Job Search Series – Nailing the Interview – Part 2 – Prep

“One important key to success is self-confidence.
An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” – Arthur Ashe

In a recent poll of chief financial officers nearly half said that job candidates make the most mistakes during the interview. Swell, you say, just what I needed to hear. But, you needn’t worry; if you adopt the tips and techniques offered in this Job Search Series, you’ll be better prepared — and increase your confidence — to nail the interview.

If you’ve done a good job in preparing your resume and cover letter and submitting them effectively, polishing your LinkedIn profile page, composing and rehearsing your positioning statement and SOAR stories, and networking effectively, your strategic plan should be starting to work.

But what happens when you are invited for an interview? Your next steps — after you’ve stopped turning cartwheels, figuratively speaking — involve research, due-diligence and preparation:

Research and Due Diligence:

Check out the Company Website

Pull up the latest annual report or financial statement. Look at the narrative sections, photographs, graphics and boiler plate. These sections will tell you a great deal about the company and give you clues about its culture. Learn the names of the CEO and other members of the C-Suite, including the person who heads up your prospective area. Know the company’s business and mission statement and its position in the industry.

Look Up the Company on LinkedIn

Log on to LinkedIn and click on the arrow for the drop-down menu next to the search bar at the top of the page. Click on “Companies,” then type the name of the company you are researching in the search bar. Up will come the parent company and all subs and affiliates.

Google the Company, the CEO and other C-Level Executives and the Industry

Read any recent news articles about them and formulate questions you might have. If you find any controversial or reputational issues, note them to either respond to the interviewer’s comments or to bring up yourself in a pragmatic and non-judgmental manner. Be sure to comment on any good news you discover.

Ask Your Contacts

If you haven’t already done so, find out who among your contacts knows someone at the company. Proceed with a certain amount of caution, and try to ascertain the nature of the relationship. It won’t do you any good if your contact’s contact at the company doesn’t like him or her! Your contact might not be aware of this, and putting in a word for you might backfire. Be on solid ground here. LinkedIn can help you locate such connections.


Prepare Your Talking Points

You’re familiar with the job description, having used it to customize your resume and cover letter. Now you’ll use it, as well as your other company research findings, to prepare a list of talking points as ice breakers, small talk and conversation topics. These talking points may be used to initiate a discussion or respond to the interviewer’s comments and questions.

Anticipate Questions & Prepare Your Answers

Interview questions typically fall into three categories: standard, behavioral and analytical. Based on your research, try to anticipate these three types of questions and how you will answer them. This topic will be more fully addressed in the coming weeks.

Gather Your Interview Materials

The list below contains suggested materials to consider gathering for your interview. It’s wise to come prepared with materials that might be relevant to the interview, contained in a professional-looking brief case, tote or presentation folio. This does not mean that you’ll present or hand in everything you bring along. You don’t want to force issues or take up more than your allotted time, but, you’ll have such materials should opportunities present themselves.

  • Resume – Take along three copies for a one-to-one interview, 10 copies for a panel interview. You always want to have extra copies of your resume for any type of interview.
  • Your Business Cards
  • Reference Folder – This should contain a copy of the cover letter you submitted with your resume, a sheet of bulleted talking points (including your SOAR stories and questions you’ve prepared) and any other notes to which you might need to refer during the interview).
  • Portfolio – Assemble a slim portfolio of your work samples, articles by or about you, letters of recommendation or compliments, certificates and awards, and any other items worthy of presenting. Keep this lean and mean; don’t stuff it with every scrap of paper you’ve collected. Make it look concise, easy to read and professional.
  • Any completed and signed documents required by the company
  • Any online media such as a PowerPoint or video – Unless you’ve been invited to bring such media, bring along a laptop to present them should the opportunity present itself.
  • List of References

Confirm and Update Your List of References

Having a great list of references s helpful, but only if you have kept in touch with them. Before preparing your list to provide to your interviewer or to Human Resources in the event you are offered the position, contact each reference to confirm that they’re still ready to give you an outstanding reference and let them know which company or companies might contact them in the near future. The relationship and status of each of your references will guide you as to which method to use to contact them. It might be fine to send an email to some, for others a phone call might be in order. Provide only names that you are absolutely sure will give you enthusiastic and sterling references. The last thing you need is to have your prospective employer call someone on your list who doesn’t recognize your name immediately or provides a lukewarm or hesitant reference because he or she doesn’t recall you or wasn’t a big fan of yours after all. Remember that your list of references is only as good as the attention and nurture you have given it. So review and update your list frequently. And keep in touch with those great references, even when you’re fully employed!

Next week we’ll focus on what to wear — and what not to wear — to the interview.

Until next time,



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