The other day I had a conversation with a director of sales at a high growth medical device company. I asked her one question. What’s the most important quality in a good sales candidates? She immediately turned it back to me and asked what I thought was most important. I responded, “That the individual should be extremely positive (no one wants to buy from a Negative Nelly), tenacity for improvement, and a clear communicator.”
She agreed with my answer but shed some light on something that sometimes is overlooked. Given the complexity of the industry and the products, she looks for someone who is willing to learn. Someone who doesn’t wait around for what to be told and goes out there to soak up information. One who truly holds their professional development in their own hands and relentlessly works on their craft. So how does a hiring manager determine if candidates have this drive to learn?
They often look at an interviewee’s willingness to prepare. Immediately, I thought of Vince Lombardi.
How much preparation a candidate is willing to do says a lot about the type of worker they might be. How much time are you putting in before your interviews? Did you tailor your resume for this job, cover letter, supporting materials, write out possible questions and answers, research the interviewers, company history, employees, culture, compensation, commute, vacation/benefits etc?
There are tons of ways to prepare for an important interview and it is paramount to put in the time now because it pays dividends. Wondering where to start? Let’s walk through a few ways. Let’s pretend you have already submitted your application, resume, and cover letter. Between that moment and when you have your first round interview here’s the bare minimum, you should be doing.
Glassdoor – Can be your best friend when it comes to doing research about your prospective employer. This website gives you a glimpse of compensation expectations, company culture, and you can view comments from current and former employees.
Why do this? Knowledge is power and the more you know going into the discussion the better equipped you will be to answer questions and show your desire for the role.
LinkedIn – This is a no-brainer. There are a few things you can do with LinkedIn. First, you can look up who you may be interviewing. What schools did they go to? Do you have any connections in common? You can research people in the position you are seeking. Look at their work experience to see if you took a comparable path. Are there patterns you can identify? Send them a note and see if you can have 15 minutes to chat with them about their current role. More times than not they will be happy to help. Not to mention they might even get a referral bonus.
Company Site – Seems obvious but overtimes overlooked. Research the mission statement, values, founding, products, awards. Memorize this information. There is a reason this information is public. Employers are trying to decide whether or not to take a chance on you. This is just another opportunity to show you took the time and effort to learn in depth about the company and not the bare minimum
Prepare For The Q&A – After your research, you should now have an understanding of an “ideal” candidate in the company’s eyes. Take some time to write out possible questions they might ask you.
Give us an example of a time you encountered a difficult work situation and how did you work about getting it resolved?
How do you keep yourself organized?
What is your biggest weakness? (Hint – don’t say none)
What is your biggest accomplishment?
Why do you want to work here?
Why should we hire you?
It is important to be thinking critically about these before going into the interview and winging it. Do the best you can to make sure you aren’t caught off guard.
Write Out Your Questions – Few things will tick off hiring manager more than when you walk in and don’t have any questions for them. This is a tremendous opportunity to shine. A few questions you may want to consider asking.
How would you describe the company culture?
What does success look like in this role?
If you could give yourself one piece of advice when you first started what would it be?
What are the next steps in the process?
If you are feeling bold then ask them point blank, how did I do today?
Resumes/Cover Letters – If the interview is in person make to have several copies of your resume, cover letter with you. The last thing you want is to run out copies for the people interviewing you.
Thank You Notes – Yes you can write a thank you email but good old-fashioned thank you cards go so much further. People have an emotional connection to handwritten cards. It shows you are willing to take the time to go the extra mile.