Hello SOTGC Community,
this post is about how to best prepare for a job interview, and holding out for what you feel you are worth once it’s underway.
One of the most daunting things when you get out of college, or are re-entering the workforce, or transitioning to another company/industry sector is the interview process. Resumes must be updated, letters of recommendation must be obtained, and “getting your foot in the door” seems to be tantamount in the age where it’s not “what you know” but “who you know”.
One of my best friends is an executive recruiter, which means she places people at the executive Vice President level through the “C Suite” positions. Her job is to prepare already extremely qualified individuals for their interview, and conversely help advise companies on who to hire based on the interviews she herself conducts. I asked her to send her quick list on strategic tips for preparing and going through the interview process. Unfortunately a prospective employer or recruiter will probably decide in the first two minutes whether they feel a person is a strong candidate for a job, and if this first impression isn’t strong, the chances of moving forward in the process can be slim to none. Here are her tips:
- Appearance – Ask questions to make sure you are look the part. We live in Southern California, some companies are totally against the traditional suit look, elsewhere in the country a suite and tie are required. If you are working with a recruiter ask them or pick up the phone and call the main office and ask the receptionist. If you can’t get an answer, wear a suit but don’t be afraid to wear color under your jacket. In addition to attire, your hair style, accessories, even your nail polish can be held against you; choose wisely.
- Presence is one of the most important qualifiers for a position and can often times weigh more heavily than your hard skills. Ask yourself, does your presence fit the mission and culture of the organization in addition to the role you are interviewing for? (Another of my friends recently went through a move to another city and had to quickly find a job that suited her level of experience. She suggested going onto LinkedIn and finding existing employees in the company and reaching out to them to learn more about the culture of that company.)
- Body Language – it doesn’t matter what comes out of your mouth, if your body language doesn’t match your words. Words that aren’t backed up by what your body language is saying puts you at risk of not getting your point across. Interviews are serious, but don’t forget to smile, sit up straight, and make eye contact. In an economic climate where there are an abundance of highly qualified candidates for every open position, companies are looking for differentiators. Body language can be a deciding factor when having to choose between two candidates.
- Knowledge – Arm yourself with as much knowledge of the company and individuals you are interviewing with as possible (Google is a great way to get as much information on who you’re interviewing with). Try to have key things that you throw into the conversation to show you’ve done your homework. Example: If you are interviewing for a Business Director/Regional Manager, or sales role, what are the company’s numbers for the last few quarters and they up, down? Why? Ask what they think has attributed to the (decrease/increase)? How can you jump in and add value?
- DON’T BE LATE and TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE – this should be a given but it never ceases to amaze me how often these two simple rules are broken.
- Follow Up – Immediately follow up with a thank you note to the individuals you met with highlighting the portions of your conversation that you enjoyed and express your interest in moving forward to the next step in the process. An email is fine, no need to send a hand written note. (I (Marney) personally ask at the end of the interview, “based on our conversation today do you feel that I’m a good candidate for the job?” If the answer is yes I immediately ask “what are the next steps in the process to move forward?” This gives me an idea of how in-depth the process is. I also ask what their time frame on filling the position is so I know if they are simply interviewing to stock candidates, or if they are looking to place very soon.)
- In addition, if you have a scheduled follow-up with the recruiter or person you interviewed with and you do not hear from them, follow-up. If they say they’ll reach out to you on Thursday and by end of business day on Thursday you have not heard from them, call and leave a message or send an email. Be sure not to accuse or point out their lack of follow through, but kindly reiterate your interest in moving forward and let them know that any update would be greatly appreciated. (Once again, if you are interviewing for a sales position, they are seeing how you sell yourself. The follow-up, persistence, and patience you exhibit during the interview process shows them what your dedication to their company with prospective clients will be if they hire you).
Time and time again I hear executives complain they haven’t heard from companies or recruiters they’ve met with, nine times out of ten when I ask if they have taken the initiative and reached out, the answer is “no”.
To recount part of the story my friend told me about her latest interview process, do your homework when you have moved to the next level. She utilized Glassdoor to find what executives in that company make, to see what the cost of living adjustment (if any) would be, and what people with her amount of experience should be asking for. This gives you a precedent to set forth when asking for your compensation. If you arbitrarily throw out a random number, with no background research as to how you got that, your chances of holding firm are weaker than if you have data to back your requests. I’m also a fan of giving yourself a raise when asking for compensation if you are moving from one company to another. Mentally take your current base salary, your “brag book” with achieved accolades in your current company, research on what comparable people in your industry and location make, and add a bit to the top. My theory is “how do you know the answer won’t be ‘yes’ if you didn’t even ask?”
Finally, hold firm to what you believe you deserve. They are not only interviewing you, you are also interviewing them. If you have a hiring manager who doesn’t feel you’re worth what you’re asking for, and you’ve done your research and followed the “to do’s of interviewing” then why would you want to put yourself in a position to work for them? Sticking to your belief of what you know you deserve can make the different between that quarterly bonus, higher salary, and overall respect you will gain before even starting work with that company and manager.
Marney Reid is a Marketing Program Manager for a global industry leader in medical device. She is also the Founder of Stilettos on the Glass Ceiling. She has nine years of sales experience in male dominated industries and is transcending the Glass Ceiling by using her authentic value proposition as a competitive advantage.