Job Interview Prep: Are You Keeping Up in the Interview “Arms Race”?

Can you keep up in the Interview “Arms Race”?

by Peggy McKee, Career Coach

Guest Blogger

Recently, I asked this question on LinkedIn:

Do you think that a job seeker has to be MORE prepared than before?

I’ve been thinking about how different the job market is today from even a few years ago.  Between the current economic times and our ridiculously high unemployment rates, I think that candidates have to be more prepared than ever before—do more research, be more assertive, demonstrate their motivation, and go the extra mile in their follow up.  This is what I’m seeing as a recruiter, but I wanted to know if that’s what hiring managers think, too.

I got a very interesting response.  The overwhelming feeling is that yes, job seekers do need to step up their game because it’s an employer’s market now and they are able to pick and choose who they want—and yet they’re very surprised by how many job seekers haven’t gotten the message.

Well, here it is:  the bar has been raised. 

One even called the current job market an “arms race.”  If you want to win, you’ve got to constantly be finding ways to be better than the next guy.

will you win the job competition?

Today’s hiring managers are looking for knowledge, hunger, and creativity in their top candidates.  They are expecting you to bring your “A” game every time.  And if you don’t, they can just wait for the next candidate because it won’t be long.

Here are some of the best job search tips I got from this discussion:

  • Start your interview prep well before you have an interview scheduled.  Two days is not enough time to prepare for an interview.  Get your interview skills down pat and then start looking into companies.
  • Research everything.  The internet has made researching a company very easy, and if you don’t do it, you just look lazy.  Use Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs, news articles, everything you can find about the company—mission, goals, obstacles, enemies, and opportunities.
  • Be able to tell the hiring manager what’s in it for him.  Why should he hire you?  What are you bringing that the other candidates can’t?
  • Develop your brand.  That idea throws some people, but it just means to have a consistent message about what you’re an expert at and how you bring value to an employer.  If someone else was going to describe you, what would they say?
  • If interviews are going to be more competitive, you need to generate more interviews.  Give yourself the best chance possible.  Contacting hiring managers directly is the very best way to do that.  And I don’t mean 10 of them, I mean 100 of them.  If you want a job, you need to approach it like it’s your mission in life (and right now, it is).  Go all out.


updated 4/4/17

“A job, any job” is NOT a career step

Horse and Rider

Image by cliff1066™ via Flickr

“Any job” won’t do it. Are you in the hardest part of being unemployed and looking for work: feeling, fueled by fear, “I need a job, any job!”  If you are over 18 and have held jobs and/or started down a career path in the past, “just any job” won’t work.  Looking for “any job” is like getting up on your horse and riding off in ALL directions.  It can’t be done.


Seth Grodin, in his book, We Are All Weird, says that being rich is having choices.  So, even unemployed or about to be laid off, we are rich.  We have choices.  What we don’t have is a clear choice.  Panic can set in and sling you right back to high school or just out of college when there really were millions of people with the same (minimal) skill set.  Find your way out of panic – it is a real time waster.

Sit down and write out (don’t just keep it in your head) all of your skills.  And I mean all!  Right down to tying your shoes.  Then highlight the ones you would like to get paid for and have a reasonable expectation that someone would do so. (Tying shoes really is a skill for pre-school teachers – teaching it is a better one.) Get your skills organized!

Remember that you are not a generic person – you have skills and experiences that no one else does.

Companies, in this time of tight money and fear on an even larger scale than one person, don’t hire unless they have to.  Only when they have a problem or opportunity that no one they now employ can handle do they even begin to consider hiring.  Not even your mother will hire you because you need a job.

Who do you want to work for?

So take another look at that list of skills and figure out what kind of company would have a problem only you can solve!  What industry?  What market niche?  Only you can decide what your next career step should be.  Working toward it goes a long way toward lessening panic.

Who actually has the job?

Industries, Niches, Companies and Colleagues

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