How to Prepare for a Job Interview, with Thaddeus B. Dunn

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 345:

How to Prepare for a Job Interview, with Thaddeus B. Dunn

Airdate: April 27, 2022

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. 

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

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You’ve been asked to interview for a job that you really want. Congratulations!  

What should you do next?

Thaddeus B. Dunn is here to talk about how to prepare for a job interview.

He’s the founder of Right Fit Recruiting. Thaddeus’s company serves healthcare organizations, nonprofits, financial institutions, and government agencies. 

He joins us from Buffalo, New York. 

Well, Thaddeus, here’s where I want to start. Why do you need to prepare at all for a job interview? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

Well, it’s really good to prepare for job interviews, so that they know that you are prepared, that you’re engaged, and that, also, you’re confident. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, but so many people just wing it. Why is that not a good idea? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

That’s not a good idea because that doesn’t separate you from the other people who just wing it, like you just mentioned. It’s better to be prepared. 

Mac Prichard:

And, when you walk in, what is your job as the candidate? Are you there just to answer the employer’s questions? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

Oh no, not at all. Which actually, that’s a great question. So I have some must-dos, for example, I always say, do your homework, and by that I want you to know the person, the interviewer’s name, that you’re gonna be interviewing with and their responsibility at the job. Because maybe, later on during the conversation, during the interview, you can draw on some commonalities that you may have, and that may be useful. So, know the name of the person that’s gonna be interviewing you. 

The second thing I would say that you should do is view the company’s website; take a look at the company’s website and see if it’s inviting, if it’s diverse, if it’s inclusive, if it’s a place that you can see yourself working at long term. 

Then third, I would say understand the organization’s mission and values. See if the organization’s mission and value align with what you believe. You’re more apt to do a better job. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s break that down. Those are great tips. Now, I love the idea of knowing who you’re gonna meet with. Some people actually struggle with this. How do you find out the names of the people who you’re gonna be interviewing with? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

So usually, you will receive like an email, and on the email, it’ll have the people that you’re gonna be meeting with, and so what I’ll always do is I go to LinkedIn as my first defense, and I see if I can connect with that person prior to the interview. Then that way I find out what their responsibilities are, and also there’s no harm in doing a Google search to see if you can find out something exciting about that individual. Maybe they were promoted or that type of thing, and what they’ve done and some of their responsibilities on the job. 

Mac Prichard:

And, sometimes you get an invitation to an interview, and it may not actually indicate who you’re gonna be talking with. What’s your best advice in that situation, Thaddeus, for finding out who’s gonna be in the room, whether it’s virtual or in-person? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

Yeah, so one of the things that you can do is, on that one, would be to know that about the company, the organization, and the role that you’re there to talk to them about, to talk to the interviewer about. So you can just, kind of like, shift it a little bit, just know the company then and what the responsibilities are, what they do. 

Mac Prichard:

I love your suggestion of actually connecting with someone who you will be interviewing with, who’s been identified, and connecting with them on LinkedIn. How do you recommend doing that? What’s the best way to approach an interviewer that you’re gonna be meeting in a few days and ask to connect with them on LinkedIn? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

Yeah, just that friendly – inmail them, friendly, saying, like, hey, I’d like to connect with you. My name is, for example, Thaddeus Dunn, and I’m scheduled to interview with you on, let’s say, Monday. I’d like to connect with you. So that would be, I think, the best way to do it. 

Mac Prichard:

And what does someone who gets an invitation like that think? How does that help distinguish you from the other candidates the interviewer might be meeting with? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

Well, I think it kind of sets you apart that they notice, they know who you are, they know, maybe, your background or responsibilities if it’s on LinkedIn. So it kind of gives them like an advanced notice of who you are, what your responsibilities are. Besides the resume, you know, they can actually take a look at your LinkedIn profile to see, you know, what you’re about. 

Mac Prichard:

You recommended looking at the company website and paying attention to the mission and values of an organization. You’re a recruiter, Thaddeus. You talk to candidates all the time. When you meet with applicants who have done that, how do they demonstrate they’ve done that kind of homework? And how does that help them as a candidate in an interview with a recruiter like you? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

So, what I do as a recruiter is I always do mock interviews with the candidate because I want them to present themselves in the best light possible the first time because you only get one time to make your first impression. So one of the things I also tell them to do is take a look at the website, and you can Google search the organization, and take a look at some of their recent articles and let the interviewer know that, hey, I took the liberty of, not only taking a look at the website, but I also Googled the company.

And if you find something, let’s say, for example, that the company may be changing directions. You may kind of like mention some of those things. I think that’s gonna set you apart from someone else who maybe, perhaps, did not do the homework on the company. Hopefully, that answers the question. 

