A marathon race: 26.2 miles, buckets of sweat from demanding so much of the body, a sense of achievement after crossing the finish line.
A marathon interview: 26.2 references to your work history, buckets of sweat from talking and talking and listening and listening, and a sense of achievement after leaving the final interview of the day and buying yourself a latte, because you deserve it.
Both are long days, and both require preparation and a plan to keep your energy high. Consider this your all-day marathon interview training guide:
1. Come to terms with the nature of these interviews. Yes, you will probably be asked the same question by a few different interviewers. And yes, by 3 p.m., that will get old. "Make peace with the fact that you're going to be repeating stuff," says Mary Ellen Slayter, Monster's career advice expert and founder of the marketing company Reputation Capital Media Services. Accept this quirk of marathon interviews as you make small talk about your hobbies for the third time.
2. Get organized. You have a notepad. You have copies of your résumé and the job post. You have a pen. You have your business cards. Later, you'll have their business cards. And you've got to cart all this stuff around from interview to interview. To get organized (and to appear organized), Slayter suggests adopting a padfolio system with a notepad inside a folder that has compartments for business cards.
Now that you've organized your gear, organize your thoughts. "Think to yourself: What are the three main take-aways I want every person in the conversation to come away with after talking with me?" Slayter says. "Write that down, and keep it in front of you as the first page in the notebook." On the big day, read through this page before each interview to refocus, she adds.
3. Research the interviewers. When scheduling your interview, ask the point of contact with whom you'll be meeting. And then, just as you should investigate the company, research each individual on LinkedIn, says Peggy McKee, CEO of Career Confidential, a job search training company. So many job seekers skip this step, she says. "It's stunning to me, because by not doing that, you're missing a huge opportunity to connect with that person, to show them that you value them, that they're important and to start that off on the right foot." She adds: While researching, keep an eye out for talking points. Do you have shared connections, rival alma maters or similar backgrounds?
4. Eat for energy. Just like marathon runners, marathon interviewers must be mindful of what they put in their bodies before and on the big day. It's not a great time to feel jittery, sleepy or nauseated when you're trying to describe a professional challenge you've overcome. To feel full throughout the day, McKee advises her clients to load up on protein the night before and for breakfast and lunch. So go for something more substantial than a handful of cereal and a slug of coffee for breakfast.
Speaking of coffee, take it easy. Limit your caffeine intake before the interview, because you're likely already full of nervous energy, Slayter says. When you're feeling drained and about speak with your prospective boss's boss four interviews later, however, go for it. "Save your caffeine burst for when you actually need it," Slayter says.
5. Shape your questions to each interviewer's position. Marathon interviews often include meetings with the following types of people, Slayter says, and here's what to consider:
-- Hiring manager: During this interview, Slayter says, "dig into the nitty-gritty of what are the skills, traits and habits of what makes someone successful in this job." Get a sense of this manager's work style, too, and if it will gel with your own. If he or she stresses the importance of being punctual, for example, and you're notoriously late, that clash is worth jotting in your padfolio.
-- Colleague: When meeting with a prospective team member, ask questions about what it's like to work on the team and for the boss, Slayter says. Ask: "What makes someone successful on a team like this?"
-- Hiring manager's boss: "You need to impress the pants off them, and you probably don't have them for very long," Slayter says. To make the most of your time with him or her, "elevate your conversation," Slayter says. Ask about industry trends, what he or she envisions for the team and where he or she sees the company in five years, she adds.
-- Human resources employee: For this meeting, focus on how the role fits in with the overall plan for the company, along with long-term opportunities for development, Slayter says.
-- Wild card: It's not uncommon for companies to gain a different perspective of a candidate by adding an employee who is not directly part of the team to the interview queue. When talking to these people, Slayter suggests asking what they like about working at the company and their perspective of the prospective team.
Yes, that's a lot of people, and it may sound exhausting. But it's also a lot of insight waiting to be tapped. "It's really a gift," Slayter says. "I understand these interviews can be so overwhelming, but if you're smart and strategic about it, you can walk out with a more complete idea of what it's like to work somewhere." Take notes during each interview, and as McKee adds, don't forget to get a business card from everyone.
6. Take mini breaks to reset. So you don't become frazzled or burned out during this long day, Slayter suggests requesting a quick restroom break between each interview. Even if you don't physically have to go, just stand there for five minutes and breathe deeply, she says. And don't look at your phone, she adds, because it will only stress you out more. Take these few minutes to relax, and "you'll walk into the next meeting more mentally and physically prepared," Slayter says.
7. Follow up the interview with thank-you notes. Remember how you took notes during each interview and gathered everyone's business cards? Use that information to email each interviewer the same day. Send a "thank you" that's tailor-made for each person, rather than copying and pasting the same message for everyone, says Jenny Foss, founder of the career blog JobJenny.com and author of "Ridiculously Awesome Job Search Kit." She says, "Specifically thank them and reflect on something about your conversation and express continued interest, assuming you have it." That note is the final step before the finish line of this marathon of a day, so don't quit now.
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