I do something that I don’t think anyone else does. I warm up before a game. Baseball and basketball players warm up, so why shouldn’t the announcer warm up?
You might not remember Chick Hearn, but you certainly know some of the phrases he coined. “Slam dunk,” “Air ball,” and “no harm, no foul” can all be attributed to the famous announcer for the LA Lakers. Hearn’s wise observations about the value of the warm up apply to athletics, sportscasters, and many other disciplines. Warm up is good preparation for an upcoming performance.
If you’ve ever attended a symphony performance, you’ve heard the musicians warming up on stage. From the audience, the warm up cacophony of horns, violins, flutes, and oboes provides a stark counterpoint to the harmony of the concert that will come. If you’ve had a musician (or a ballplayer) in the family, you also know how fanatical and even superstitious they can be about their warm up routine. They understand that the warmup is critical to the performance.
3 Elements for a Complete Job Interview Warm up
Is an interview a performance? Think about it. Maybe an interview doesn’t qualify as a performance in the same sense as an orchestral concert or a basketball game. Most interviews are solo efforts, and the pressure is on to perform at your peak. That’s why the warm up is so critical. It’s the preparation ahead of the performance that leads to a successful interview. That’s today’s topic.
There are three elements to a thorough interview warmup: Research, Strategy, and Practice.
Let’s examine each of these interview preparation elements and identify a few warm up tips that can positively affect your interview performance.
Research the Organization
As an employer, one of the first questions I ask of every candidate is , “What do you know about our company?”
If the candidate answers, “Not much,” it’s going to be a short interview. Failure to research before a job interview indicates laziness, and provides a reason for immediate disqualification.
In today’s information economy, background information is available for every company or organization that might be a prospective employer. Research is a critical component of your interview warm up. You should be prepared to spend a few hours learning how to research a company. Start with a Google search and see where it leads. Read the company website. Check social media pages, posts, and recommendations. Look for recent announcements and news about the company. You’ll want to get a good overview of the company’s products, services, and their brand reputation, but you’ll also be looking for details and clues about their culture, leadership, and current initiatives.
Here are a few places you can dig in for the details:
EDGAR – Annual reports are a great source of company information, but they’re not included on every company website. The Security and Exchange Commission’s EDGAR database will let you look up annual and quarterly reports for any publicly traded company. The reports use a standard format and you’ll want to look for the Management Discussion and Analysis section for information about company initiatives, new product launches, and sector performance. If you have a friend with a subscription, Hoovers can be a good source of financial information for how to research a larger privately held company.
LinkedIn – Company pages on LinkedIn may provide some valuable insights, but the better use of the business social network is as a resource for direct contacts within a company. Use the search feature to search by company name, then move to the “people” tab to see employees who are active on LinkedIn. Check your network and ask for introductions, or try to make direct contact with a few people within the company who may be able to give you some insight about the company and the job you’re interested in.
Glassdoor.com – Glassdoor features company reviews and sample interview questions for many larger companies. It’s a fascinating site and you’ll find some interesting information from current and former employees, but you’ll need to wear your skeptic’s hat. Reviews, especially from former employees, trend toward the negative.
What’s Your Job Interview Strategy?
Research and strategy are interconnected. Yes, you should do some research to gain information about the organizations with whom you’ll interview, but it’s a good idea to know what kinds of information to look for and what you’ll want to do with it. Formulating an interview strategy is an important element of your warmup.
Here are some tips and strategies for interviews:
The Vision Thing – If possible, you’ll want to get a sense of the vision and the business goals of the company. In a real sense, part of your warm up strategy is to get a sense of the strategy of the organization you’ll interview with.
How You Fit – Your goal is to gain enough understanding of the organization’s operations, products, people, and objectives to see how you might fit into the scheme of things. You’ll also want to know as much as you can about their expectations of the person who will fill the open slot. If you have a sense of specific ways that you can contribute, you’ll be able to tailor your interview responses and the conversation towards the topic that really matters – how you can make a positive impact for your prospective employer.
Employer Expectations – An obvious source of clues to the company’s expectations is the job description or posting. It goes without saying that you’ll make an initial evaluation of how you fit the description. If it’s a close fit, dig in with your research and make a few contacts to discover the specifics.