Mac Prichard:

Absolutely, and when you’re doing this research, and when you’re helping candidates as a recruiter that you’re gonna present to employers for open positions, how much time do you recommend to the candidates you work with that they spend on research? Is this, say, an hour or two, or what’s a good amount of time to invest? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

I would say I never really give like a number. It’s what you feel comfortable with and confident in. So what I do is I suggest that you research that company until you’re confident that you know enough about that company that you may even know it a little bit better than the person interviewing you. 

Mac Prichard:

And when you do this research, how do you recommend to a candidate that they demonstrate that they’ve done this homework in an interview? You mentioned perhaps referring to articles, but what are some other steps that an applicant can take to show that they’ve done their homework to an interviewer? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

Right, so that’s a great question. So you want to do a deep dive, you want to find out some of the programs, let’s say, for example, that they may offer, some of the leaders you may want to mention, you might want to take a look at that. And so again, my answer to the earlier question was, what you have to do is research the company, research the organization, and then kind of like give them feedback on what you’ve learned about the organization, and don’t be afraid to say, hey, I’ve done the homework. I found out that, you know, the company’s moving in a different direction. By the way, I have a specific skill that I believe that you guys can use from day one. 

Mac Prichard:

Another step I know that you recommend to the candidates you work with to get ready for a job interview is to study the job description. Why is this important, Thaddeus? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

That’s another good question, to study the job description. Because you would know the requirements required and also the skill set that it’s gonna take in order for you to move forward with this opportunity. Can you imagine if you go for an interview, right, and you have not fully understood the responsibilities? And for example, let’s say, for example, that job required you to have certification, so even a license required, and then during the interview, one of the interviewers asks, oh, so are you certified in…and then if you say no, then it’s like, okay, you wasted their time, and that’s not a good thing.

So you want to make sure that you fully understand the responsibilities and the requirements before you even accept an interview. 

Mac Prichard:

In addition to making sure that you’re qualified for the job when you study the job description, how do you recommend applying what you learn to the conversation with the interviewer? What tips do you give the candidates you prepare? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

Yeah, so I always tell them to be prepared, as I said earlier, to discuss at least three or more specific successes that you may have had. Don’t be afraid to mention that, to kind of like pat yourself on the back. But you should be specific what they were, and so be intentional when you speak as well. Use words like, for example, if you were a manager, say that I managed people or that I saw the oversight of the auditing department or the finance department. I organized, I created, and notice that I’m using a lot of words that are past tense. That kind of like lets them know that you’ve done this already, so you don’t have to be trained on day one, or the learning curve may not be all that great. 

Because they want someone to come in there, I think, knowing what the responsibilities are and knowing how to do the job successfully. After all, you’re in the interview for a reason. They thought that you were the top of the bunch, and so that’s why you’re there. So now, you have to be able to articulate that: your strengths, your skillset. 

Mac Prichard:

Terrific. Well, Thaddeus, we’re gonna take a quick break. So stay with us. When we come back, Thaddeus B. Dunn will continue to share his advice on how to prepare for a job interview. 

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Thaddeus B. Dunn.

He’s the founder of Right Fit Recruiting. Thaddeus’s company serves healthcare organizations, nonprofits, financial institutions, and government agencies. 

He joins us from Buffalo, New York. 

Now, Thaddeus, before the break, we were talking about how to prepare for a job interview, and at the end of the first segment, you talked about the importance of sharing examples of success and especially paying attention to the language that you use. Do you recommend practicing these stories, these examples, before an interview? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

Oh, absolutely. I do recommend that so that you can be on target and be prepared. Like I said, always be prepared, and by practicing, you know, that makes it perfect, I believe. But you don’t want to sound rehearsed. Right? So I believe that a resume, you know, Mac, should tell your story, your personal story. 

So yeah. So talk about those achievements. Don’t be afraid. Talk about some of those responsibilities that you had so that they can better understand. You have to remember, they don’t really know, just on paper. But when you get before someone, that means that you should be really proud of yourself. You successfully, you know, ran through the gate, and now you have an audience, by the way, who hopefully will hire you. 

Mac Prichard:

Any advice, Thaddeus, about how to choose those stories? Do you look for connections with the job description, for example? Because, particularly, if you’re mid-career, you probably have dozens of examples you can draw on. How do you create a shortlist? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

So what I normally do is I suggest to candidates to take a look at the job description, and you know, the qualifications and also like the skillset. So I would pick like maybe three or four that’s absolutely required of the job. Right? So if it’s finance, if it’s managing people. So you want to talk about, you know, hey, I managed a team between five and twenty people, or I was able to develop my team or to grow my team, or we had some hiccups. Don’t be afraid, to be honest, and if it was challenging, say, it was challenging.

