We have all been there. Sitting in the hot seat and getting grilled with questions like “Why do you want to work here? What Strengths can you add to our organization? Give me an example of a time you had to deal with conflict.“ If you are like me and have fits where you are all set to deliver the perfect answer but instead say something like “I like pizza. I like it a lot!“, then you need a device to help you put all of your preparation in front of you to be ready for anything.
No, this won’t answer every question they come at you with, but being prepared to give a great answer to ice-breaker questions will definitely put you on the map. The fact is, once you write it out, you probably won’t need it for anything other than a gentle reminder of what to say.
Interview Preparation Worksheet – The W’s
Perhaps the most important information on your job interview prep sheet is The W’s. You need to know the Where, Who, When, What and Why before going into the interview. This is pretty straight forward, the Where covers the company and interview location. Who is the person(s) that you will need to woo during your interview. The When is the date and time that you interview. The What is the job that you are interviewing for and Why is the reason you want to work for them.
Starting with When, this is the date and time of the interview. You will need to be completely prepared before this time and show up slightly ahead of the interview. Make sure your clothes are crisp and neat, you are well groomed. I prefer to do my interviews before lunch, because I always reward myself with a juicy cheeseburger later. If you do interview after lunch, make sure you have a way to prevent spills and bad breath or other body odors. Ew.
Where you interview is very important. You want to not only know where to go for the interview but you want to know where you are interviewing. Do your research about the company. Find their web page and check out their history as well as major officers and any recent news releases. Take some notes and put them on the Interview Preparation Worksheet – maybe while you are discussing the weather, you can bring up their new location near Miami. Keep them talking as much as they enjoy it.
You can also investigate Who you are interviewing with. Make sure you write down all the interviewer’s names, and if you can get contact information. Don’t stalk, but look them up on LinkedIn. You might get lucky and find that they belong to an organization you belong to as well – or that they went to your college. You can see what positions they held before they are where they are now and you might be able to develop some good interview questions from that information.
In the What section, write the position you are interviewing for and any highlighted information that you might be able to speak to throughout the interview. Don’t use the entire job posting – have that with you on another sheet of paper. Just pull out a few tidbits that you have a good experience with and be ready to provide Situation – Action – Results (SAR) statements for. If you have a great example that connects you to the job you are interviewing for, you will tack on some bonus points.
Why is the most important section to fill out. You WANT this job, that is WHY you applied for it and spent so much time preparing. Don’t let them ask you why you want to work here and not have a prepared statement for it. Don’t go for low hanging fruit here either, pull from your research and deliver a well-thought-out description of what you like about the company and how you feel you can grow with them.
Introduce Yourself – Your Elevator Speech
Write it down. When you introduce yourself, you want to make it short but thought out enough to put you in a nutshell. Don’t go into detail about things, but make sure the interviewers will know who you are and what you are about. This is your life story in 20 to 30 seconds. Make each one of those seconds count by being well-thought-out, practiced and prepared. Writing it down and having it in front of you will not only remind you what it is, but it will comfort you to know that it is there if you brain fart. Try to use an example of what kind of work you try to do. Not a job itself but a way you try to make the world better for everyone.
You should also practice this elevator speech until it gets stuck in your head like a favorite song. Your elevator speech will go a long way in helping you build your network. As soon as you start your new job, you will find yourself drawing back to it over and over until you know everyone you work with and they know you.
Accomplishments that make you Shine – Reasons to Hire You
I have said this before, but most interviewers will have a pre-generated set of questions they probably pulled out of the company procedure or googled before they started the process. It’s my opinion that these questions don’t matter a lot. By the time they get to these questions, they already have an idea of who they want to hire for the position, right now they are just doing their due diligence to see if you can make up for the first impression.
Have a list of accomplishments at the ready to answer those questions with. Make sure the accomplishments are broad enough to cover a lot of different questions. Wow them with a great SAR statement about that accomplishment and make sure it fits with the questions. Let them know how those accomplishments positively affected your organization and co-workers.
Your Questions Here – Time to Put the Interviewer in the Chair
You should go into each interview with a list of 3 questions on your interview prep worksheet and be prepared to follow each answer with does up question. Basically, soften them up with the first question then ask a tougher one that plays off their answer.
- You: I do have a few questions for you, Bob. What do you like about working for this company?
- Bob the Interviewer: I like the family atmosphere here. I am with these people more than my family, so it makes me happy to have good people around me.
- You: That sounds great! So does that make work enjoyable or is it just the social interaction that you enjoy?
This makes a total of six questions but 3 will have to be spontaneous. That doesn’t mean you can’t think of the direction to go in, but at least you can have an idea before you ask it.
Wrapping up the Interview
There is no worse feeling failure than to know you blew a job interview. Getting in a habit to be over prepared will go a long way in alleviating pre-interview jitters. Create a template in Word or Excel to be a job interview cheat sheet for your interview preparation and be show off your organizational skills. Having all of your research and questions ready will help you make that first impression to your interviewer and put you at the top of their candidate list.
But – there is always one last reminder I put on my checklist. SMILE! I write it at the very top to be a reminder that a smile I can be the difference between yes and no.
Please let me know if you have anything you like to include in your list while preparing for an interview. Maybe you can add it to your own interview cheat sheet.