People always asking me how to prepare for an interview, and I wish there was a standard answer. However, today nothing is standard ,and most people are poor interviewees.
Interviewing is an art. There’s no guarantee the interviewer knows how to make the most of 60 minutes. Often, candidates report doing less than half the talking. So how do you make an impression when the interviewer isn’t a good listener, talks too much, or works off prepared questions?
1. Open-ended questions: Tell me about yourself? Where do you shop? What brands interest you? Who’s winning in our industry?
These are tricky. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge; however, many people tend to “monologue” to the point of becoming boring. Take a moment to gather your thoughts but be informative, concise.
When you get the “tell me about you” question don’t give too much detail on any aspect of your life. If they don’t ask about high-school, don’t talk about it! Limit answers to 60 seconds. Remember the “elevator speech,” practice yours over and over before a mirror, carefully watching your facial expressions.
2. How did you choose this industry?
This question allows you to show off all the research you’ve done on the company, the industry, competitors, and your take on their opportunities.
3. Describe your ideal job.
Be creative. You always loved XYZ or you followed your passion. Either way, tailor your answer to your audience, to their company and this particular opening. Do not tell folks at Apple you hoped to be a music teacher but are tone deaf. They want to hear that you’ve lived for technology and high design goods since childhood.
4. Be prepared to give. Help people connect the dots between their needs and your abilities. Use specific examples in your conversation -- critique advertising campaigns -- compare and contrast similar things you have done, been inspired by or are completely different – and why.
5. Be likeable. Have you ever heard, “I didn’t like them but they have the skillset so let’s hire them!”? NEVER. It’s the other way around -- the skill sets become less important when you seem to be a cultural fit.
6. Cultural nuances. This is what really makes or breaks success -- short and long-term. Study the organization -- not only the job opening but the entire company. What do they stand for? How have they evolved? What kind of people do they hire? These are keys to success that are as important as your experience.
7. Calm those nerves -- somehow, whatever works -- really try to be yourself. If the interviewer projects negative energy make it your job to give them your energy.
8. You are the product -- even if you aren’t a marketer by trade think back to college – we all took those classes. Product, Price, Place, Promotion, and Packaging. You are the product and Packaging counts. How you dress is almost as important as what you say. Do your due diligence and, hopefully, have an astute headhunter to guide you. Don’t go into an interview wearing a three- piece suit if you are meeting that hot digital agency.
9. Body Language. Sitting with arms crossed across your chest signals you are not an open person. Finishing people’s sentences indicates you aren’t a good listener. When I see someone jiggling their foot – I think nervous. Maintain eye contact throughout. Think about yourself -- how do you sit when you are interested? Legs crossed, hands on the table, or on your lap, slightly leaning forward.
10. Companies interview the WHOLE person -- this is an audition so do what is needed to get the part.