You know, tell the story if you were able to develop someone that maybe was struggling, and that will show them that, you know what, he has what it takes, or she has what it takes to grow people as well. To grow a team. 

Mac Prichard:

When practicing your stories in advance of an interview, how do you recommend doing that? Should you talk to a mirror or with a colleague? What have you seen work best? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

So, if you don’t have a recruiter to talk to or someone at home, I would say that, you know what, stand before a mirror or walk up and down your hall, your kitchen, your living room, and then kind of practice what you’re gonna be saying. That’s how I would do. But if you can get a person to listen to you and to critique you, then that would probably be the best, I think. 

Mac Prichard:

What kind of feedback should you look for if you do work with someone and you ask them to critique you? What is most helpful? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

I think the person who’s critiquing you should be honest. They should tell you, hey, you know what, you left this out, or, you know what, you didn’t answer the question fully. That’s really important to answer the question fully. 

Mac Prichard:

Okay, so you’re recommending practicing not only telling your story but perhaps looking at some likely questions that you’re gonna get as well. 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

That’s right. You should always be prepared to ask questions from the interviewer. Like, for example, they may say to you, I was dealing with a candidate, and she said, you know, I said the same thing twice, and they asked me to please elaborate. And she said, what did that mean, Thaddeus? And I said that meant you did not answer the question. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, good. How do you recommend people identify likely questions that they need to get ready for? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

So some of them are really like the basic questions you may want to ask, like, for example, is this a new position? What would my responsibilities be? Because sometimes it’s not on paper. Ask them what are some of the challenges this position may warrant, you know, if you’re hired? 

And then ask them, I always tell people to ask them, when you looked at my resume, and you decided to bring me in for an interview, what was it about my resume that excited you or made you interested in bringing me in for this particular role? And what that does, Mac, is it puts the ownership back on them. So now, they have to kind of think, why did I want to meet this person in the first place? What was some of the skillsets that I felt that this candidate was gonna bring to the table, to my team, or to my department, or to the organization as a whole? 

Mac Prichard:

In your experience, Thaddeus, do most candidates walk in with a set of questions that they’re going to ask employers? Or do they just say no when they’re asked if they have any questions? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

In my opinion, I always tell my candidates to please have at least three to five questions. So my experience is, even if I don’t know you, the conversations that we’re having, I think everyone kind of knows that you should have some questions. It should not always be one-sided, that conversation. 

You have to remember too, that the interviewer’s also nervous. So they’re trying to find out about you, and then they also want you to ask questions about them, I believe. Like, for example, why do you stay? Why do you come every day to work? So those are really important questions. So that way, it’s a two-way street dialogue. 

Mac Prichard:

I’m so glad you brought up the fact that many interviewers are nervous because I think a lot of candidates don’t see that. Do they, Thaddeus? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

They don’t. So they kind of see them, honestly, like okay, you’re the judge. You’re judging me from the time that I walked in. You don’t really know me. You sized me up for my clothes that I’m wearing to whatever. Right? So yeah, they’re nervous, you know. 

The interviewer’s nervous as well, and honestly, sometimes an ice breaker is kind of like good too, and that’s why I go back to like, going back to the website, trying to connect with them and trying to find something that maybe that you share something in common with that individual, you’ll be surprised. 

Maybe not at the beginning of the interview, you may have an opportunity to say, hey, I noticed that you lived in Houston. Guess what? I lived in Houston at one point as well. I worked for blah blah blah. So that’s a conversation. Like, oh yeah, how did you like it? You know, then you can go on to develop almost like, you know, a relationship. 

Mac Prichard:

And how does building that kind of connection, that rapport, help you as a candidate? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

I think it does wonders. What it does is that it’s shared common experiences, I think, shared common places, perhaps. It just kind of connects us. I think that we’re all people who like to have shared commonalities, I think, because at the end of the day, I really feel that we are more alike than unalike. 

Mac Prichard:

Speaking of questions, one of your recommendations to the candidates you work with is to be ready for uncomfortable questions. What kind of uncomfortable questions do you have in mind, Thaddeus? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

So, for example, if there are gaps in your resume, you should be prepared to be honest about some of those gaps. For example, today, I believe that we’ve realized that some of our parents are aging, and so, you may have to actually take off some time to tend to that elderly parent. Or it could be a family illness. Be honest about that. If that illness, that family illness, or maybe your own personal illness has caused you to have a gap, you know, in your work history, be honest about it. 

Mac Prichard:

Why do employers ask about gaps in work history? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

Because they want to make sure that you’re not gonna just start working with them and then just leave. They want someone that’s gonna be reliable, dependable, you know, because then if you leave like, let’s say, within like a year or two, it’s a lot of money that they’ve invested in you, and so then, therefore, they have to go – they have to start from scratch, to be honest, to start looking for another candidate to replace you. 

