WorkWise: Getting a Job: Positioning Yourself for Success
Positioning Yourself for Success
How do you position yourself for success? You prepare yourself well for the interview so you can clearly present your value as an employee. Showing interviewers that you are a valuable employee will make them want to hire you. To do your best at a job interview, you need to spend time and energy getting ready. Here are some tips to help you position yourself for success at your next interview.
Research the company before the interview.
Before your interview, research the company, so you can understand the employees and what they do, and the job you are applying for. Many candidates skip this important step. Today, information is at your fingertips. The best place to start researching a company is on the internet. Locate the company website and look for the "About" section. This will give you an overview of what the company does. You can also look for the employer's LinkedIn page, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.
What should you look for when you research an employer? Here are some important points you should learn about in your research.
- Mission Statement. Most companies and organizations have mission statements that explain their purpose. The mission statement will tell you what the company cares deeply about. Sometimes the meaning will be very clear, using words like, "Our mission is . . ." Or you may need to infer their mission. A company may say, "We provide a high quality dining experience at a reasonable price." That means their mission is to give their customers great food and service that's affordable. Look for a statement that tells what is important to the company.
Small businesses have a mission, even if they have not stated it. You can infer this from their main product or service. For example, a construction company may only build fast-food restaurants. You can infer that the mission of the company is to build fast-food restaurants that fit the requirements and schedules of the fast food chains it works with.
The mission statement can tell you about a company's values and beliefs. Print a copy of the mission statement for each company you interview with. When preparing for your job interview, think about how you can help the company achieve its mission. (You may be asked this during the interview.) Then, come up with several key selling points that show how you will help the company achieve its mission.
For example, with the restaurant mentioned above, you could talk about your customer service ability or your excellent cooking skills. With the construction company, you could emphasize your ability to carefully follow plans and to work as part of a team to get a task done on time.
In the interview, if you can talk about exactly how you intend to help an organization achieve its mission, you will increase your chances for success.
- Products and Services. The next item to research is the company or organization's main business. What products do they offer? What services do they provide? Think about who does business with the company and why. Does the store sell inexpensive items or high price items? Does the restaurant serve fast food or elegant meals? What are the most popular items? Why? Ask yourself questions about the potential employer so you will understand the company's needs better. That way you can talk more knowledgably about how you can help.
- Customers and Clients. The terms "customers" and "clients" may seem the same. However, customers usually purchase the goods a business sells, and clients are customers that a business has an ongoing relationship with. A business might work with a client to sell goods that are customized for that client. For example, people who buy a meal from a restaurant or items from a store are customers. A senior citizen who hires a home health company to provide assistance in her home is a client.
Try to understand what a company's clients or customers expect. For example, a fast-food customer wants to get meals quickly. Meanwhile, a home health client will want people to talk with her and get to know her personal needs. Consider how you can use your skills or qualities help a company serve its customers or clients well.
- Competition. Most of your targeted employers will have competition, and you need to learn as much as you can about them. Learning about the competition will help you in the following ways. First, the more you understand the competition, the better you can think of ways to help your future employer beat the competition. Second, the more you learn about a company's competition, the more you will expand your own opportunities. If the interview doesn't work out, but you really liked the industry, you can look for opportunities at competitors.
Job hunters who research the companies they interview with usually get more job offers. So, the research is worth the time and effort.
Research your interviewers.
Along with researching the company, try to find out what you can about the people who will interview you. If you know the name of the interviewer, you can probably find some information on LinkedIn. If you do not know the name, look on the company website to see if the names of key employees are listed. You may be able to find the name of the HR manager or the head of the department you are applying for.
Check the Facebook and LinkedIn company profiles. You can also do a search for the company or search for news articles about the company. Often the names of key employees appear in news items about businesses. The more you know about your interviewer, the easier it will be to talk to him or her.
After you find the names of people who may interview you, search for their LinkedIn profiles. Review their background, job history, accomplishments, and interests. Do you have anything in common? Look for a photo, so you can recognize the interviewer when you get there. If the interviewer does not have a LinkedIn page, check Facebook and Google.
Look for relevant topics to talk about. For example, if you find out the interviewer volunteers for a nonprofit organization you support, mention the organization during the interview. Look for ways to get the interviewer to talk about himself so that you can learn more about him and the company. The interviewer will be impressed if you make an effort to learn about the company.
And remember, the interviewer may also be looking for information about you.
Decide what questions to ask.
The next step in positioning yourself for success is to list questions to ask the interviewer. Though you should be prepared to answer the interviewer's questions, you can also ask questions. In fact, most interviewers will expect you to have questions. This is your opportunity to find out more about the company and the job opening. If you do not have thoughtful questions, the interviewer may think you are not really interested in the job. Plan your questions carefully.
Interviewing can be a little like dating. If you ask too many questions or the wrong questions, then the interview may not go very well. Ask questions that prove that you already know a little about the company. Show that you are confident in your knowledge and abilities by asking thought-provoking and strong questions about the job or the company.
The key is to ask the right questions at the right time. For instance, when you first meet an interviewer, don't ask, "What are your benefits? or "How much vacation time will I get?" This will make you sound like you are not a hard worker and you are not serious about the job. Save these questions for later—at a second interview or after you get a job offer.
An important question to ask is "Can you describe the ideal candidate for this position?" Listen to the interviewer, and find out what is important to him or her. Then try to show through your answers and conversation how you fit the interviewer's idea of the ideal candidate. If the interviewer describes someone very different from you, you probably won't get the job. Not every job will be the right fit for you. Be honest and act professionally. Maybe the company will have another opening that is more suited to you.
Ask open-ended questions to get the interviewer to talk and give thoughtful responses. When you research a company, write down any questions that come up. Before the interview, ask yourself these questions and take notes.
- What questions can I ask to learn more about the job?
- What questions will help me know how the company decides who gets the job?
- What can I ask that will get the interviewer talk more about the company?
- What questions do I want to ask at the end to find out about the next steps?
Meanwhile, here are some open-ended questions that you may want to ask at the interview. Do not try to ask all these questions. Pick a few that make the most sense for your interview, and write them down.
- Can you describe the ideal candidate for this position?
- What do you see as the keys to success in this job?
- What are the most important responsibilities of this position?
- Tell me about your team members and how you see me working with them?
- In this job, who would I report to?
- What type of support is available for a person in this job?
- How often do you have employee reviews? Can you describe the process?
- In general, what types of decisions would I be expected to make without guidance? What decisions would I discuss with my supervisor?"
- This is an exciting opportunity, and we seem to understand each other. I think I would be a great member of your team. What is the next step in this process?
- It would be an honor to be part of your team. If you decide to hire me, how quickly would I be able to start?
- What is your target start date for this position?
Questions show your interest, thoughts, and preparation. Asking questions not only demonstrates your ability to listen, but also shows you are ready to work hard and succeed. Write down the questions you want to ask and bring this list with you to the interview. Bringing notes will make you look like you are well-prepared. And take notes during the interview so you'll remember what is said.