How to ACE a job interview

June 1, 2001
Stuart Taylor

Pharmaceutical Representative

This information will help prepare you to secure your perfect job.

You've gotten the call. Excitement charges through you. Then panic. The company you're dreaming of working for wants to see you in three days. No time to read one of those lengthy interview books! What do you do? This information will help prepare you to secure your perfect job.

Most interview anxiety comes from not being fully prepared. It doesn't have to be that way. A few simple steps in preparation can alleviate much of the stress associated with interviewing for a job with a new company or an internal promotion. If you've gotten a call for an interview, the company has pre-approved your résumé, which means that on paper, you've already met the minimum requirements. So relax. The following information gives you a general overview of what employers are looking for, so that you will know how to ace a job interview.

Three steps

An employer evaluates you as a potential employee on the following key criteria: Do you understand the job? Do you have the skill set to do the job? Do you have the necessary level of motivation and enthusiasm for the job? A yes to all three is required to successfully progress through the interview process, as well as to perform optimally while on the job. If you can't answer "yes," you should re-evaluate whether the job you are seeking is the job for you. Finally, you must also be able to communicate this information clearly and convincingly to your interviewer. Here's some help on getting your yeses in order:

Step one: Do your homework.

Do you understand the job? Doing your homework is the foundation of any successful interview. You can't truly say, "I've got what it takes" if you don't know specifically what it takes. A climber doesn't set out to conquer Mt. Everest without first having a thorough understanding of what to expect on the journey – surveying weather conditions, preparing the necessary gear, understanding the challenges, evaluating his or her own strengths and limitations, surveying the terrain, etc. Similarly, you should never enter an interview without first thoroughly doing your research.

By thoroughly preparing yourself for an interview, you accomplish several key things: First, you have a clearer picture of the mission you're about to embark upon. You should learn the pros and cons, challenges and opportunities of a company so that you may navigate your way through the interview successfully.

You must be able to articulate why this position is your perfect job. You must know the challenges so you can explain how you have the strengths, skills and desire to overcome them better than the next person and position yourself as a problem solver.

So, what does doing your homework mean? It goes well beyond the standard Internet research most people do. That would be similar to simply reading a book about Mt. Everest before attempting to climb it. While Internet research is certainly essential in that it provides a foundational understanding of the company and its vision, products, financials and accomplishments, this is a fairly one-dimensional view. It doesn't tell you what it's like to actually work for the company on a day-to-day basis. One excellent source of multidimensional information on a company is its employees. Contact several to get their perspectives on challenges and opportunities within their organization. The more viewpoints you gather, the greater your perspective will be. The greater your perspective is, the more accurately and effectively you will be able to explain how you fit in the picture. Present extensive, probing questions to as many people as possible. Another outstanding source of information on a company is its customers. Whereas an employee may be somewhat hesitant to share all, for risk of jeopardizing his or her own position, a customer has nothing to lose. Speak to doctors, pharmacists and other healthcare personnel to gain their perspectives on the company and its products, representatives and competitors. Wherever the sales reps go, you should go and ask questions.

Do you have the necessary skill sets? Once you have done your homework on the company, do the same on yourself. It is equally critical that you know what you have to offer and how it fits with what the company requires (for example, if the customers in a particular area deal heavily with managed care, and you have experience in that area). Once you have a clear picture of what the job and the company are really like, you must be able to explain how you fit perfectly into that picture!

There is a simple exercise to help you do so effectively. In advance, write out your greatest strengths and how they've been demonstrated. Don't be stingy; be specific, so that when you're challenged (you will be), you can confidently and continuously reassure your interviewer with examples. This exercise also helps strengthen your confidence muscle going in. Hint: If you don't pretend to be something you're not, you will never have to worry about proving it or attempting to live up to unrealistic expectations.

Do you have the motivation? Companies want "hungry" individuals, not just experienced ones. You must express your enthusiasm and interest clearly (both verbally and nonverbally). Let the interviewer know specifically what is exciting to you about the position … and always sit forward in your chair.

Step two: Never give up. Never give in.

Remain confident. Stay positive. Review your strengths if you need reassurance. Think of the interview as a challenge, not an insurmountable task. Remember, if you've gotten a call for an interview, you're already halfway there. Don't take that lightly. So when they challenge you on your experience (or lack of thereof), don't get defensive or feel defeated. Simply recognize that they are testing you to see what you're made of and rise to the occasion. Reassure them with specific, tangible examples of why you are the best person for the job and why your experience is exactly what they need.

Step three: Don't forget the close.

Don't ever - I repeat - ever, leave an interview without asking for some forward step into the future. You decide whether a strong close or a softer close is best, but be sure to close. Express your appreciation for the time and consideration and reiterate your interest enthusiastically. Pharmaceutical companies hire representatives that ask their customers for the business. The interviewer is your customer. If you don't ask for his or her business now, you won't ask for the doctor's later. PR