So they want someone that’s gonna be there for the long haul, and then oftentimes, you know, Mac, they may ask you, so what is your five-year goal? You know, where do you see yourself in five years? Hopefully, you know, you believe in the mission and in the value, and you can honestly say, I see myself growing, I see myself here at this organization growing, and you know, being a responsible person, a responsible leader, and just developing. So staying. 

Mac Prichard:

And what should you say if you’re not sure; if you think you might be in that job for just a year or two or you’re uncertain about making a five-year commitment? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

So I just think that question, like five years, is just a number to me. So when you’re in the job, and you’re in the position, I think what they really want you to say is that you’re gonna learn, you’re gonna contribute to the team to the organization, you’re gonna give it a hundred percent. I think that’s what they’re looking for versus like a whole number. Like five years, where do you see yourself? Hopefully, in your mind, you kind of know where you can see yourself within that organization. 

Mac Prichard:

We’re talking today about how to prepare for a job interview, but one piece of advice you recommend to all your clients is to write a thank-you note after the interview. Why is it important to plan for this, Thaddeus, and to do it at all? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

I know some people might say that it’s old-fashioned, it’s outdated the thank-you note, thank-you email; back in the day, it was put the letter in the mail. Right? Right after the interview. But today, we have email. Right? So I think that really separates you from other candidates who did not take the time to thank the individuals for their time of interviewing you. That separates you from a lot of others. 

A lot of times, I ask candidates, have you ever written a thank-you note? And believe it or not, many of them say no. I just, you know, I just went to the interview, and I just waited to see if I was hired or not. But that’s gonna separate you. That thank-you kind of like tells, in my opinion, it tells the interviewer that hey, this person understands that my time was valuable, you know, they’re courteous, they’re professional, they’re polite and that’s something that I believe that everyone should do after an interview, and right away if you can, the sooner, the better I believe. 

It just separates you, Mac, from any other candidate who may not take the time to do that. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Thaddeus. Now, tell us, what’s next for you? 

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

So I’ve been in the human resources business for about twenty years, and I’ve owned my own company for about twelve years, working with executive leaders at mid-management, and so now what I’ve been doing a lot, honestly, is a lot of consulting. It’s given me the opportunity, this job has given me a lot of opportunities to identify, to coach, and present top talent to various organizations, as well as industries across the nation. 

And so, I’ve also been interested of late with diversity inclusion. That has been something that has been kind of close to me. I want to see a world, hopefully, everyone does, where there’s even play, where equity is important, and when I do talk to groups about diversity and inclusion, I always say we must include equity in that as well. Because when you do that, Mac, when it’s equity there, you don’t have to worry about someone’s ethnic background or their age, or their race. Right? Just the person doing the job. So it’s a fair playground, so to speak if you will. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, that’s terrific, Thaddeus. I know listeners can learn more about you and your services and your work by visiting your website; that’s rightfitrecruiting.net, and I also know that you invite listeners to connect with you on LinkedIn, and if they do reach out to you, I hope they will mention they heard you on the show. 

Now, Thaddeus, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to prepare for a job interview?  

Thaddeus B. Dunn:

I guess one of the takeaways that you must remember as a candidate is, that you must tell your story. No one can better tell your story than you. So here’s a great opportunity, if you are meeting with a team, they’re interested in you, think of it as wow, it’s a privilege. Right? That I’m before this group of people who are gonna like ask me questions about my qualifications. You only get one shot. 

So I think that you should be prepared. If you’re prepared, then you have a high possibility of getting hired, and you know, letting your light shine and letting your skillset shine as well. 

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Madeline Mann. She’s an HR and recruiting leader whose career coaching programs have helped thousands. 

Madeline also hosts the award-winning YouTube channel, Self-Made Millennial. 

After today’s episode, you know how to prepare for a job interview. But what do you do when the interview starts? 

Join us next Wednesday when Madeline Mann and I talk about how to answer the most common job interview questions. 

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

This show is produced by Mac’s List. 

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer is Matt Fiorillo.  Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week. 

You’ve been called in for an interview. That’s great news! Now, it’s time to prepare. Do you know how to get ready for a job interview? Find Your Dream Job guest Thaddeus B. Dunn says it starts with researching the company. Know what the company values and who the interviewer will be. Study the job description and use points from it to highlight your skills and successes. Prepare questions that will allow you to build rapport with the hiring manager, and practice asking and answering questions with a trusted friend or coach. 

About Our Guest:

Thaddeus B. Dunn is the founder of Right Fit Recruiting. Thaddeus’s company serves healthcare organizations, nonprofits, financial institutions, and government agencies.

Resources in This Episode: