Career Matters

By Lily Whiteman

How to target your job interview

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My July 11 column explained how to target your resumes so that they will generate job interviews. Here’s advice on how to similarly target your job interviews so that they will generate job offers.

Research each interviewer: When you’re invited to an interview, request the names and titles of each interviewer who will attend the interview. Then, Google your interviewer, review his LinkedIn page, search for his profile on his agency’s website, and milk any knowledgeable associates you may have for insider information about him. In addition, you might be able to obtain his profile for a small fee from Leadership Profiles on Demand.

The results of your interviewer research will help you identify some of your interviewer’s special interests, biases, alma maters and previous employers. This information may help you find common ground with your interviewers that may, for example, be based on similar perspectives on technical issues, shared professional experiences, a common college or even the same hometown.

By mentioning your common ground, you may improve your rapport in pivotal ways. For example, suppose your research reveals that your interviewer is — like you — a former Peace Corps volunteer. By talking about your mutual experience, you may appeal to his bias for fellow former Peace Corps volunteers, and thereby edge out your competitors who lack such experience.

In addition, if you discover during your research that you and your interviewer have common acquaintances who would sing your praises, mention them in interviews.

Another potential advantage of interviewer research: It may warn you of ideological or other potentially thorny differences between you and your interviewers that you should, if possible, sidestep during interviews.

Research your target agency and office: Identify the current major activities, goals, priorities and challenges of your target agency and target office as well as major criticisms faced by these offices. To do this, review the websites of these organizations, paying particular attention to recent strategic plans, press releases, annual reports and annual budgets. Conduct Google news searches. Then review your target agency’s standing in the Partnership for Public Services annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings, recent annual appropriations reports for your agency and your target job’s vacancy announcement.

This research will help you in many ways during interviews. For one thing, it will prepare you to sound generally informed about your target agency, and describe substantive reasons why you want to work for it. It will thereby enable you to show your fire in the belly for your target job.

This research will also help you identify which of your credentials and previous achievements involve issues and types of projects that are most similar to those demanded by your target job. By practicing to describe these particularly relevant credentials and achievements and by practicing to incorporate them into anticipated interview questions, you will go a long ways toward winning over interviewers.

In addition, this research will help you to develop insightful questions to ask interviewers.

Give each interviewer a success portfolio: My May 5 column explains how to prepare an impressive success portfolio.

Tell your interviewers you want the job: At the end of your interview, tell your interviewers that you would enthusiastically accept the job, if it is offered to you, and inquire about next steps.

Follow-up: Immediately after your interview, send each interviewer a personalized thank-you letter or a neatly handwritten thank-you card. Cite in the letter some of the appealing aspects of your target job that were specifically discussed in the interview.

Unless the delivery of snail mail to your target agency is slowed by security screens, send your letter by overnight delivery — rather than by email, which is easily deleted and forgotten and lacks the attention-grabbing power of overnight delivery.

Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is IGotTheJob.net. Ask your career questions by email to lwhiteman@federaltimes.com or by Twitter to @Lilymwhiteman. View her blog at blogs.federaltimes.com/federal-careers.

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