Technical, Mental And Physical Preparation

“You’ve got the interview!” may not be quite as thrilling a message as “You’ve got the job!”, but it’s music to a candidate who has spent many grueling hours (days?) creating the perfect résumé.

Difficult as the résumé writing may have been, however, once an interview is scheduled, a candidate’s real work begins. Now it’s time to get in shape mentally and physically for an event that could have momentous impact on one’s career and life.

If you’re on deck to have an interview soon, or if you expect that an opportunity will arise in the future, don’t delay toning, not only your job-specific knowledge and skill set, but also your corporate awareness, your interview style, and even your physical condition and appearance.

Do your homework

To have a successful interview, whether in person or by phone, you must be thoroughly conversant about the interviewing company and its products. This calls for you to put all your best research skills to work, including talking with acquaintances who have worked for or with the firm in question.

Food scientists have one major advantage over job seekers in other fields. A tremendous amount of industry intelligence can be gathered while you pick up a bottle of milk at the corner store.

(The Internet is a useful tool, but don’t trust it to be comprehensive or totally accurate. Plan to spend at least a few hours in library stacks scanning in-depth articles and industry directories.)

Practice, practice, practice

Practice makes perfect, but do you really want to get that practice by having interview after interview — without ever getting the job? What are you doing or saying to sabotage yourself?

You might want to consider, as soon as you begin your search for new opportunities, keeping a log of your contacts and activities. This would be the perfect place to record, following an interview, the questions you were asked, the answers you gave, and the answers you wish you had given.

Write an interview script, then get a friend to practice with you. If you’re a techie, record questions on tape and practice a variety of answers. Better yet, put on your most professional attire and videotape yourself in a practice session.

Believe it and you’ll be it

Most hiring managers would cite “enthusiasm for the job” as the principal characteristic of job-winning candidates. It’s a fact of a job hunter’s life that, regardless of expertise, he or she will have plenty of competition from other candidates who have the same (or a more impressive) educational background and industry experience.

The winner, in almost every case, will be the candidate who has a passion for the kind of work in question. Expressing a heartfelt desire to join Company X doesn’t hurt, either. But be sure your enthusiasm is genuine. Hiring managers are experts at separating honest feeling from vapid gushing.

A word about self-confidence

A favorite interview question is one along the lines of “Tell me about a time a project was in trouble and you saved it.” Now you really have to tread a narrow line. Certainly, you want to show that you responded to the crisis in a positive way, that you took initiative, and that you found a solution to the problem. But one misplaced adjective can show you to be arrogant and, even worse, not a team player!

The most sure-fire way to self-destruct during an interview: Trash your current (or past) company or boss. No matter how unfairly you feel you’re being treated, you must not share the gory details. You may have to spend time formulating a diplomatic description of your situation, but it’s essential to do so.

Eat right, exercise, and get enough rest

If being in peak physical condition for an interview, even a phone screen, seems obsessive, think again.

Didn’t get enough sleep because the baby kept you up last night? One yawn in the interviewer’s ear could mean the end of that opportunity.

Personal interviews demand not only a rested countenance and a clear head, but also appropriate attire and spit-shine grooming, a confident stride, erect posture (no slouching allowed), a firm handshake, and direct contact with the interviewer’s eye.

Dress for success, but don’t ever wear clothes or shoes that distract you from the interviewer’s questions. Female candidates must resolve the portfolio/purse dilemma – one or the other must be left at home.

Like it or not, you have only one chance to make a first impression. Talented job candidates do lose opportunities because a hiring authority isn’t “wowed” when they walk through the door.

Every athlete knows that, while innate ability is important, only the fittest of the fit are victorious. Apply that philosophy when you prepare for your next interview, and you’re sure to bring home the gold!

Whether you’re a candidate or a client, we’d love to hear from you!