HOW TO BECOME THE "IDEAL CANDIDATE" FOR A JOB INTERVIEW

Interviewing requires learning to be what the interviewer perceives as his or her ideal candidate for the job. It means communicating effectively your most appropriate qualities that make you this person, and not communicating your many other skills or traits that make you less than ideal.

You must be able to research effectively, and be willing to portray the candidate they want to see. This is not acting out a role for someone other than yourself, it simply means communicating the part of you that the interviewer wants to see. If the interviewer is looking for an analytical, thorough candidate, then you need to try and communicate that part of you which is analytical and thorough. This is done through effective research, and effective preparation.

1. Research

Most people do not like to do research so those that do have a distinct advantage over those that don't. The general rule is the more responsible and competitive the job, the more research you should do. Employers consider company research a reflection of your interest, enthusiasm, intelligence and commitment. Research is about convincing the employer you know what you want, you know them, and that what you want is them.

Executive recruiter Lisa Resanti of Consultec in Dallas, Texas says, "Our employers tell us most candidates do not get hired because they fail to properly research and prepare for their interview. In fact our employer survey shows there are twelve primary reasons why candidates do not get hired:

  • Ineffective presentation of skills and abilities
  • An inability to express oneself clearly and succinctly
  • Unclear personal and career goals
  • Poor personal appearance
  • Lack of interest in the job opportunity
  • Excessive interest in vacation and compensation issues
  • Lack of people skills
  • Uninformed about the position or organization
  • Poorly written resume
  • Lack of confidence or overly confident
  • Evasiveness with answers
  • Unsuccessful in developing good personal chemistry with interviewer
  • Lack of quality questions for the interviewer

Many if not all of these primary reasons why candidates do not get hired can be eliminated with proper research and preparation."

Try occupational career guides, or try to get a hold of the employer's job description by looking for job ads of the position, or calling into the employer's office and speaking to an individual who holds a similar position. You might want to tell them you are trying to learn about the position because you believe it is one you might want to apply for. Try and find out all that you can about the firm and the position what you can. A great idea is to speak with the PR, marketing or sales department to obtain information.

Investigate the interviewer, the job, the company, the department, and the new boss. Begin by using your network of contacts for "inside information." Contact local trade associations, the Better Business Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce, competitors, industry service agencies, and anyone else who will give you accurate, pertinent information. Locate past and current employees by contacting the department secretary, someone in payroll, or in the company's sales and public relations group. Even suppliers are good sources of information on a company's financial condition and management team. Find out what boards, committees, or associations the management team belongs to, and find someone you know who could refer you confidentially to that association. It may also be useful to go to your local newspaper and library, and ask the librarian for company-related articles. Ask your family and friends whom they know in the company and what they know about it themselves. A call to your local college alumni department may turn up former students who work at the firm. Do all that you can to learn about the company, its ownership, philosophy, where it is going, company culture, management team and style, subsidiary interests, market position, reputation, company history, net worth, brochure, and anything else you can dig up. You will also want to identify three major industry issues, problems and trends to discuss at the interview.

Contact the firm's marketing or public relations department to get brochures and annual reports. Go to a library to examine the Dun & Bradstreet Directory and Register, the D & B Credit Reports, the Thomas Register, the "Who's Who" series of books, Standard & Poor's Corporate Record and Register of Corporations, Executives and Directors, Moody's News Reports and Manuals, and library periodical listings such as the Wall Street Journal, Barron's, New York Times, Value Line Investment Surveys, and other business and trade publication. If the firm is publicly owned, contact the Securities and Exchange Commission to obtain a copy of the firm's prospectus and 10K form which should indicate recent financial and hiring activities, and the salaries and benefits of the firm's top executives. For a fee, a quick, private source of 10K forms on any public company is the National Investment Counsel, Inc., 80 Wall Street, NY, NY, 10005, Call (212) 988-8860.

 

2. Listing of Print Research Materials

  • Who's Who is American, Finance & Industry, South and Southwest:
  • Marquis Who's Who, Inc. (3002 Glenview Road; Wilmette, IL. 60091; 312-441-2210 in IL.; 800-323-4601 elsewhere). Every two years.

