Quick Tips for Interview Prep

Pieces of a dream: If you think about it, that's what job interviews are. And the better your candidates perform, the more likely your dreams will come true.

Unfortunately, there's no industry standard for interview preparation. A hands-off approach saves time, but produces an ill-informed and potentially toxic candidate. On the other hand, a hyper-prepped candidate requires a huge investment in time and might come across as slick, canned or phony.

As in most aspects of recruiting, it's best to strike a balance between two extremes and keep things quick, simple and easy to remember. After all, your goal is to give your candidates guidance without wallpapering over their soulsor their spontaneity.

Here are five essential points to discuss:

1. Presentation. First impressions are important, so make sure
your candidates' wardrobe, hygiene and accessories (including resumes and/or samples of their work) are appropriate for the interview. If you can't meet with your candidates in person, run through a checklist the night before the sendout.

2. Self-confidence. A resume or referral got them in the door, but their ability to sell themselves will get them the job. If your candidates don't believe they have what it takes to succeed, the employer won't, either.

3. Critical skills. Most jobs have a single piece of work that takes priority over everything else. During the interview, your candidates will need to find outor confirmwhat's most important to the employer and explain how they can solve the problem. If the employer can't visualize a candidate as the solution, the person probably won't get hired.

4. Demeanor. Employers are quick to hire candidates who are upbeat, engaged and enthusiastic. But they're just as quick to take a pass on those who are dour, detached and listless. Remind your candidates that people are hired and fired for reasons other than their skills, so an attitude adjustment may be necessary prior to the interview.

5. Empathy. Understanding how others feelwithout criticizing or passing judgmentis the single most important "soft skill" in business. And in the context of a job interview, an expression of empathy will help your candidates sidestep a multitude of common landmines.

For example, if your candidate has been treated unfairly by a former boss, he can either fall into a familiar trap and criticize his boss and vent his frustration (which is a mistake); or he can take the high road by shrugging off the abusive behavior as a result of all the pressure his manager must be feeling in order to turn a profit. If you were the interviewer, who would you rather hire: a disgruntled candidate or a candidate who looks at his situation in a mature and thoughtful way?

Heres another example. An empathetic candidates will downplay his own salary needs during the interview and focus instead on how he can help the new employer achieve his companys goals. See how the candidate sidesteps the issue of money? All things being equal, the greater a candidate's demonstration of empathy, the greater the odds of being hired, particularly when being considered for a management role.

Two Tiers of Interview Prep
I spent the early part of my recruiting career placing low- to mid-level engineering candidates. Later on, as I began to place director-level and C-level candidates, I found their interview preparation needs to be very different.

Generally speaking, the lower the level of candidate, the more guidance they need with respect to basic interviewing technique and how to answer specific questions related to their technical skills. In other words, the more junior the candidate, the narrower their focus on the job during the interview.

As candidates are promoted into broader levels of responsibility, their field of vision broadens as well. As a result, managerial candidates don't need to be coached on their interviewing technique or on how to solve specific technical problems. Instead, they need hard information about the prospective employer's market position, strategic vision and performance metrics.

I've often noticed a peculiar similarity between parenting and recruiting. Those in your care need to feel safe and have the resources to succeed. As a parent or a recruiter, that's your responsibility to your children or your candidates. But at a certain point you need to let go, keep your fingers crossedand hope their dreams come true.

By Bill Radin
 BlackDog Recruiting Software Inc.
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