Preparing for Interviews in a Competitive Job Market

With the number of reductions in force happening across the country in different industries, the talent competition is tight.  As someone that spends much of the week facilitating interviews, prepping for interviews, and discussing feedback from interviews, I’d love to share some tips on how to be a confident and ultimately, successful interviewer:

  • Thoroughly understand the key focus areas of the role. Break the role down into buckets of responsibilities and key deliverables.  Utilize tools like the job description, competency profiles, recruiter information packets, etc. to help organize your memories on which projects, initiatives, accomplishments you’ve realized in your background are going to be most relevant and bring the details to the forefront of your memory.  Write it down.
  • Framing your experiences in a thorough, yet succinct manner says a lot about how you will communicate and engage your colleagues if you are selected for the role. Remember to include the following information when discussing your experiences:
    • The purpose and strategy of the program, initiative, policy, change, transformation, etc.
    • Your specific role and involvement within it. What you did / what your team did.  Discuss the strategy and the operationalization.  How were you involved in both.
    • The outcome. It is key to discuss tangible data, metrics, etc.  Highlight how the needle moved in a specific and factual way.
    • The learnings. Humility and the ability to learn from all experiences tends to be a key attribute most organizations look for.  Don’t forget to share what you learned in the process and what you might do differently or better next time.
  • Be succinct. Keep an eye on the clock.  If you’re curious if they’d like more/less detail in your answers, then ASK them.  Being overly verbose in an interview is a red flag for most hiring authorities.  Staying focused in your answers and tying them back to the question asked is critical.  Don’t be afraid to ask them, “did I answer your question?  Does that make sense?”
  • If it’s a virtual interview, remember the logistics! Background, camera angle, and lighting are going to represent you whether you like it or not.  Take the time to position yourself in front of an appropriate background, or just a simple wall.  Keep the camera at eye level, not looking up at you.  Make sure you’re centralized in the video frame.  Dress as if you’re going onsite.  Power presence and polish that is aligned with the location and dress-code of the role.
  • Be genuine. We spend a lot of time with the people we work with.  Finding a chemistry fit is critical for most hiring authorities.  Being yourself, (the polished version), in an interview can be a make or break.  Take deep breaths and calm yourself and any nerves prior to entering the interview.  It’s normal to be nervous, but at the end of the day, everyone is human, and they likely just want to know if it’s a match for you and for them/their team.
  • Ask thoughtful, open-ended questions with variety. Try not to focus only on the role, but the role, the company, the outlook, the success metrics, the team, etc.  Keeping a variety of your questions will help to paint a well-rounded picture but framing them in an open-ended way will encourage the interviewer to continue talking.  The more they talk, the more answers you may get with the least number of questions asked.

In phases of time like these with so many people looking for their career home, it can be tough.  It takes a lot of time to get through an interview process and can be discouraging if it doesn’t work out.  It’s okay to feel that way and support is so needed.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to your network.  People you’ve built relationships with along the way.  Recruiters you know.  Experts in the industry.  Advice, a sounding board.  Sometimes the least suspecting people will be the conduit between you and where you’re meant to be.  You’ll get there.


About Ayla Maloney

Ayla, Managing Partner, Head of People Operations, is passionate about genuinely connecting with and guiding professionals to career and life-enhancing opportunities. She has been with The Christopher Group for over seven progressive years and sits on the firm’s Leadership Team. To learn more about Ayla visit her bio page.