Elena Ivanushkina

Why people fail job interviews? What we can control about this process? How to prepare an interview to succeed? Answering those questions can help to be at your best and feeling less stressed.

In my headhunting practice, it’s common that the candidate couldn’t  evaluate if the interview went well or not.  “I think it went well”, saying the candidate, “I’m waiting for the next steps”. “This candidate is out of the process” saying the hiring manager or HR person. Frustrating?

Let’s have a look what can be in our control and how we start with preparation:

1. Collect information about the company:

Sometimes candidates limit themselves by reading the company web-site. It’s not enough.  Check additional sources of information to know market situation, annual results, who are the main competitors, etc. Find someone via your network who is working in the company and interview them to get extra information.

2. Know your interviewers:

Check  in LinkedIn the profile of the persons who’ll interview you. Reflect on their work experience and think about what might be important for them. Maybe you can find some common points – shared connections, education and interests?

3. Prepare your answers for frequently asked questions:

  • Be clear about your Top strengths. Look at the job description – what are the main requirements for soft skills? Which ones of those can be your strengths? Think about real examples from your work, where you’ve demonstrated those strengths.
  • Be prepared to answer the question about your weaknesses. Spend time to it think through. Beware of naming directly the weakness which might be important to get the position.  From the other hand, the answer like “I’m working too hard” can be evaluated as made up, with the lack of transparency. It can be a good occasion to take on of your weaknesses from the past and illustrate how you’ve overcome it. For example, learned a foreign language or learned how to delegate.
  • Prepare the question “Tell me about your main achievement”. The question may have some variations, like:
    • “Tell me about the most difficult project you’ve handled?”
    • or “What was your main learning in this position?”

So, be sure you have a structured answer ready. Remember, that your answer should take from 3 to 5 minutes.  Start with a short introduction of the project and spend at least 70% of the time describing YOUR role in it. Which strengths had helped you to reach the results?

Note that the recruiter is evaluating several points here:

  1. What “big” or “difficult “means to you. Be sure, that the project you’ve picked was challenging enough.
  2. Which qualities did you use to overcome those challenges? What is your approach to problem-solving, overcoming the difficulties and establishing the relationships?

Manage the first impression

  • That might look basics, but don’t underestimate your appearance. In my headhunting practices, candidates were rejected because of inappropriate look.  This is become crucial when you apply to the positions where you face the clients directly – sales, consulting or business development.
  • Be punctual. If you are late for the interview, it might be enough to fail.
  • Prepare the questions you would like to ask during the interview and write them down.
  • Be sure that you have a block note and pen and you are taking the notes during the interview as well as consulting your notes. By doing so, you show your interest in the position and give the impression of being well -organized.

To summarize, you have a bunch of actions you can do before the interview to maximize your chances of success. Improvise and come up with excellent answers by inspiration is not a great idea. And don’t assume that if you know/do your job well, it will naturally come out in the interview. The art of selling yourself while being authentic require special training. This is a skill, and the good news is that you can develop it. Be sure to reserve at least couple of hours for the preparation and it will pay off.


April 30, 2015
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