INTERVIEW PREPARATION BLUEPRINT

I am sure that you would agree that the goal of any interview is to display your skills and experience and by the end have the hiring manager know without any doubt that you are the ideal candidate for the open position. 

Well, you may be surprised to learn that this is the same goal for those seated across from you during the interview. However, if you do not properly prepare for the interview your chances of the dream scenario just described will be just that, a dream.

In this post, I am going to walk you through everything and only what you need to know to ensure your mind, heart, and soul will be in alignment as you walk into your interview exuding confidence and looking red carpet ready. #youworeitbetter

You may be thinking, “yea right, I have heard this bullsh!t before,” and if you are thinking this, I understand and hear you. I once thought exactly the same way when I would come across others trying to tell me the world was sunshine and rainbows when all I was getting was rejections, non-responses, or "thanks, but no thanks" emails after interviews.  At some point you get tired of having that experience and start seeking the answer to the everlasting proclamation, 'there has to be a better way'. The good news is that after you read this article you will never have that experience again. I am going to teach you the Interview Preparation Blueprint that will ensure you are fully prepared for ANY interview.

In order to fully prepare and execute the interview, you need to first recognize that every interview is comprised of four parts:

Part 1: You secure the interview

Part 2: You prepare for the interview

Part 3: You execute the interview

Part 4: You perform post-interview follow-up

Now, everyone completes Part 1 and Part 3, some candidates complete Part 2, and only a few candidates complete Part 4.

“75% of interviewers confirmed that thank-you notes influence their decision process”

This article will show you how to effectively complete Part 2 and Part 4 of the interview process.  This article will not cover Part 3, but the steps required to Ace The Interview are covered in my career course, Earn Your Worth.

Part 1: You Secure the Interview

Do not let this moment pass you by, relish it. Be present in this moment and look yourself in the mirror and do your best Sally Field impression.

They do like you, they really do. So, do not forget that as you move into Part 2 of the interview process.

Part 2: You Prepare for the Interview

Once you have accepted your award for most awesome candidate ever and envisioned what your life will be like once you land your dream job, it’s time to get to work to make your desired outcome a reality.

Part 2 is comprised of two steps and the time you will have to complete it varies depending on the time between when you secure an interview and when the interview occurs.

Do not fret because I am about to walk you through perfect execution of Part 2 and highlight optional steps if you are in a time crunch to prepare for an interview in the next 24 hours. That said, when you have more than 24 hours you should complete all steps and shame on you if you cut corners.

Part 2 contains two parts:

  • Your preparations before interview day
  • Your actions on interview day

PART 2A – YOUR PREPARATIONS BEFORE INTERVIEW DAY

This is where you will build confidence, prepare your interview arsenal, and align yourself with the needs of the employer. When your interview preparation focuses on aligning your skills and experience with the needs of the open position, you are well on your way to receiving a job offer or moving to the next interview stage.

INTERVIEW PREPARATIONS:

I have listed the following steps in order of priority. You will notice that knowing the logistics occurs first and this is by design because there may be a delay between when you ask for the information and when you receive it. Additionally, some of the logistics information that you will receive is pure gold in helping you best prepare for the interview.

Know the interview logistics – This can occur during Part 1, but depending on how the company representative or recruiter communicates the good news they may not provide key information that can help you best prepare for the interview. The good news is that it is perfectly acceptable for you to reach out to your recruiter or the company representative to obtain as much of the following information as possible:

  • Location, time, and parking and building access rules
  • Company dress code policy (unless told otherwise, plan to dress in a suit or professional dress)
  • Detailed job description
  • Full name(s) of interviewer(s)
  • Position expectations and/or what is the hiring manager looking for in the ideal candidate
  • Interview length (this is important because you want to know if you need to eat before the interview or pack a snack for long interviews)
  • Interview format (this is vital to helping you best prepare for the interview because it provides information about the types of questions you will face)

TIME CRUNCH HACK – N/A; Make the call because you NEED this information!

Research the company – This step is always required and at a minimum you want to review the company’s website, blog, social media feeds (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter) to understand what the company is currently experiencing.

For example, is the company coming up on a huge anniversary for the business, are they downsizing, are they growing, are they expanding into new markets, what challenges and opportunities do they face in the current year and next five years.

When you collect this information, you are gaining a better sense of the current direction of the organization, how it is positioning itself for the future, and identifying any potential red flags. For example, you may discover that the firm recently let go of 30% of their workforce. Yikes!

