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Pre-Interview Preparation

Phone and Face to Face

You’re first interview, and perhaps the first several, likely will be conducted by phone. Try to use a land line not a cell phone. I strongly recommend that you use a headset in order to have your hands free. From a practical point of view you’re free to more easily look for something on your resume. Far more importantly is that being hands free allows you to use gestures and be more expressive in answering questions. It sounds strange that a gesture would be important during a phone screen since the interviewer can’t see you. But your movements and gestures will, believe it or not, translate into more enthusiasm and the interviewer WILL perceive this vitality.

Step one in preparation begins with being sure you know your own resume. If you stumble on its factual details, they can become a focal point for the interviewer to dwell on. Be sure you can back up everything you say. Be aware that more and more employers will ask me, or check themselves, to verify employment dates, academic degrees, even grade point averages.

Your interviewer will have a copy of your resume; have one in front of you as well. Have a pencil and paper ready to take notes both on areas to which they are drawn and to jot down that you might have.

With your resume have in front of you the job description. This gives you the ability to question the interviewer about specifics. “I see you are asking for Perl scripting…my experience with BioPerl for XYZ Company may be of value because…”

In my qualifying conversations and emails with you I attempt to correlate your work experiences with the specifics of the position. At the intersection of their needs and your skills is where you’ll begin preparing vivid, succinct anecdotes of your background and accomplishments.

In essence, an interview is a time for story telling. Your "stories" are 90 second to two minute snapshot anecdotes of the successes from your work history. Practice beforehand what you want to say about your accomplishments and your experience. During the interview, you want to have the content down pat so you’re not stumbling for what to say, and instead can focus on your delivery of the information… being smooth and polished in your presentation. When answering questions, be succinct; don’t ramble. Practice beforehand – into a mirror or to another person – how you might vividly and enthusiastically describe your accomplishments in 90 to 120 seconds.

Organize your stories to cover several domains:

  • Deadline pressure dealt with successfully;
  • An especially complex, challenging project;
  • One that covers the key technology on which the client will have you working;
  • One that shows you working well with others;
  • Leading a team or being a manager…whatever is appropriate.

ALWAYS put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer. Employers want to hire “difference makers,” individuals who can propel their companies ahead of the competition. Your anecdotal information on accomplishments should always be geared to showing how your involvement, your ideas, your code, helped a company advance, to move ahead of the competition, to enter a new marketplace.

Keeping your responses to two minutes or less allows the interviewer to remain in control of the questioning and to change the subject if s/he wants. One of the most common reasons applicants blow an interview is by rambling with their answers. If your story is heading in a direction in which the interviewer does not truly care about, your brevity will allow them to regain control and change the subject to meet their needs.

Among questions you might prepare to answer:

  • Describe your most significant achievement on your current job?
  • What is your strongest skill?
  • How do you perform under pressure or deadlines?
  • What major problem have you encountered and how did you deal with it?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What do you know about our company?

Click here for a full list of "could be asked" questions.

I have worked with Jamie Riley for over six years and I must say his ability to understand positions ranging from Chemist, Formulations and Clinical Research to Vice President of Research has been a breath of fresh air. He has been able to impact on our staffing issues with key placements that were critical to us in a timely manner. When a candidate comes to me from Jamie they are sold on the location, salary, relocation, and title up front w..."

-- VP HR

 

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