Again, a word of caution. Don’t overthink your interview strategies. Even if there’s lots of information available, you’re unlikely to get all of the details. Don’t make the mistake of overconfidence – the presumption that you’ve figured out all of the solutions needed to “fix the company.” A better interview strategy is to listen carefully and ask questions first before making suggestions.
Practice Makes the Perfect Job Interview
That’s unlikely. Ask any athlete or musician about a perfect performance. They’ll tell you that their best performances include mistakes. The winning pitcher of a perfect game in baseball doesn’t allow any of the opposing players on base, but he still throws balls and strikes during the game. As part of your interview warm up, practice provides improves your confidence and your performance.
How do you practice for an job interview? It’s more than just thinking about what might take place. When musicians warm up, the exercise involves the musical instrument and produces some noise. So should your interview warm up.
Here are several tips for your interview practice routine:
Know the answers to the standard questions – Glassdoor has put together a list of 50 Most Common Interview Questions.1 Read them, formulate, your answers, practice the answers out loud.
Anticipate other questions you might hear. In specific, think about behavior based interview questions that you might be asked. These are experiential questions that an increasing number of large employers and government agencies are using. Behavior based interviews work on the assumption that past experience indicates future behavior. You’ll be asked to provide experiences and examples of actions you have taken that produced results. It’s best to prepare these stories ahead of time and practice the way you respond. (See our article Get Your Stories Straight for more information on this interview technique.)
Prepare a list of questions you’d like to ask – What do you want to know about the company? What information would you like to fill in after your research. You’ll be judged both by your answers and your questions.
Get verbal – Practice in front of a mirror or find a friend to role play with you. You might also want to record your practice to see how you sound. This advice may sound obsessive, but actors know that there is a real difference between memorizing the lines and saying them out loud.
Get visual – Prepare for phone and video interviews. Many employers and recruiters prefer to use Skype and other networks for initial interviews and for subsequent interviews if those involved are dispersed in many locations. Choose the location – Interview in your office or a more formal setting, not at the kitchen table. Your appearance, eye contact, and your ability to connect are just as important on an online connection as in person (even if you’re barefoot and wearing pajama bottoms underneath the desk.)
Get your &8%$) together – Allow enough time for final preparations before the interview. Fix your hair, dress appropriately, and be 10 minutes early. Bring a copy of your resume and a pad or portfolio for notes. Turn off the blasted cellphone. Better yet, leave it in the glove compartment of your car.
Be confident, comfortable, and transparent
There’s a last bit of simple advice that will wind up today’s article – be honest and be real. You probably shouldn’t emulate Kellyanne Conway during your next job interview. Avoid any inclination to deflect a question or to spin off into the realm or alternative facts. Insincerity isn’t difficult to detect. Diversionary tactics have only a slight chance of working on the Sunday news shows. They’ll fail miserably in a job interview.
It’s better to be confident and comfortable. Your job interview warm up process will certainly help your confidence. You’ll be prepared for many of the questions you’re likely to hear. If you have a tendency toward the jitters, get a good night’s sleep before the interview, eat breakfast, and go light on the caffeine. Remember to listen carefully during the interview and respond honestly. If you need clarification, ask for it. Take the pressure off and enjoy the conversation . . . you have a chance to meet some new people and there may be an outcome that will benefit both you and your new employer.
Professional Career Coaching and Interview Coaching
A professional career coach can provide insights that help both your practice and your performance. At CareerPro Global, our Master Career Advisors can provide you with career and interview coaching that will help you prepare for the interview performance and the job negotiations that follow. We’re especially tuned to the process that federal employees are likely to encounter and offer special help for Veterans who are transitioning to a civilian career. If you’re ready to get started, please get in touch for a Free Career Consultation.
Barbara Adams is the founder and CEO of CareerPro Global, Inc. and has led the company since 1990. She is recognized as one of the pioneers in the career services industry and a titan of the resume writing industry. Barbara has built CPG into one of the largest and fastest-growing premier career services organizations industry-wide. She is committed to CPG’s core factors that include quality product, exceptional customer service, a successful proven process, and taking care of her people. Barbara has Co-Authored numerous books, including:
Roadmap to the Senior Executive Service
Roadmap to Becoming an Administrative Law Judge
Job-Winning Military to Civilian Resumes
Roadmap to Federal Jobs
She also co-authored the certification requirements for the Master Military Resume Writer (MMRW) and the Master Federal Career Advisor and Trainer (MFCA-T) certifications.