  • Reference Book of Corporate Management;
  • Dun's Marketing Services (3 Century Drive; Parsippany, NJ 07054; 800-624-0324 in NJ, 800-256-0651 elsewhere) Annual.

  • Standard & Poor's Register of Corporations: Directors and Executives: Standards & Poor's Corporation (25 Broadway; New York, NY 10004; 212-208-8786) Annual, with quarterly update.
  • Occupational Outlook handbook; US Dept of Labor (U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington , D.C. 20402)
  • American Almanac of Jobs and Salaries: John W. Wright. Avon
  • Books (NY, NY). 1987-1988 Edition, a revision

  • Jobs Rated Almanac; Edited by Les Krantz. World Almanac Publishers (NY, NY)
  • Directory of Occupational Titles; U. S. Department of Labor (U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402)
  • Jobs- What They Are, Where They Are, What They Pay;
  • By Robert and Annie Snelling, Simon & Schuster (NY,NY)

  • America's Corporate Families: Dun's Marketing Services
  • (Mountain Lake, NJ)

  • The Corporate 1,000; Monitor Publishing Co. 104 Fifth Avenue,
  • New York, NY, 10011; 212-627-4140

  • Readers Guide to Periodical Literature; Local Library
  • How to Find Information about Companies;
  • Washington Researchers, Ltd. (2612 P Street NW, Washington, DC; 202-333-3533)
  • Jobs 1991; Kathryn and Ross Petras, Prentiss-Hall Press
  • Employment and Earnings; U.S. Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents (Washington, DC; 202-377-2112)
  • Trinet Directory of Leading U.S. Companies: the Top 1,500, the second 1,500, the Top Private; Trinet, Inc (Nine Campus Drive, Parisippany, NJ 07054; 800-367-3282)
  • Ward's Directory of Leading Public and Private Companies; Baldwin H. Ward Publications (929 Petaluna Boulevard, North Petaluma, Ca. 94952; 707-762-0737)
  • Moody's Industrial Manual & Moody's Industry Review; Moody's Investor Service, Inc. (99 Church Street, New York, NY, 10013; 212-553-0300)
  • Macmillan Directory of Leading Private Companies; National Register Publishing Company, Macmillan, Inc. (3004 Glenview Road, Wilmette, IL, 60091)
  • Peterson's Guide to Business and Management Jobs:
  • Peterson's Guides (P.O. Box 2123, Princeton, NJ, 08543; 609-924-5338 or 800-338-3282)

  • Thomas Register: Thomas Publishing Co. (One Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY, 10013; 212-695-0500.
  • Dun & Bradstreet Reference Book of Corporate Managements; Dun & Bradstreet Million Dollar Directory;Dun's Marketing Services (Three Century Drive, Parsippany, NJ, 07054; 201-455-0900)

The Internet, AOL, or Nexis can also be convenient and helpful online resources. Visit the company's web site for new articles, news, press releases, internal newsletters, job listings, and other information. For public companies try Hoovers at http://www.hoovers.com or the SEC's Edgar Database for 10K reports at http://www.sec.gov. There are also a list of company research guides located with the Riley Guide at http://www.rileyguide.com/search.html and http://www.rileyguide.com/employer.html.

Don't stop digging until you have a clear, specific understanding of what you're up against in the interview. Bear in mind that your research may indicate the inadvisability of going through with a scheduled interview. You should be concerned when you hear the same cautionary tale from several sources. At the same time, it is unwise to eliminate a company categorically just because its track record isn't perfect. Virtually every company has made a bad hire at one point or another, or has launched a new product or entered a new business area without success. But if you find - and verify - unsettling things in your research for which you can not find satisfactory explanations, cancel your interview. No opportunity is worth risking your career and reputation.

Throughout your career, finding the best jobs will take time and concerted effort. Keep your burden manageable by only interviewing with the best firms you encounter, preferably one at a time.

3. Call The Employer's Recommended Recruitment Firm

Consider calling the company's independent recruiting agency. By calling someone in potential employer's human resource department you may be able to get a referral to a good, outside recruiter which is probably the one they use. This recruiter can give you the scoop on your potential employer-to-be. Inquire as to what employee attributes attitudes and styles are favored or frowned upon, as well as what the interview process entails at the firm. Any unique employee benefits (flex time, firm takes off on Friday afternoons, etc.). Try to get a feel for the type of skills sought, major responsibilities, technical problems and job objectives. This will help you formulate your own background so that it says the things that are most important to the specific job.

