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2-Step Interview Preparation

Welcome to an easy reference to interview preparation. It’s easy, yet time consuming, but well worth the investment.

First:  Prepare a 90-second marketing pitch that is a personal, self-serving, commercial about YOU.  It’s an opportunity to highlight your attributes, such as verbal and written skills, technical skills, poise, presence, and personality.

Your marketing pitch should include the following key points:

  • Your experience, strengths, accomplishments
  • The type of work or position you’re seeking
  • Why you are interested in that type of work or industry
  • Why you’re attending the event or what you’re seeking (optional)

You should allocate the 90 seconds as follows:

  • A brief statement about your education (15 seconds)
  • Your early work experience and key accomplishments (20 seconds)
  • Your most recent experiences and key achievements (25 seconds)
  • What you can do for an employer and what you have to offer—including soft skills and your future focus (30seconds)

For many, if not most, positions, soft skills—such as problem solving and analytical ability—and a positive attitude are as important to employers as education, employment experience, and technical proficiency.

Feel free to reallocate the 90 seconds if your work experience or education is particularly interesting or impressive.  Keep in mind that people value their time and may not be willing to listen to lengthy soliloquies.  Make it short, interesting and memorable, and deliver it crisply.

After a concise, informative marketing pitch is drafted, the next thing to do is practice, practice, practice.  The objective is to achieve a smooth, polished delivery in 90 seconds that exudes confidence, competence, and professionalism.

Make no mistake.  It takes time to draft and master an effective marketing pitch, but it’s an invaluable tool that will be useful after you find employment.

Consider this scenario: Christine, a former executive, attended a reception hosted by the alumni of a local university’s business school.  The well-attended event was held at a lovely venue with several large rooms and comfortable outside seating.  It was an ideal networking opportunity.

Beth, Alexandra, and Jerry, recent business school graduates, were introduced to attendees by professors or staff members.  Each young person was poised, pleasant, and engaged.  Everyone exchanged business cards.

After a discussion about the changes in the employment landscape and what young people needed to do to increase their employment opportunities, Christine said her goodbyes and left the reception to have dinner with friends in the main dining room.

Before she was seated, Jerry walked up to her with his hand extended and re-introduced himself. He said, “Hello again, Ms. Bryant.  I’m Jerry Charles.  I met you inside at the reception. I just graduated with an MBA in marketing.  I’m working at Global Company as an intern.  I hope I’ll get hired in a full-time position, but if I don’t, I’m looking for a position with a company that can use my technical and marketing skills.”

Christine was floored.  It was as if Jerry had attended one of her career readiness workshops. He understood that he had a limited amount of time to convey his message and pitch himself (as his product) persuasively and make a favorable impression.  Jerry had nailed the marketing pitch.

Christine agreed to help Jerry with his efforts to find a job.  When Jerry returned from vacation, she wasn’t surprised to learn that her help wasn’t needed.  Jerry had been offered a position with a Fortune 500 company, which he accepted.

You may notice that Jerry’s pitch was short and didn’t cover his early work experience and key accomplishments.  What Jerry delivered in a very limited amount of time was impressive and compelling.  His professional appearance and demeanor, posture, firm handshake, and his flawlessly delivered pitch sealed the deal for Christine.  Jerry made her want to help him find a job.

Second:  Mastering the social graces is another old-school approach that yields positive results. There is an opportunity to be viewed favorably during your job search by

  • smiling;
  • holding doors open;
  • saying “please” and “thank you” to everyone who provides assistance (even in a small way); and
  • listening intently and making eye contact.

If someone is especially kind or encouraging before or after an interview, find out the person’s name and send the person a thank-you note.  Even better, make an effort to find the individual after the interview to thank him or her in person.  You will be remembered favorably.

If an employment opportunity arises, you may be the person contacted to assume the role because you left a positive impression.  An expression of your appreciation for what may be considered an insignificant gesture and simply being polite may cause someone to conclude that you’re the kind of person he wants to work with each day.

Thank-you notes should always be sent to contacts that have helped you and anyone who interviewed you individually or in a group. Your failure to do so may be considered a lack of interest or a glaring omission that will be held against you. Use your powers of observation and knowledge about the person to determine whether to use e-mail or snail mail to thank those you have met with or those who have helped you.

Caution: Don’t assume that older individuals aren’t technically savvy. Many of them have whole-heartedly embraced new-school, digital approaches to communication. Use your powers of observation and knowledge about the person to determine whether to use e-mail or snail mail to thank those you have met with or those who have helped you.


About the Author

multifaceted employment professional, author and lecturer