Interview Preparation – Step Two: Be Proactive

As I add on to this current series on interview preparation and last week’s post regarding the first step of interview preparation – research, I am happy to share the next step – being proactive with interview preparation. If you are proactively prepared for the interview, rather than allowing the interviewer(s) to take control, your preparation and knowledge will result in a far more productive discussion than more traditional interview processes ever would. Following are two ways you can be more proactive with preparing for your interviews —

Problems & Solutions

In preparation for the interview you must research and identify the business problems and challenges the company is trying to solve and then prepare suggestions and recommendations for solutions to those perceived problems and challenges. I assure you that this depth of preparation will set you apart from other candidates. This preparation is not only about identifying the problems or challenges; it is developing your approach to solving those problems.

Every company has all of the following – challenges, problems, issues and needs. Furthermore, every company needs ideas for solutions, a plan, a strategy, and an approach. Regardless of the industry and job function, you should never feel as though you can “wing” this part of the preparation.  Frankly, unless you have identified the problems and have ideas about how to solve the problems, you should not even bother interviewing for the opportunity.  Alternatively, if you do prepare to this depth, you will position yourself as an asset to the organization and you will rise above other candidates under consideration.

When preparing for this portion, build a bulleted list, as it will be easier to refer to during your interview. The bullets should serve as your ques and allow you to rely on your prior preparation and memory to express greater depth.  This is not a document that you prepare to hand to the interviewer.  This is solely for your personal reference during the meeting.  Simply said, these are your talking points.  As the meeting unfolds, you might find a greater emphasis placed on a specific talking point versus another. Again, this requires deep and detailed preparation in advance, but only have talking points with you in the meeting.

There are two basic problems that companies are trying to address – make more money or save more money. Therefore, your ideas and solutions could include approaches such as how to cut costs, sell more products or services, streamline processes, operate more profitability, or retain customers, to name a few. During the interview, pose the problem as you see it in the form of a question to engage their affirmative response, then follow with your suggestion for a solution.  This is a delicate balance, as you also do not want to appear presumptive.  If it grabs hold, your interviews turns into a business conversation and not just another interview. Because you focused on their future, you are not like every other candidate droning on about all of their prior successes and glories.  In other words, it is less about you and more about them.  In the end, you want them to want you there, in their organization, solving those very problems with the solutions you have generally proposed.

Several Essential Points

This portion of the preparation is mapping out four to six essential points that you must make about yourself – in other words, the value proposition that you uniquely bring to the opportunity and company. Although you will also give this plenty of preparation and thought ahead of time, these are your value proposition highlights. Ideally, these essential points are derived from a position specification or some list of requirements you know they are seeking for the role.

The essential points should include simple facts about you and your experience that is a true value differentiation. These points can include your experience, expertise, track record, accomplishments, global nature of experience, a unique blend of expertise, or your leadership style, as an example. Mostly importantly, the emphasis placed on this essential points and what you chose to highlight must be in alignment with what the company needs or is looking for.  Do not try to be all these to all people and do not try to “sell” them something they do not need.
You must determine a way to emphasize these essential points during the interview. If the meeting has not lead to a point where you can discuss these key points, then you must find a way to discuss any essential points that have not been addressed, that are critical to expressing your unique value proposition.  If you accomplish this, you can feel confident that you have had a successful interview.


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