If you are a consultant you know that all planning includes Risk Mitigation. You give significant thought to all the possible things that can go wrong and plan to ensure they don’t. Consultants have real strength in this space by experience and training. Ironically, those skills don’t always translate to their personal interview process. Over the years I have shared the pain of a tremendously talented person who didn’t get a job for a small, controllable or crazy reason. Prepping and managing risk is for everyone, even those and sometimes especially those that feel they are excellent interviewees. Treat your interview in the same way you would prepare for a key stakeholder meeting. You would never just wing it. You would know your material and all the data behind the information. You would check it for accuracy and review it well to make sure you could present it with confidence and answer any question that might be asked.
Preparing for your interview:
- As the saying goes, “the devil is in the details”; expressing the idea that whatever one does should be done thoroughly; i.e. details are important. More interviews are lost for this reason versus skill set or experience. For example, the candidate was unable to provide details on what they really did, arrived late for the interview because they got lost, dressed too casually (jeans are never OK), didn’t bring a note-book to write down notes, didn’t have any questions for the interviewer, didn’t sound interested or enthused about the project, didn’t Google the company or looked up the interviewer on LinkedIn. Don’t let small “details” cost you the opportunity.
- Know what is on your resume and be able to speak to all of it. Know the details behind all your work in case you are asked to support what you have highlighted. What was the purpose of the project you were on? What was the scope? How large in terms of resources, budget and complexity? How did it end? What tools did you use? And most importantly what was your role on that project? If you said you bring a unique set of experiences, be able to give an example of what makes your experiences unique. If you say you are innovative, have an example that demonstrates innovation in a work setting.
- Bring 4 extra copies with you in case the interviewer forgets to print one off or you are asked to meet with other people or other people are in attendance you didn’t plan for. Show your planning skills.
- Be sure you have a notebook on the table to write the names down of any extra people in attendance and understand their roles in the organization. Get business cards if you can to follow-up with a Thank You email and to reiterate your interest in the role.
- Practice your career story out loud. You may be surprised how much this will help a smooth delivery.
- Always have some prepared questions to ask. The interviewer may have answered them all during the course of the interview but there should be something said over the time you are together that you would like further clarification related to the work, the company or the interviewer. Lack of questions might suggest a lack of interest or curiosity and that you won’t dig into the details on the job. Too many questions may be equally as bad. It may suggest a lack of respect for the interviewer’s time or an analysis paralysis.
- Don’t bring anything distracting with you to the interview, boyfriends, groceries, pets…I know, sounds crazy, but over the years I have seen and heard some crazy stuff! ( Remind me to tell you the story of the pet rabbit in the suit pocket) Same holds true for cologne and your political views. You want the interviewer to only think about you for your skills and abilities and how those align with their need.
What doesn’t go well often sticks in our minds, so I asked a hiring manager what they like in a candidate beyond the required skills. They told me respect for their time, interest in the project and their company, a passion and enjoyment about their field of project management or business analysis, humility and above all authenticity.
Ironically new college grads who have very little experience interviewing often do better on prepping than some very experienced consultants. They know they have to make up for their lack of experience by doing everything they can to manage the risks. They don’t take anything for granted.
Next time someone from your consulting firm gives you interview advice, don’t feel insulted with the common sense reminders they share with you. Instead take it as someone who has your back, helping you to manage all the possible risks and your advocate to be at your best to land the role you want.