Job Interviews: How to Succeed By Using the Job Description as Your Focus

// Introduction In your next job interview you'll likely be competing against a number of other highly qualified candidates. The hiring organization may have considerable difficulty deciding which one of you best fits the bill. You need to convince them that your skills and experiences put you right at the top of the list. But how do you accomplish that in a job interview? Keep It Simple! You need to avoid cramming your head with so much information that you're tense during the interview because you can't recall it all on the spur of the moment. You want to be able to appear to be responding naturally and spontaneously, not struggling to remember prepared answers. Research has shown that people who maximize their performance during tests (a job interview is a type of test) start out relaxed. One of the keys to relaxation is feeling well prepared. But rather than prepare by dealing with a million details, I advise my clients to "keep it simple." Decide how you will approach the interview process, and then gather information that is consistent with your approach – not vice versa. You will be surprised how easy interviewing is once you learn how to do this. Here are some simple things you can do determine which data to collect and how to use it. Identify the Problems the Employer Is Trying to Solve Before going into the job interview you must understand what is important to the interviewer. That will form the basis of the most critical questions they will ask you. Filling an open position is an exercise in problem-solving for organizations. That is, companies hire people because they are trying to solve problems. It is to your advantage to know what those problems are. The problems form the basis of what the company considers important in hiring for this job. So how do you find out what those problems are? The best way to do this is to get a copy of the position description and study it carefully. Jot down what you conclude is the problem or problems they need solved; the skills required; the relationships through which the successful candidate must work; the exact words the organization uses to help the reader understand their situation; and anything else you see as important. It is also often helpful to do some research about the company. Run some online searches (try Twitter and news searches such as Google News, as well as regular web searches). Do you learn anything that puts the job opening in the context of the company's broader problems and opportunities? You are now ahead of the game because your initial focus is on the company's needs and not on you and your credentials. This is the beginning of a shift in mindset that, when complete, will allow you to survive and even prosper in the new economy. Your credentials only have meaning in the context of the problems an organization is trying to solve. Study Job Description Key Words Highlight all the key words in the description — those describing job duties and functions, skills, and other attributes sought in a candidate. Most people find it helpful to organize the key words into three or four categories. Note that your focus is now on a thorough understanding of the position and the employer's needs. This will be a major advantage to you given that most applicants will know far more about themselves than they know about the company and position. Think Hard About How You Match the Job Description and Thus Can Help Solve the Employer's Problems Think about examples from your own background where you have solved problems using skills and attributes matching the key words – preferably problems similar to those the company needs solved now. List those examples on a sheet of paper. You are getting further ahead of your competition. You're now beginning to understand your background in the context of showing the company in the job interview how you can help solve its problems. Now, go back through your resume and rethink each of your working experiences in terms of how they relate to the problems the company has and the attributes it seeks. Wherever possible, use the exact words in the job description to describe your experiences. Focus on the value you created when those skills were previously deployed and the value you will be able to create in a new situation. From the standpoint of your competition, you have put yourself further ahead in the game and perhaps at the head of the candidate slate. Why? Because you have rethought and rephrased your background to speak directly to the issues the company wants resolved. Next, jot down examples from your own work experience of where you put the key skills and attributes to work and had positive outcomes. It's NOT All About You! Far too many people go into job interviews thinking the interview is about them – their education, job progression and overall experience. The truth is the interview is not about you. It's about what others want from you. So your ability to cast your background in the context of what others want greatly enhances your chances of getting hired. In fact, it enhances your ability to survive and prosper in the new economy. Do you need to know more about preparing for job interviews? Of course you do. But learn it in the context of what the new job market demands. Things have changed. You'll get better at it as you practice, and you will have started a process that will put you well ahead of the game. Many people are able to move from a survival mode to prosperity as they enhance their understanding of the requirements of the new job market. This post is based on information provided by R. William Holland, PhD, condensed from his new book Cracking The New Job Market: How to Get Hired In Any Economy (AMACOM, Aug. 2011). Mr. Holland, a veteran human resources executive, is founder and principal of R. William Holland Consulting, LLC, specializing in career management. He is also a senior vice president at BeamPines, a leadership development, assessment, and coaching firm.

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