It has often been said that interviewing is like speed dating with the intention of an arrangedmarriage: employers and candidates meet and talk for a short pre-defined period before making a long-term decision. When the stakes are high, a good strategy for decision making is to identify what you need to know before the interview. And on the career front, there are always many options of information pre-interview that you can use to your advantage. Here are three strategies that you can use:
1. Know what you need to ask. Conduct a pre-interview with an outside party.
One of the quickest ways to break into a new field or land a new job quickly is to identify the best questions to ask during the interview. Nothing turns a potential employer off more quickly than having an interviewee with no questions (they'll either think you know everything, are disinterested, or not generally engaged.)
A great way to explore opportunities and prepare for interviews is to ask people outside the organization who work in a similar capacity specific questions. Examples:
- What is the biggest misunderstanding that candidates for this type of job have about the position?
- What is your greatest need? Is this need unique to your organization or do others who work in similar areas often face this challenge?
- What's the best way to research your field?
2. Know how to ask
It's easy to get lost in the e-mail queue. If you're asking a question via e-mail, make it easy to answer. Here are two great resources on how to make this happen:
- How to write an e-mail that generates a useful response
The Brazen Careerist, Penelope Trunk, provides five strategies on how to write e-mail that won't get lost in the queue. Among her strategies: Be brief, be specific, and ask the right question of the right person.
3. Know Who to Ask
If you are interested in a specific opportunity, be very strategic about what you ask--even if you're asking friends who currently work in a similar capacity. Know the answers to your basic questions before you create a list of questions for decision makers.
Here's is a real-world example of how one college student landed her dream internship with a boutique, big-name film production company:
By the time she finished the question, she essentially had landed the interview: she had already demonstrated that she was ready.
Trying to figure out what to ask? A great starting point is the Question and Answer section on LinkedIn. Through this feature of LinkedIn, community members both ask and answer questions. You can search previous answers and--if you don't find one that suits--ask your own (this may also result in additional leads for your search).
I'd love to follow-up this post with one on "the best question I ever asked" and "how it helped." Send your success stories my way!