Likewise, you want to find out what others are saying about the organization (Google search results) or what is really going on inside the culture of an organization (Glassdoor).  It is important to note that sometimes organizations will ask their current employees to post a positive review on Glassdoor so do yourself a favor and pay most attention to all employee reviews that are in the middle. Ignore the one star and five star reviews and focus on two, three, and four star employee reviews. If the majority are one star reviews, I would urge you to do your due diligence researching the company to determine whether or not going on the interview is a good career move. If everything seems to be great in the organization, you probably picked a winner! #winnerwinnerchickendinner

The goal of the company research portion is to accumulate talking points about the company to display your genuine interest in the company. These talking points will also express that you are interested in understanding the future direction of the company and how the open position supports this direction. Having this information will also allow you to ask questions that may be of concern to you, such as understanding the reason behind any recent layoffs and if there is any risk of the open position being affected in the near future. What you want to avoid is joining an organization and then three to six months later scrambling for a new position because the need for your position no longer exists. It happens, it sucks, but by doing your homework in Part 2 and asking these questions during Part 3 you will decrease the chances of it happening to you.

TIME CRUNCH HACK – Quickly perform everything above by focusing on headlines and draw conclusions about the direction of the company from these headlines.

Research the position – Once you have a copy of the full job description it is time for you to begin to gain a deep understanding of what the position is and what the hiring manger is looking for in your experience.  Read over the detailed job description several times and identify the top three skills or job functions that are needed to perform the day to day responsibilities of the job.

For example, if the open position is for a team leader with 5+ years’ experience managing employees, increasing profitability, and providing weekly reports to senior leadership. Then the key functions of the job are:

  • Leadership skills
  • Proven ability to increase revenue
  • Experience interfacing with senior executives

Now, the above example is a quick example of what you need to do for the entire job description. Again, your goal is uncover three to four KEY competency needs for the position and then align your professional stories to display your experience in executing these position functions.

TIME CRUNCH HACK – I advise you not to cut corners here, it is extremely important in helping to position yourself as the ideal candidate.

Create your professional stories – This is my favorite preparation step because it is where you will really begin to position yourself as the ideal candidate and it often increases the chances of having a freestyle interview experience.  A freestyle interview experience is where you have more of a conversation with the interviewer, but you still field tough questions such as: Tell me about yourself, what are your weaknesses, behavioral and situational questions, etc.…

If this interview experience sounds fantastic, it should, because it is much more enjoyable than the typical interview format. So how do you have this experience? You have it by always answering questions and providing details about your work experience in the form of professional stories.

These professional stories need to be concise, compelling, and captivating. Since you will be creating stories based on actual past career experiences you will find that it is an easier task than you may be thinking as you read this article.

There are six types of professional stories to create and you should have at least one of each in your interview arsenal. The story types are:

  • A time you solved a problem
  • A time you overcame a challenge
  • A time you worked with a team
  • A time you made a mistake
  • A time you worked as a leader
  • A time you did something interesting

Your next step is to relate each of the above stories to an experience from your work history. If you cannot think of an experience to match a listed story type, skip it, but at a minimum have four stories in your interview arsenal when you walk into your interview.

Your professional stories will address much of what hiring managers are seeking to find out about your work habits, which include:

  • Your experience and results using the required job skills
  • Your ability to face challenges and come out on top
  • Your approach and process for working in a team
  • Your ability to admit mistakes, learn from them, and make changes
  • Your leadership skills and results
  • Your personality and what makes you, you

When you create these stories, you want to frame them using the STAR (Situation, Tasks, Actions, and Results) method.  Using the STAR method, you will want to start each story by setting the scene (Situation). Next, move into what was happening and what you were doing (Tasks). After that, you will want to describe what you did to shift the momentum (Actions). Finally, you will present your happily ever after or not so happy ever after with lessons learned (Results).  For each story aim for no longer than two minutes in length. Once you complete your story ask the interviewer if they would like you to expand on any part of your answer.

A few other stories that you will want to ensure that you have in your arsenal include:

Your professional elevator pitch - (Tell me about yourself) for length aim for four to seven minutes (60-90 seconds for each position listed on your resume) where you provide a high level overview of your experience, certifications, and career highlights.

Your reason for applying for the position – Do not come to the interview without having this story. This story shows your genuine interest for the position; it is the reason that you applied. Hating your current job or wanting to earn more money are not acceptable reasons for applying for the position.

Your biggest weaknesses (a.k.a. professional blind spots) - prepare for this question to avoid being blind-sided during the interview and looking like a deer in headlights. I have you covered and dedicated an entire post to this question. 

Your biggest strengths – Good to know and continuously work on, but creating a story is not necessary. You will likely discuss your biggest strengths in your professional elevator pitch or in another professional story.

Your reason for looking for a new position – Everyone has reasons for looking for new positions, but you never want to bash your current employer or openly confess that you hate your current position.

