Congratulations! Your prospective employer wants to interview you. This is a noteworthy accomplishment. It means that your application stood out from the sea of competitors and was compelling enough to move you to the next phase of the hiring process. So, what now?
Preparing for the interview is essential. It demonstrates to the hiring team that you are taking this opportunity seriously (though remember that it is not a life or death situation), that you really want the position, and that you are likely to be successful in performing the job. Of the nearly 1,000 interviews that I have been involved with, my colleagues and I have always given preference to candidates who demonstrate that they have done their “homework.” On the flip side, we have also been let down by top-notch candidates who did not. Being prepared always pays off because it makes a positive impression on the interviewer(s). Even if you are not hired, showing that you were prepared usually ensures that you will be considered for other jobs or opportunities for which you did not apply. I have seen this happen frequently and I am always thrilled when it does.
While there are a number of interview preparation methods, I recommend focusing on what; how; and you.
In my career, I have learned to make a point of checking in with myself –reflecting on why I want to join a team and identifying areas where I could add unique value. If you do nothing else, prepare a three to four minute pitch in response to this standard interview question: “Why this position, why this company, why you?” Practice your pitch on friends or family members. This simple, useful exercise always pays off; both in terms of your ability to articulate a succinct answer as well as for the self-discovery that evolves from the reflection process.
Hiring managers also evaluate candidates based on the questions that they ask. This includes questions that were prepared in advance as well as ones that were formulated during the course of the interview. It is often the quality of the candidate’s questions that stand out most and set a candidate apart. Think about two to three things that you genuinely hope to learn. Demonstrate that you can draw connections between themes that arise during the interview and remember to modify your questions based on the flow and content of the conversation. Take a few notes to help with this as that is also looked on favorably by interviewers.
After the interview? Exhale, send a thank you note, and take a pause to celebrate yourself. Then, check out PCDN’s Career Series for more specific tips.
Cheryl Saferstein is a recruiter at the U.S. Institute of Peace and serves on the career advisory board at PCDN. At USIP Cheryl coordinates full life-cycle recruitment with hiring managers (for DC and overseas positions); administers USIP’s research assistant and research visa programs; and provides broad HR operations support. Cheryl previously served on USIP’s Executive Office and Outreach teams, where she managed events, arranged programming for student groups, and supported USIP’s 2013 strategic planning process. Cheryl holds a Bachelors of Arts in International Relations from American University (AU) and is certified as a “Teacher of English as a Foreign (Second) Language.”