or two sentences only, and then get back on topic, i.e. the story of your career which demonstrates why you will be great at the job and why you want the job.
Answer any questions honestly and directly. If the question is off topic then be very brief, i.e. thirty seconds. Always be prepared to pivot to one of the questions on your list. It is your responsibility to ask those questions and address those topics. Interviews go by quickly. Covering your 4-5 critical topics is not easy to do. Even when you are on topic, keep your answers brief, never more than two or three minutes, and pivot to your questions/topics whenever possible. It is your responsibility to address the 4-5 key topics you have listed on your folio. Get that done.
The Close. We have prepped thousands of candidates for interviews. We always do everything in our power to get them to ask this closing question. When they do, they are always glad they did. But many do not ask it. They get cold feet. They claim that the interview was successful and no closing question was needed. The truth is usually different. As recruiters, we have debriefed thousands of candidates and hiring managers after interviews.
The candidates who did not ask this closing question usually think they did well. The hiring managers usually say that the candidate is eliminated for one reason or another — and the candidate had no idea what that reason was — because the candidate did not ask. Here is the closing question. Tattoo it on the palm of your hand. First, say something positive about your interest in the job, and then say this: "Do you have any questions about me being the right person for this job?" Practice this a thousand times before the interview. Promise your accountability partner that you WILL ask this question.
If you ask this question it changes the whole feel of the interview. It demonstrates that you have a higher level of professionalism and confidence than the great majority of candidates who will not ask this question. This question is a game changer. Either you get an out-loud acknowledgement of your status as a lead candidate, or you find out what the problem is and you get to address it right there. This is a thousand times better than for there to be a concern and you not to have a chance to address it. If there is a concern, address it, and then ask the question, "does that adequately address your concern?" This is grown up stuff. This is what you do when you care enough to do your best. This how you stand above the crowd. This is how you win the offer.
Much or most of the time the interviewer will brush aside your closing question by saying that it's too soon to know how you fit in the ranking with other candidates, that other candidates have to be seen, or that you have to talk to so-and-so before a decision is made. Your response is this: "I appreciate that and I look forward to going to the next step in the process. But you and I just spent almost an hour together and you know a lot about this job. I would really appreciate your thoughts on where I stand. I'm not asking for a commitment or an offer, but based on what you know about me so far, do you think I would be a good fit for this job, or do you have questions that haven't been answered?" In other words, hang in there, and get the answer to your closing question. You will be glad you did.
The Way to Win the Second Interview
Second interviews are handled identically to first interviews. But there is something you can do in the first interview to strongly improve your position for the second interview. Let's say that at the end of your interview with Joe he tells you that the next step will be for you to meet with his boss, Sally.
If you have already asked your closing question and gotten a positive answer, then you're ready to ask Joe for his guidance. That sounds like this, "I'm looking forward to meeting with Sally. Is there anything I should do to prepare for that meeting, something I should research or brush up on, or anything I should be aware of before meeting with Sally?" That question is not presumptuous. It's professional.
It shows that you want to do your best and that you know how to get the help you need in order to do your best. You will be amazed at the great insider tips you will get to help prepare you for the second interviewer. These are tips the other candidates will not get — because they will not ask.
Alright, let's move on and negotiate the offer, because this process will almost certainly get you some offers.