6 Ways for a JMO to Really Stand Out in the Interview Process
I recently had dinner with a fellow Notre Dame alumnus. He made the statement that another friend would have no problem getting a job offer because of his Notre Dame degree. I have heard similar statements about degrees from one of the Academies, other top tier schools, or in the case of an engineering degree or an MBA. I even saw a post on LinkedIn today endorsing someone because, “he had made it to the selective rank in the Army of a Captain.”
The reality: where you went to school, your major or rank might help you network into an interview, but in the end a company is only going to hire the candidate who demonstrates the best ability, most interest and strongest interpersonal fit. Even with the unemployment rate dropping and job creation going up, it is competitive. If you want to be the candidate of choice, you need to distinguish yourself.
This requires going well beyond the normal preparation steps so that you are ready to talk about industry trends, key company initiatives, and any trends or new technologies for the career field, company or industry.
The normal or traditional preparation steps include the following:
- Review the company website. Understand what makes the company unique, their values and their position in the industry. Come up with three reasons you like the company and why. Develop a few questions about the company and any recent events/initiatives that relate to the position for which you are interviewing. Ensure that your questions relate so that you are not asking questions about something irrelevant.
- Know the position description. Understand the essence of the position – what you will do and why (the purpose). Know the top 3 or 4 key competencies/functional experience the company wants. Take it from this perspective – the company has a problem; this position is open. What do they require to solve their problem?
- Once you know the company’s problem, evaluate your resume, experience and education to determine what you have done and how it solves their problem. Know how you fit with the position. What 3 or 4 key experiences can you share that will help the company see you in the position really solving their problem?
- Be able to deliver 3 reasons with depth on your interest in the role. Imagine yourself in the position; take 5 minutes to do this. What will you do that you like? What did you do in the military or study in your degree that you liked that you get to do in this position? Ensure you not only share what you like about the role, but also explain to them why.
With all of the resources and social media now available, you have so much more opportunity to go above and beyond – putting a lot more depth into your knowledge and preparation. These steps include the following:
- Use LinkedIn. Does the company have a LinkedIn page? If so, follow them and any associations or industries related to them. Read any articles posted on the pages. Search LinkedIn for any articles or posts about the specific industry or career. For example, if you are interviewing with a pharmaceutical manufacturing company, you can search LinkedIn for “Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Trends,” or any variation of it. View people’s profiles who are in the role for which you will interview. Have your interview schedule in hand before you actually interview? Look people up on LinkedIn and know their background. Where did they go to school? Have they published articles (read them if they have)? Do they have any patents associated with their name? If so, research the patent and the product.
- Use Google to research professional organizations or related articles. I was preparing some candidates this weekend to interview for positions developing new medical devices. I Googled “Trends in innovating medical devices” and “Challenges with innovating new medical devices due to healthcare reform.” Whoa!! So many great articles came up. The candidates interviewing next week could read those articles and ask a question such as, “I read an article written on the (Website Name here), and it said that most new devices for the marketplace are innovations of existing devices due to budget challenges. Is that a trend you see as well? And how has that shaped new product development?” Now, if the candidate can listen to the answer instead of just jumping to the next prepared question and continue to stay on this subject, the recruiter will be really impressed.
- Stay current on business and megatrends. This is something you should do well before interviewing. By reading FORTUNE Magazine, Wall Street Journal, McKinsey Quarterly, Harvard Business Review, and good business books, you will build your business acumen. Your ramp-up for an interview will not be nearly as steep for a follow-up interview if you are already up to date on general business knowledge.
- Take a field trip. Today, a candidate doing a follow-up interview with a company next week walked to a regional office, introduced himself and asked for a tour. I can only imagine how impressed the company next week will be that he took the initiative to do this. Interview with a consumer package goods company? Go to the store, look at their products. How are they packaged? Priced? Where are they on the shelf? What differentiates these products from others? We work with the largest wine company in the world. I always recommend they research the company’s wine brands and then go visit the store. Ask consumers why they are buying them.
- Watch videos. YouTube is amazing! You can watch surgeries, see plants in operation and study a new subject. Last week I prepared candidates to interview with an HVAC company and another group for a company that specialized in heat exchangers at refineries. I used YouTube and HowStuffWorks.com to learn more about heat transfer used in both of those products.
- Send meaningful thank-you notes. This is not really about preparation, but rather something you would do after the interview. Send a note to every person with whom you interviewed. If time permits, send a handwritten note on stationery. If you do not have time and the company is going to make a fast decision, send it via email. Don’t send some generic note that can be used for any interview or company. Ensure you include at least a couple of sentences that relate to what you actually talked about in that interview.
These are not exclusive preparation steps. These are several ideas to help you stand out and make a strong impression with a company.