Congratulations! After much hard work on creating a great resume, networking, applying for jobs, and following up, you’ve been called for an interview. Job interviewing is one of the more stressful activities you can go through, so how can you beat the competition? Here are five tips to consider:
Use the job description to anticipate questions
Beyond the standard interview questions (“Tell me about yourself.” “Why should we hire you?” “What is your weakness?”), which hundreds of other bloggers and books have covered, you should read the job description carefully and turn the requirements into questions.
If the job description says you must have strong analytical skills, you may be asked, “Give an example of a time you used your analytical skills,” or “Can you walk me through how you would analyze this case study problem?” If the job description emphasizes teamwork, you may be asked, “Can you give an example of a time when you overcame a conflict in a team?” If it’s a senior-level position, you may be asked, “Can you give an example of a time you led an organizational change?” Look at each qualification and duty of the job and turn it into a question.
Come with an arsenal of your best stories. Your story answers should be in the “Problem-action-result” format. What was the status quo when you arrived, what did you do to solve the problem, and how did your solution solve the problem? How is this story relevant to the requirements of the job you are now interviewing for?
Use LinkedIn to research the interviewers and your predecessor (if you have one)
On LinkedIn, go to the “Advanced” link (top right-hand side of the page, next to “people”) and do an advanced search for people. Be sure to select 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Groups, under “Relationship.” Then type in the name of the company that’s interviewing you, and then type in the names of the people interviewing you. (If you don’t know the names of your interviewers, it’s reasonable to ask the person organizing the interviews if they can share that information with you.)
You can also get a general sense of the type of people who work at the organization by reading the profiles of several people who work there. Read the person’s profile and look for their keywords, skills, educational background, etc. Also search for your predecessor. Does everyone in the department have similar backgrounds? If you know they all have worked for the same company in the past, can you research that company as well? If they all have a particular educational background, can you emphasize how your background is similar; or if it’s different, how your differences will add to the team? How do they describe what they currently do?
Use Internet research to understand the employer
Just reading the website is not enough if you want to stand out and learn about the organization. Here are a few places to gather great information:
- Go to Guidestar.org to view the 990 tax return and see what they spend their money on (and the salaries of top staff).
- Go to Glassdoor.com to read organization reviews (and, often, sample interview questions they are asking other candidates).
- Check Lexis-Nexis (go to your local library to get free access if possible) to read news articles about the company. Or try Google News. Be sure you know the name and bio of the executive director. Look at their competition and trends/news in the field as a whole.
Consider a 30/60/90-day plan
Consider putting together your plan of action– what you would do, if hired, in the first three months of the job. Find a subtle way to bring this up in the interview—for instance, if you are asked, “What would you bring to the organization?” or “How would you go about creating a fundraising plan?” or, if you are asked what you would do in the first few months of the job, bring out a memo or PowerPoint showing you have thought through exactly what you would achieve. Especially for leadership-related positions, this can truly distinguish you from your competition.
Not clever, but tried-and-true: Run through your interview questions with a career coach, a friend, a video camera, a family member, etc. If you attended college, the career services office may offer this service for free or low cost. Try to say your interview questions out loud at least once or twice before the big day. Practice makes perfect, and nothing cures pre-interview jitters than being really ready and having your answers well-rehearsed.
This article originally appeared here and has been edited.
About the Author | Heather Krasna is a career and executive coach with over 16 years of experience, as well as the author of Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service (Jist Publishing, 2010). Heather is an internationally-recognized keynote speaker, and currently Assistant Dean and Director of Career Services at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. You can find out more about Heather and her book at HeatherKrasna.com