February 2, 2016

Got an Interview? 7 Ways to Prepare Yourself Well – and Land the Job


You sent in your resume and references, and now you have an interview. What could be better?

Most companies these days are laser-focused on identifying high-potential candidates who are interested in learning, growing, and earning more. In tech companies especially, the goal is to recruit candidates who have just graduated with computer science, design, and/or business degrees, as well as experienced individuals who bring with them the skills and expertise that will help companies grow quickly. The common denominator on most high-performing teams is the inner drive to be something more: more capable, more competent, more comfortable, more effective in helping clients be successful – more.

I have interviewed thousands of candidates over the past 35 years, and despite the demands of today’s employers, I find that more and more folks are showing up for interviews unprepared. I see the recruiting process as bi-directional: Will this candidate perform well in the current role and can they grow with the company? Just as importantly: Is the company a great fit from the candidate’s point of view?

Unfortunately, I’m not getting into these meaty interview discussions frequently these days, because candidates are coming in unprepared for their interviews. Deciding where you want to spend a large chunk of your life is a momentous decision. Shouldn’t you spend at least as much time prepping for an interview as you would when investigating new car options?

I expect candidates to bring their game-winning personas to interviews. I want to get into discussions where I see that the candidate has taken the time to learn something about the company. I want candidates who show me they are driven and interested, candidates who ask thoughtful questions and offer striking points of view.

In that spirit, here are some suggestions that, I believe, will help job seekers prepare for interviews, no matter where they’re interviewing:

1. Do Your Homework

Would you fly to another country for a vacation without doing any research? Of course not – so why would you show up to a new company without doing any research?

Go to the company’s website(s); learn more about what it does and how it works with clients and/or the public. Come with questions! You will undoubtedly be asked to describe what you think the company or organization does at some point in the interview process (and, usually, there are no right or wrong answers). Not being able to respond will indicate that you didn’t care enough about the interview to do even the most basic research.

2. Recognize That the Employer Will Do Some Homework, Too

NotebookIf you’ve gotten to the interview stage, rest assured that the company has already done some research on you. Someone, either an HR rep or the hiring manager, has studied your resume, your LinkedIn profile, and the other social networking or media sites you’ve used. Invest time in ensuring that your resume is in great shape and that your LinkedIn profile and other online information provides enough detail to give an understanding about how your skills and experience line up with the position description and the company culture.

3. Early Is On Tim; On Time Is Late; Late Is Unprofessional

And late without a phone call is disrespectful. Arrive early. Have a cup of coffee at a nearby cafe if you have time to kill. You’ll feel less stressed if you arrive early, and you’ll have time to look around a bit and decide if the office is in an area where you would like to work.

4. Bring Samples of Your Work With You

In tech or design roles, that means samples of your code, design work, writing, or client deliverables. Always be prepared to give examples of your successes (and failures) – this is a great way to show off your capabilities. Discuss past experiences and the lessons you’ve learned from them.

If you are a recent graduate, bring along samples or documentation of your favorite college project(s).

5. Be Prepared to Discuss How Your Capabilities and Experience Map to the Position

Checklists are a great way to organize your thoughts ahead of the interview. Clearly articulating how you line up with the position and acknowledging any gaps will make the process easier for all of us.

On more than one occasion, I’ve interviewed a candidate who didn’t necessarily fit the position description for my company, but I’ve been able to refer the candidate to someone else in our network who has subsequently extended an offer. Doing your homework and having a good discussion with your interviewer can have rewards beyond landing a specific job.

6. Ask Questions!

Most companies are extremely proud of their teams and cultures. Ask about how the company works with clients and how employees work with one another. You’ll know quickly whether you are interviewing in a place where you’ll be happy for years to come.

7. Ask for Business Cards, and Send a Quick Thank-You After the Interview

Keep In TouchIn your thank-you note, you should answer a question that was raised during the interview or talk a bit more about something you learned or discussed during the interview. Go to LinkedIn and request a connection. If you are interested in the position, let your interviewers know!

We all benefit from lining up the best candidates with the right roles. Happier team members, better service to our clients and community – it’s all good. Before, during, and after an interview, think about working as part of that team and imagine what you can accomplish together.

I look forward to meeting more great candidates soon in our interviews!

This article was adapted from a post on SAI’s website.

Read more in Interview Tips

Ric Hughes is president and CEO of SAI. Since acquiring Systems Alliance in 2003, Ric has transformed the company by applying expertise and processes he mastered while leading the North American Information, Communication, and Entertainment IT Solutions Consulting practice for PricewaterhouseCoopers. Prior to PwC, Ric was founder and president of Capital Systems, Ltd., a regional IT consulting firm that successfully developed and implemented imaging projects for clients in the banking, legal, and defense industries. Ric has launched and funded several startup businesses at various times during his career.

Ric earned a BS in business management from the University of Baltimore. He currently serves on the technology industry advisory board for the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) and has been invited to lecture MBA and undergrad students on IT industry trends and entrepreneurial topics at Cornell, Loyola, UMBC, and CCBC.