Seven important steps for interview preparation

Gather information to strengthen your position


Last updated on March 17th, 2020 at 01:36 pm

When new employment opportunities present themselves, you want to bring your “A” game.

Over more than 40 years in business and consulting I have interviewed hundreds of applicants at both the entry level and for C-suite positions. I was impressed as well as shocked at the variances in the levels of preparation I experienced.

Based on those interactions, I decided to assemble several steps of what I consider to be best practices when it comes to being prepared for the opportunity to sell yourself to a potential employer.

The seven steps necessary to prepare for that all-important interview and salary negotiation are:

  1. Always prepare an updated resume for the desired position, using the job description as your focus. For each cover letter and resume you are submitting, match your skills to those outlined in the job description. Support each job achievement with quantifiable results.
  2. Research the company, its management, its competition and its position in the marketplace. This will help you determine the company’s main sources of business or the services it offers its customers. Go to the company’s website and read about its management team, its business philosophy and search its customer list for a company where you might know an executive or manager. Network with that individual and ask about their interactions with that firm, both positive and negative.
  3. Research salaries and benefits in your area for the same or comparable positions at similar companies. There are several government and public websites that contain these statistics. For example, contains data on wages and benefits. Your local office of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development is also a possible resource for information on salary ranges by industry. This data permits you to develop “information power” for your salary negotiation.
  4. Develop a budget so you can determine how much money you really need to cover your rent, food, insurance (heath, home and auto) and other expenses in that geographical location. This basic level of salary will be your “WATNA,” which is your “worst alternative to a negotiated agreement.” It is the salary number you do not want to accept.
  5. The range of salary and benefits you can accept would be reflected in your “ZOPA,” which is your “zone of potential agreement.” Any offer that falls within the “aspire to,” the top of your desired salary range, or the “acceptable zone,” a salary and benefit package that meets your needs, would be a win.
  6. It is not in your best interest for your first interview to be with the company you desire the most. If you can, set up one or more interviews with your second- and third-tier companies in order to gather information, build your confidence and interviewing skills. If you receive an offer from one of these companies, you can use it as leverage with your No. 1 choice.
  7. After interviewing with these second- and third-tier companies, and having received an offer, you now have developed a “BATNA,” which is your “best alternative to a negotiated agreement.” Should you not get the first-tier position, you may have one or two other valid offers to accept. Those offers also provide some guidance about salary possibilities and provide you the opportunity to experience the salary negotiation process.

Now that you have gained “line of fire” experience, salary information and insights from your previous interviews, you are ready for the “major leagues.” You have a better understanding of the process and have gathered information about potential employers, their strengths and weaknesses, industry salary ranges and benefits. These interactions have also added to your self-confidence, and ability to answer and ask focused questions during the interview.

Remembering that “needs drive behavior,” you should consider linking your skill sets to the needs of the organization to which you are applying. Be sure to include these skill sets in your resume and cover letter and stress them during the interviewing process.

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He was a senior professor at DeVry's Keller Graduate School in Wisconsin. Cary has published articles in periodicals and on the Internet. He recently published first book with Dr. Larry Waldman, "Overcoming Your NegotiaPhobia". Cary holds MBAs from L I U’s Arthur T. Roth School of Business. Cary has a BA from CUNY, Queens College. He has certificates in Negotiation from Harvard’s PON and in Labor and Employment Law from Marquette University.

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