Prepare for Your Best Interview
There is little doubt that if you are in a job search, the interviewing process can be a bit of a nerve-wracking process. You, most likely, will be meeting new people, learning about a brand new organization, and having to speak about yourself in the best possible light. The biggest error anyone can make when going to an interview is not being as prepared as possible. While many of the below points may seem obvious, overlooking one thing can be the difference from a good interview to not advancing in the process.
- Research, Research, Research: It is hopeful that a potential candidate would research an organization prior to even submitting a resume. Not only know what the mission and vision of the organization is, but understand what it truly means and be able to speak to it during your interview. Find the most recent 990 that is submitted on GuideStar to gain at least a high-level understanding of the revenue, who the largest funders to the organization are, and what are their largest expenses.
In addition, the position description may give some ideas of what the priorities are for the organization, whether it is an upcoming campaign, new or updated programs, or if there will be any expansions to the staff. Understand what role the position may provide to these changes to the organization and be prepared to answer any questions that may come your way.
- Introduction: Whether your interview is over the phone, via Skype, or in person, a strong introduction can help get your interview off on the right foot. Now is the time to give your “elevator speech”. Many times, especially early in the interview process, those conducting the interview will want to understand your background and how it is relevant to the position. Your introduction should not be improvised. While you may not know exactly how they want to learn about your background, you should practice with someone the points that you want to stress to the organization with which you are interviewing.
During your introduction, it is also an important time to establish eye contact and a strong posture. Slouching in your chair and looking down or off to the side will give an impression that you are not confident in your abilities. Make sure to sit up straight, fold your hands in front of you, and feel confident in yourself.
- Vocalize your Strengths and Weaknesses: Being able to discuss your strengths goes without saying during any interview setting. These strengths will help show why your background helps set you apart from the crowd. However, be prepared to speak to your weaknesses as well. Understand, this is not a trick that the interview is trying to trip you up on. None of us are perfect, thus knowing what abilities you need to work on will help show that you are self-aware. It is important that you are able to state this with confidence and not show that it will drag you down. If you are unable to name anything that you would describe as a weakness, those interviewing you may believe that you are holding something back or are not being completely truthful.
- Know your Successes: Regardless of the type of position that you are applying for, you need to develop stories that speak to your experiences on how you have helped elevate your organizations. Speak confidently and TRUTHFULLY about your role and how you helped with this success. If you exaggerate or, dare I say, lie about this, it will be found out.
- Choose your References Wisely: Each organization will be different in terms of how many and what type of references will be needed. They may ask for your most recent boss, those people that have reported to you, board members that you have worked closely with, and donors/volunteers that can speak to your strengths and successes. Prepare your references accordingly. There is nothing more uncomfortable and telling than if someone calls up a reference and they seem surprised that they are being called. You may not know who will be doing the calls, but you need to tell them in advance that it may be coming and to describe the organization and position that you are applying for. And while this may seem obvious, make sure that your reference know you well enough as to be able to speak positively about you.
- A “Thank you” Goes a Long Way: After your interview is complete, a thank you note is then next logical step. Just as you are hopefully doing for a donor that gives your organization a gift, a simple thank you note (either via email or through a written note) will show the person or people conducting the interview process that you are serious about becoming a member of the organization. The thank you note is NOT a time to re-emphasize your strengths or to try and change an answer that you are second guessing yourself on, but, rather, to display your appreciation for their time and attention. While a “thank you” may not help you to get into the next round of interviews, it certainly displays your interest.
- Evaluate and Move Forward: The one thing to understand as you are actively pursuing a job or jobs is that you will not always be hired for every job you submit your resume. If you get the call or email to tell you that you are no longer in consideration, do not argue with the person because you believe you are the best candidate. You may believe that, but the people conducting the search may feel that either you need to work on something, or, there may be a candidate who has something that speaks to the hiring manager. If given the opportunity, find out if they have anything constructive to provide. Also, keeping a journal that outlines your feelings regarding the interview can give yourself some ideas about what to do differently for your next interview. Remember, each interview is a learning experience.