4. Getting The Inside Story

Sometimes the only way to find out about a company is to call them directly. There is nothing wrong with calling a potential peer who may currently hold a position similar to what you will be applying for and asking some honest questions that define the department and manager. Find out his or her education level, background, style and "hot button" issues. You can also speak to someone in the mailroom, the marketing department or to a junior employee inside the department.

However you can call the supervisor you will be working for directly. This is not something you want to do until you are confident you have researched the company and position as best as you can so that you make a good first impression. If you do call, ask him or her to describe the position to you and what qualities are being sought in the new hire. You might also see if you could schedule a 15-minute meeting to learn more about the supervisor's department and how you might help them.

If you already have a meeting scheduled, it should be easy to call beforehand to ask specific questions that you may not have been able to obtain information on during your research.

For example, you might say:

"Charlie, I'm looking forward to our meeting this Wednesday. Are there any materials you'd like me to bring? I've selected only a few employers to meet with, and I must say that I'm very impressed by what I've learned about your firm. That Goldman job you completed last May was an exceptional achievement. I understand you had something to do with the project's success? Quick question Charlie, what is your background? What qualifications do you see as critical to the person's success?"

It's not a good idea to push too hard with your questions, but if you have the person on the phone you should try to get as much as you can to help in your preparation.

 

5. Self Evaluation And Inventory

It's important to do a skills, traits and accomplishments inventory on yourself to help you understand how best to package and present your qualifications. Be as thorough as possible and focus on your three best and most appropriate qualities as it relates to the job you are interviewing for. Get advice from your work peers, mentors, friends and family.

Make sure to highlight your greatest accomplishments at work, school and with your personal life that are relevant to the job. You only need to recall the three most relevant to the job you are applying for, and include them in your resume. Most employers will only remember three to four things about you so make sure you have stressed the three or four you want them to remember. You might also repeat them at the end of your interview as a closing summary, and again in your "Thank You" letter.

6. Role Playing

Role-playing gets you ready for interviews by helping you view yourself and the position you seek from the employer's perspective. Your goal should be learning to emphasize your best attributes and downplay your shortcomings as they relate to the position available. Performing well in an interview does not mean changing who you are.

Begin by using the list of credentials, attributes, skills, and accomplishments you made comparing yourself and the right candidate for the job. Prepare a list of questions, which you think the interviewer will ask, and formulate your answers. Next, prepare a list of thoughtful, specific questions you should ask in the interview. Include questions to indicate you have researched the firm, questions about the job opportunity and the management team, and questions to use, as diversion should you find yourself in troubled waters.

Master the one-minute commercial about yourself. It's very important that you rehearse how to describe yourself effectively in one minute. You want to learn the techniques of selling your comments rather than telling your comments so that you market yourself with every comment. Sell your accomplishments and not just tell the facts.

If you find yourself not qualified in some way, turn the negative into a positive by stressing what you do offer. If you have no direct job experience stress your related experience, and your proven accomplishments as being a quick study.

When the interviewer has not provided you an opportunity to stress all of your relevant experience, then ask a leading question that will give you this opportunity. An example would be to ask if computer skills are useful in this job and then stress your relevant computer experience.

Using a video or tape recorder, a mirror or a friend, practice the interview as both interviewer and candidate. Rehearse your roles from the initial greeting to the final good-bye. Play back the tape and honestly evaluate and improve your performance.

You might also consider approaching another person who is looking for a job and work together as employer and candidate interviewing and assisting each other with the role play. You can also contact a professional career counselor who will assist you with your preparation and role play.

The previous information is written and copyrighted by Frederick C. Hornberger, Jr., president of Hornberger Management Company, a national board and executive search firm specializing in the construction industry. This information is provided for personal use only. It may not be copied, printed or distributed to anyone other than you the reader, for any reason without permission from the author. Contact the author at address One Commerce Center, #747, Wilmington, Delaware 19801, phone 302-573-2541, email fch@hmc.com, or through the company web site at www.hmc.com.