Some of the best answers are that you want to work for the company for A, B, and C reasons. Another great answer is that you are excited about the direction that the company is headed in the next X years and you know that the open position will allow you to fully use your existing skills and challenge you to further develop your skills in A, B, and C.

TIME CRUNCH HACK – When you are pressed for time and can’t create stories for everything discussed above focus on creating this list of stories: your professional elevator pitch, your biggest weakness, your reason for applying for the position, a time you solved a problem, a time you made a mistake, and a time you were part of a team.

Practice your professional stories – The next thing you want to do is to practice each of your stories aloud in front of a mirror. Now, remember the goal is not for you to memorize your stories since they need to flow naturally when delivered during an interview.

My preferred method for doing this is to use the recorder app on my smart phone and make a recording of each story so that I can play it back to myself and answer the following questions:

  • Does the story sound authentic and unrehearsed?
  • Do I sound confident in my delivery?
  • Does my story include specific examples and/or numbers?
  • Does my story follow the STAR method?
  • Does my story answer the intended question?
  • Does my story end before two minutes?
  • Was the speed of my speech ok?

Do this for each story and be gentle with yourself if you do not create the perfect story on your first few attempts. The important thing is to keep practicing so that creating these stories becomes effortless so that you will quickly be able to deliver them during an interview. Whenever you can successfully answer yes to all of the above questions, you will have added a new story to your interview arsenal. When this happens, take a moment to celebrate the achievement and be sure not to delete the audio so you can play it back when you prepare for future interviews.

TIME CRUNCH HACK – Skip recording your stories, but make sure you practice each of your professional stories aloud in front of a mirror until you can quickly and naturally deliver the applicable story.

Research the interviewers – Now it is time to learn about your interviewers. Depending on what your recruiter can provide you and/or what the company representative provides you will determine on how deep your research will be for this step. In the event that you are provided with a full list of your interviewers by first and last name you will want to look up all of your interviewers on LinkedIn, Twitter, and the company website.

Pro tip - when you are looking up your interviewers on social media do this anonymously.

Hall of fame tip - take your anonymity to the next level by changing your physical location so it is not obvious that you are playing cyber sleuth.

You want to learn as much as possible about whom the interviewers are and their roles in the organization. You are looking for talking points and/or pain points that the interviewers may be facing that your skills can help alleviate.

Are you noticing a trend? Good, because everything you are doing is to help you tailor your entire interview to position you as the ideal candidate for the position and the answer to the hiring manager’s professional prayers. #Hallelujah

Prepare your questions – One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to forget to bring a notebook that has a list of questions that you have about the role. Seriously, when a candidate does not bring questions to the interview, it is a HUGE RED FLAG for the interviewers. Hiring managers EXPECT you to have questions. I recommend a list of 15 questions. Yes, 15, but 10 questions will be more of talking points that you will have discussed during the interview. Here are a few examples:

  • What are the day to day responsibilities for this position?
  • Why is the position currently available?
  • What is it like to work in this company each day?
  • How many people are on your team?

The interviewers will likely address the above questions and others that you will create during the course of the interview. I have prepared a list of over 50 interview questions that I share in my career course, Earn Your Worth.

Of the remaining five questions, three should be ‘deal closers’ that help you determine the interviewer's interest level. The remaining two questions should ask about the next steps of the interview process.

At the end of this exercise, you will have 15 questions, but you will only ask three questions during the interview. The only time you will ask more than three questions is if you feel the interview has not went well and you are attempting to use your closing questions to convince the interviewers that you are the best candidate for the open position. Check out my tips for executing the perfect interview close. #coffeeisforclosers

TIME CRUNCH HACK – You do not want to arrive empty handed so create a list containing a minimum of 10 questions.

Prep your professional outfit – You want to make sure you look your professional best. Pick out your outfit and ensure it is free from lint, wrinkles and smells. When selecting your outfit it is best to stick to neutral colors such as: navy, black, and grey that are suitable for both men and women. When selecting your shoes make sure they are free from any noticeable wear and tear and/or scuff marks. #sofreshsoclean

TIME CRUNCH HACK – N/A

Prep your professional appearance – Time permitting you may want to get a facial, have your teeth whitened, get a fresh shave, have your nails done, or get a fresh haircut, but a minimum make sure you have freshly clipped fingernails. You may think that clipping your fingernails is a tad OCD, but interviewers notice these small details.

TIME CRUNCH HACK – Clip your fingernails, get a fresh shave or beard trim and a fresh haircut as needed. Trust me; you cannot afford to have a bad hair day.

Pack your interview kit – Your interview kit should include a clutter free briefcase/purse, a notebook, five printed copies of your resume, and a light snack.

