As layoffs start to wane and companies slowly begin to hire again, the interview process is getting noticeably longer, with more interviews. As an abundance of talented job seekers thirst to return to corporate America, companies are being more diligent in their vetting process and extremely selective in extending offers. They want to be sure they hire the most talented candidates available.
Imagine walking into a car dealership and being told you can choose any one car on the lot. You would naturally want to choose the very best car for your needs. Say there were thousands of cars at this dealership. Your selection process would most likely entail looking at many of them, test driving a few and then test driving a few more. You would narrow your choice down to just several cars and then conduct a detailed evaluation of their features, safety ratings and overall consumer reviews before making your decision.
In a hiring situation that process translates to a recruiter combing through thousands of résumés, conducting screening interviews with a handful of qualified candidates and then screening a few more candidates. After that, the best of the screened candidates interview with the hiring manager and other managers. This can easily add up to five or seven interviews as the candidate pool is narrowed and as interviews with potential internal team members are added on at the end. Often the most qualified candidate lacks interview skills, which are exposed by the extended process, and doesn’t get the job offer.
Being qualified to excel in a position simply isn’t enough in a recessionary job market. You also have to be skilled at competing for that position. Your confidence and your ability to quickly develop a rapport with interviewers and answer questions with clarity can be what get you from interview to offer. To be successful, you must do these three things:
1. Have an interview plan. The interviewers have a plan for what questions they’ll ask you and what information they’ll need to obtain to determine if you’re qualified for the job. You should also have a plan for communicating what separates you from others and how your experience and skills meet the requirements of the position, and for what questions you will ask of your interviewers.
2. Prepare answers for the questions you’re most likely to be asked. You can analyze the job description to figure out the questions you’re most likely to encounter during your interviews. At Attract Jobs NOW we ensure that our clients have not only answers to likely questions but examples of results that illustrate those answers. For example, if you’re interviewing for a finance position working closely with the sales division, it’s likely you’ll be asked about your ability to forecast sales. Instead of just explaining that you understand the process of forecasting, explain what you’ve accomplished. (“In my last position, at XYZ Company, my sales forecast came within 2% of actual sales. This enabled the company to maximize its return on investment.”) This shows your interviewers that you have experience providing the results they’re looking for.
3. Know your interviewers before you step in the room. You can often get valuable information about your interviewers with just a Google name search. You particularly want to know what positions they currently hold at the company, how long they’ve been there, what other companies they’ve worked for and what schools they attended. You want to find points of commonality that you can use to quickly establish rapport. You’ll find that the more you know about the interviewer, the less nervous you’ll be about the experience, since much of the anxiety of an interview comes from being in an unfamiliar situation.
Although the job market is slowly improving, it remains extremely competitive, and interviews are still hard to obtain. It’s worth it to invest your time and effort in improving your interviewing skills so you can make the most of every interview opportunity.
Jerome Young is the founder and president of www.AttractJobsNOW.com, a job search and recruiting consulting firm.