Would you ever run a Triathlon without training for months? What about take a test without studying for it at all? Nope. It is just not a good idea if want to succeed. This concept holds true for going into an interview without understanding how you can bring value to the organization.
Most people go into an interview feeling really prepared. They study all the “interview questions," and have prepared all their responses. They also have their resume touched up and ready to go. They may have even read through the company’s website to get more insight into the company. But that’s not enough. If that is all you’re planning on doing, then you’ll just be another resume on a pile of resumes.
How do you differentiate yourself? You take command of the interview by understanding exactly what the hiring manager wants and needs. Your answers to their questions contain a high level of insight into their company. You ask questions that create a meaningful dialogue. And you pull out a document that outlines solutions to their biggest challenges. Boom! Now you really stand out, and the interviewer has you on top of the resume stack.
In this article, you will learn the exact steps to de-commoditizing yourself and finally getting your dream job.
1. Understand the company’s goals.
To even begin to understand how you can bring value to this company is to understand what the company’s mission is. What are they trying to achieve?
One of my students recently went through this exercise and it proved to be the difference maker in the interviewing process. He was interviewing for a marketing company and as he began to research, he figured out that they were venturing into a new industry. So, he came up with new ideas on how he would tackle gaining customers in this new industry. The interviewer was thoroughly impressed, and he was offered the next day.
Here is a list of topics that you should learn and understand as much as you can:
- The company's mission statement.
- The company's vision statement.
- The company's values.
- The company's culture.
- What has made other employees successful at the company?
- Your department’s goals and its reason for existing.
- The company’s product or service. Is there a way to improve the user’s experience? This is a chance to get creative with a solution.
2. Understand the hiring manager.
Now that you understand the company, it is time to understand the person that will sit across from you in the interview. What is important to them? What keeps them up at night? What are their goals? The hiring manager wants to know one thing when they hire you: can you solve their problems and make them look good? By gaining insight on the person interviewing you, you can connect with them on a different level and show them that they can trust you to make their life easier.
Here are the topics that are important to research:
- What are his/her goals? Are they meeting those goals? How can you help them achieve those goals?
- What are their biggest struggles right now? Does a certain department need help? How can you help them?
- Check out LinkedIn or online profile: what are they interested in? Where are they from? Getting a few details like this can help you connect with them in certain ways, like being from the same state or liking the same charity.
- What is one way you can improve their everyday life? If you see them struggle with the same report every morning, what is one way you can improve that?
3. Understand the position.
What will you be doing in the new role? Do you have a job description or job posting? Just using these documents can be a big help. Also, understand why they are hiring for this role. Why now, and not a year from now? Is it a new position? These questions bring more clarity to what the real issues are that they want to be solved by hiring for this position.
4. Demonstrate this knowledge with a tangible valuation project.
Now that you’ve completed this research, there is an incredible amount of insight you have into the company and the hiring manager. It is time to turn that insight into a tangible project that will make your interviewer want to offer you on the spot.
A great strategy is to look at the job description or job posting and look at the requirements that have a tangible deliverable. If it shows ‘develop a communication plan’, then that is a prime candidate for your special project because now you’re able to show them you can do the job and provide a specific deliverable before even being hired for it. Another failsafe is to develop a 30-60-90 day plan. By now you have a lot of insight, and by showing them your ideas within this plan, you would be showing incredible initiative and thought into what you will be doing at the company.
By going through this exercise, you’re not just creating a project that will impress them, you are going to build confidence in yourself that will show in the interview due to your preparation and understanding. There is no better way to get the job you’ve always wanted.
Sam Bernal is the founder of Level Up and Launch, where he helps top performers negotiate their next raise.