TIME CRUNCH HACK – N/A

Get a full eight hours of rest – At this point, you need to get some sleep and you should aim for a minimum of eight hours even if you usually only sleep for six or seven hours, tonight you want to get a minimum of eight hours of beauty sleep so that you do not awake a beast on your big day.

TIME CRUNCH HACK – Get eight hours of sleep. Even if that means you need to cancel plans with your spouse, friends, or have your spouse do the evening cleanup after putting the kids to bed.

You did it! Part 2A is now complete. If that seemed like a lot, it was, but remember you are preparing for an interview for your dream job and you want to position yourself as the most ideal candidate, remember that Sally Field feeling from Part 1? Well, all this preparation is to give you the best chance at having that feeling again after Part 3.

Part 2B - Your actions on interview day

This section covers everything you need to do the day of the interview and time crunch hacks are not possible. #sorryimnotsorry

Healthy breakfast or lunch – You want to ensure you are not #hangry during your interview so that you can be focused and fully present.

Plan for the worst – Traffic jams and bad weather happen. For this reason, always plan to get to your interview 60 minutes early. Relax, you will not actually arrive at your interview 60 minutes early, but you will arrive within five minutes of the location of your interview 60 minutes before the start of your interview.  This plan helps to account for bad weather and/or traffic jams that may slow you down and it also gives you a few extra minutes to relax before the interview. The last thing you want is feeling stressed that you may be late to your interview.

Final interview prep – Use your car’s audio system and your smart phone to playback each of your professional stories. This will reinforce how much of a badass you are and help alleviate any last minute pre-interview nerves.

T-minus 30 minutes before the interview – Stop somewhere to use the restroom, have a light snack, and drink some water.  After your snack, check your breath, your teeth for food particles, and your overall appearance. When you arrive for your interview, you do not want to be the person that asked to use the restroom. It sounds silly, but trust me use a restroom before arriving.

T-minus 25 minutes before the interview – Play your favorite song and then spend five minutes meditating and breathing.

T-minus 20 minutes before the interview – Step outside of your car and do the following before driving the short distance to your interview:

Strike a power pose - Raise your arms and spread your legs so that your body makes a large X, and hold this expansive, open pose for a minute or two. Research from social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows high-power poses change your body chemistry; positions that take up space cause a spike in testosterone and a drop in cortisol, leading us to exude calm, powerful strength. In short, you will look and feel confident heading into your interview.

T-minus 15 minutes before the interview – Arrive and turn your smart phone off.  Perform one final appearance check and start your walk to the building.

10 minutes before the interview, we have liftoff – That is right your interview starts before the interview.  If you arrive any sooner/later than ten minutes before your interview, you did not arrive on time. It is neither good to arrive late nor is it good to arrive too soon. Once you arrive, check in with the receptionist and extend a warm and inviting smile and a confident hello.

Part 3 - You Execute the Interview

It is show time and you are going to do great.  If you have taken the time to complete all of the Part 2 steps, you are bound to shine during the interview.  There is definitely a proven strategy to acing the face to face interview, but it is too long to cover as part of this article. That said, I did not want to leave you empty handed for Part 3 so I created my 8 Step Guide to Mastering Any Interview to help you get started with crushing Part 3. 

Part 4 - You Perform Post-Interview Follow-Up

Congratulations! You made it through Part 3 and now is the time to celebrate what went well and learn from what did not go so well. Either way, the experience has helped you improve your interviewing skills and load up your interview arsenal.

If you end up getting the position, fantastic, but if you do not get the position remember to keep your head up and that there will be other opportunities. Yes, just like fish, there are more JOBS in the employment sea.

Either way, you want to do everything you can to help yourself by completing the post-interview follow-up.  Recall that 75% of interviewers confirmed that thank-you notes influence their decision.

This means that you had better send a thank-you note.  Do not know what to write? Use the below exclusive information from my career course, Earn Your Worth to send the perfect thank you card.

WHAT TO SAY:

  • Thank them for their time
  • Communicate how much you enjoyed learning about a task that you will be doing daily that will make THEIR life easier. This shows that you were listening and want to help.

HOW TO SAY IT:

  • Mail a hand written thank you card. Use print so it is legible to all eyes.
  • Less is more. Strive to have your message be under 150 total characters. The goal is to show that you care in 5-10 seconds.

WHEN TO SAY IT:

  • Drop the thank you card in a mailbox that is close to their office so that they receive it next day. This means you should have the stamp and blank thank you card in your car.
  • When interviewing with multiple people, send multiple thank you cards. Tailor each thank you card to something specific that the interviewer said.

There you have it! Everything and only what you need to know to prepare for any interview.  Bookmark this link so you can refer to it in the future when preparing for your next interview. Use the share button below to share this article with someone that can benefit from it. #sharingiscaring

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