Interviews come in all shapes and sizes – conversational, structured, over meals, in front of a board – and often, no two interviews are the same. With that, suggestions regarding how to successfully interview for a position can often be hard to judge because of the unknown nature of the interview setting and structure. However, one piece of advice can transcend all types of formats to truly put a candidate and their experience in the right light: prepare research-driven strategic questions.
While interviews can just as much be a fact-finding mission for the candidate as for the potential employer, you want to come as prepared as possible with research on the company’s goals, big initiatives, key executives and their backgrounds, and potential opportunities for growth. Once you have completed that research and found key factors and potential difference-makers for the position and organization, relate them back to your experience: is the company going through a similar situation that I have encountered in the past? Are they making a push into a space in which I have expertise? Is there a particular area of growth that they may or may not have identified yet that I can suggest? Not only will questions like this show your research and engagement with the company and their initiatives, but it will also provide you the ability to discuss with the employer the direct impact your own personal achievements could potentially have on their company.
It is important to remember the basic stages of interviewing: the first stage (usually a phone interview) is to determine if a person has the correct skill set for the position; the second stage (usually in-person interview) is to determine which qualified candidate is the right fit for the position, culture and organization. Too often, candidates focus on the daily responsibilities of a position and only emphasize those things in the interview, completely ignoring the need to differentiate themselves from the other finalists for the position with their accomplishments. Utilize the time that is given to you by the interviewers to ask your questions to not only get a better sense for an organization, but to listen to their answers and equate it back to an experience you have had in the past. This strategy will not only show your interest in the position because of the research you have done, but make your successes shine in a more informal, conversational setting, as opposed to a very structured pure interview process. Come armed with questions that you can equate back to your experience, truly proving to the employer the value you can bring, and thus differentiating yourself from the pack.