The Job Search: A Predictable Process
Finding and landing a job you love is hard work, but all job searches follow a fairly predictable path. You’ll think about the kind of job you want or the work you feel most qualified for. You may identify a specific industry or company you want to join. Then you start looking at openings, combing job boards, searching online, and talking to people you know. You submit an application, probably online, and go through some preliminary screening steps.
Eventually, you’ll get to the final step in the process: the job interview.
If you’re like a lot of active duty personnel who are transitioning, this might be the first job interview you’ve ever had, or it could be the first one in a while. The idea of a job interview can seem intimidating. It’s natural to feel a little nervous.
Job interviewing is a skill, and like all the skills you learned in the military, interviewing takes some basic training to build competence and confidence.
Remember the purpose of the interview: it’s a prospective employer’s opportunity to get to know you as a person and for you to get to know the employer. It’s a two-way street: you’re both checking each other out to see if there’s a comfortable fit.
It’s a bit like a first date or a conversation with a new friend – you’re learning and sharing – but with more at stake.
You can ace any job interview with preparation, practice, and repetition.
It’s been said that success is when preparation meets opportunity. The interview is the opportunity; your preparation will lead to success. Here are three preparation tips.
- Research the company. Come into the interview with an understanding of what the business is all about. What do they sell or provide? What do they stand for and what are they known for? A company’s website is the place to start your research.
- Study the job. Do your best to learn about the job you’re applying for. Think about how your skills and experience match the job requirements and be prepared to talk about why you’re the right fit.
- Plan your story. The interview is an opportunity to talk about yourself – it’s not bragging! Once you know about the organization and the position, prepare how you’ll talk about your training, experience, and education and how you will add value to the employer.
You can’t wing-it on an interview and expect to get the job. Great interviews take practice. With smart preparation under your belt, you can practice for the actual interview. Here are four tips for how and what to practice.
- What will the interviewer ask? You can expect to get questions like,
- Tell me about yourself.
- What makes you interested in this job?
- How do you think your experience matches what we’re looking for?
- If you were in a situation like ___, what would you do?
- Tell me about a time when ___.
An online search of interview questions can give you more examples. While you can’t anticipate every question, you can practice answers to these types of questions.
- What questions do you have? Good interviewers will always ask this question and base part of their hiring decision not just on what those questions are but on whether you asked them at all. Practice what you’ll ask! A pointer: questions about the company culture, the work, are the team are good places to start. Questions about taking a vacation or when you’ll get a raise are not a good idea!
- How will the interview go? If your interview is in person, make sure you know where it is, how to get there, and how much travel time it will take. You may even want to practice your route in advance. If your interview is virtual, double and triple check your technology to be sure it will work on interview day. Take a look at what your computer camera sees: clean up behind you, make sure the background reflects your best qualities or add a virtual background before the interview starts. And think about what to wear to look your best, like someone who wants the job and will get it done.
- Do a mock interview. Ask a trusted friend or family member to do a mock or test interview with you. Practice how you’ll answer and ask each question you’ve planned for. Use your smartphone to record the interview so you can see what the interviewer sees.
You may be lucky enough to have one interview and get the job you want. If you’re like most people, you’ll have several interviews before you find the right position and company. Once hired, you can expect more interviews as you move up in the organization or make career changes. And you may be in the interviewer’s chair someday, too!
Every interview is an opportunity to learn, improve, and refine your skills. Here are three things to consider as you repeat the interview process.
- Take time for serious reflection on how the interview went. What questions and answers do you feel especially proud of? Where can you improve next time? Don’t beat yourself up; learn from the experience.
- Build for the future. Think about the questions you were asked that you weren’t expecting and add them to your mental database. Over time, you’ll have more experiences you can draw from as you prepare for any interview.
- Seek interview opportunities. You can repeat and practice the interview experience anytime you meet someone new, explore a volunteer opportunity, or mentor a new young recruit. Even those these aren’t actual job interviews, the skills you’ll use to learn about a person organization are the same.
Interview skills are like muscles: it takes work and commitment to get strong, but the payoff is always worth it.