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May 1, 2009
How To Prepare For Interviews
Okay we’ve all read these tips before. It’s not brain surgery, but somehow the art of interviewing still eludes us. You think of yourself as a “people person,” but then somehow all intelligent thought seems to vanish as you blankly stare back at the recruiter. So here are a few quick tips to help prepare you for that hard-earned interview.
  1. Know who you are meeting
It might seem pretty silly, but I have spoken with too many people who don’t know our location or our client list. A good rule of thumb is don’t ask a question that a quick Google search could have helped you answer. You can also use social networks like LinkedIn to get a feel for the individuals that you will meet. Just remember to keep a balanced approach. You want them to think that you have done your research and are genuinely interested in the company, not stalking them online.
  1. Know what to ask
You may feel like a dork pulling out a prepared list of questions. Don’t. It’s impressive and shows that you have thoughtfully done your work. Based on Tip #1, it takes preparation to think of some questions that show you have done your research and are still hungry to know more. It also shows an attitude of wanting to learn more, which is attractive.  Let’s face it, nobody knows everything about anything.
Also, if you know you are interviewing with multiple people, save questions for each person. I’ve gotten feedback several times from teams where the first person thought the candidate was intriguing and the final interviewer though they were a dud.
It is also helpful to keep in mind some no-no question topics, especially for the first interview. Yes, we all care about bonuses, benefits, how to move up in the company, but save those for later when the talk becomes more serious.
  1. Know what you need to know
This rule mainly applies to those who are recent graduates or for those who want to make a career change. It is easy to read a job description and give yourself a mental check mark for being able to do it all. Yes, you may be able to multitask, communicate, delegate, etc. But do you really know what the job entails? I don’t have to tell you how competitive the market is; you know, you are out there. If you are applying for a position new to you, make sure you know what the daily work entails, how it fits into the whole agency, and what you have done in previous roles that directly corresponds to it.
  1. Know your goal
It’s tempting to say you are a jack-of-all-trades, in this market you don’t want to rule anything out. You go to a company’s website and see a project manager, account executive, and media planner positions posted. You then speak with the recruiter and instead of confidently declaring which position you would be the best fit for, something like this slips out of your mouth, “Well, I am open to anything, where do you think I would best fit?” This is clearly the wrong answer. We are not here to help you with your career decisions. Know what you want! If the recruiter feels you are better fit for a different team or that they want to get you in the door no matter what, they will. But leave that up to them.
  1. Know what to wear
It may seem silly, but the wrong apparel can kill your interview. For our agency, if a person comes in wearing business attire most likely it will send all the signals that he/she is not a culture fit. It will take a really strong interview to dig you out of that first impression. Solution? Ask your recruiter or interview contact. Companies don’t want to sabotage you or lead you astray. The quicker they find a successful candidate, the less work for them. So it pays to ask what they recommend.
  1. Know yourself
Okay you’ve done the networking, you’ve crafted your resume 1,000 times and it has finally paid off. You have earned the coveted interview. Before you get in there, the last thing that I can tell you is to be yourself. They’ve seen your resume and invited you for a visit because of it. Now they want to see that you are a real person who could be a fit into their company culture. Be prepared to answer questions about things they can’t see on your resume. They want to know your passions, hobbies, book list, etc.  As cheesy as it sounds, it is about people connecting with other people.

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Jean Cormier is a recruiter for McKinney, a Durham, N.C.-based agency with clients, including Brown-Forman, Qwest Communications, NASDAQ, Travelocity, Virgin Mobile USA, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Sherwin-Williams, Coldwell Banker, and Gold's Gym. Her passion for living in North Carolina is second only to her love of recruiting the best talent in the business to McKinney. Jean also leads the agency's college and graduate school internship program.

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