Submitted by: Mike Doody, CCC Volunteer and Board Member / Retired Executive Search Consultant

After 25 years as a head-hunter -- an executive search consultant -- I am convinced that a candidate's success in the interview is directly related to their preparation for the interview.  Interview preparation is absolutely critical to success.

I estimate that I interviewed approximately 5000 candidates for senior level, executive positions we had been retained to recruit. These candidates were well educated, experienced, credentialed and, for the most part, successful executives. But that did not necessarily make them good at interviewing.  Those who went into the interview unprepared, or nervous because they were "running late," were typically not successful in the interview.

So, how do you prepare for the interview?

1)  You do your homework on the company and the position.  Know what you are interviewing for and learn something about the company. 

2) Prepare and Practice how you will answer the commonly asked interview questions. How?

With the questions in front of you, and ready with pen and paper, begin by writing the key words and phrases you will use to answer each question. Think of the stories you have to relate to the question in building your answer.  The interviewer is not looking for textbook answers to the questions, she wants to hear how you dealt with the issues raised in the question. She wants to hear you talk about specific experiences you have had. 

Begin to practice your answer out loud -- so you hear what you are going to say.  By practicing your answers out loud, you will begin to become comfortable talking about your experiences.  By practicing the answer out loud you: become comfortable articulating your response -- and that eliminates the "Uuumm;  uhhh;  well you see..."

Practice the answer out loud in front of a mirror.  This helps you see how you are coming across to the interviewer.  Do you have good eye contact?  Is your posture strong - an indication of confidence. You'll see how energized you are, or are not.  It will give you a sense of your posture -- another indication of confidence.

With this kind of practice you are using most, if not all of your senses -- and that helps you remember the what and how of your interview answers.  You will become more comfortable and less nervous, which enhances your potential for success.

3) Be sure to practice the behavioral questions -- those that ask you to "Tell me about a time you were faced with this kind of situation?"   "How did you deal with a fellow employee who.. . . ?"  "Did you ever disagree with your boss on an issue? Tell me what you did in that circumstance."

4) When you reach that point in the interview when the interviewer says:  "Well this has been great, Do you have any questions of me?"  Be sure you have questions to ask.  If you were to answer that question with; "No, I really don't have any questions."  That is a huge turn-off, and it could end your candidacy.

5) Dress appropriately for the interview.  I do not believe you can "over dress" for an interview.  Don't dress casually, even if that is the "standard" for that company.  Men, wear a suit, or at least a sport coat and tie.  Women, a business suit or other appropriate outfit.

6) Never be late for the interview.  If you have never driven to the location of the interview before, be sure you "test drive" it a few days ahead of the interview.  And do the test drive about the same time of day that you will on the day of the interview -- different times of the day often have different traffic issues.  Plan to arrive 10-15 minutes before the interview, so you are comfortable and ready to go.  To be late for an interview can be a big turn-off to the interviewer.

7) Most important in your preparation is to know, prepare, be comfortable talking about the 6 or 7 key experiences, competencies, strengths you bring to the position that make you the ideal candidate.  Be prepared to intersperse these key items into your answers a few times.  

By repeating these strengths/competencies/experiences each a few times, it increases the chance the interviewer will remember them when she thinks about you after the interview.  We remember only a small percentage of what we hear.  By repeating these key points about yourself, you increase the chance that those are the things the interviewer will remember about you.  They are the attributes that make you the ideal candidate and increase the chances that you'll be the successful candidate. 

Preparation is key to a successful interview.  And you have full control over how and how much you prepare!

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