UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


Career advice: Develop an agenda for every job interview


By John Worth

Many people have told me that they have left job interviews feeling like they didn’t have the opportunity to discuss some of their strengths or accomplishments that seemed very relevant to the job they were applying for.

Although they answered every question as well as they could, some areas just didn’t seem to come up in any of the questions they received. While it is true that the interviewer, not the applicant, is in charge of the interview, you may have more opportunity than you think to make sure that your most relevant and impressive skills, attributes and/or accomplishments become part of the interview conversation.

Here are a few suggestions that can help.

Develop an agenda for every interview. For every interview you receive, develop an agenda that includes some key points you want to emphasize in your interview. These key points may include areas of expertise, certifications, specific skills, or relevant accomplishments that can demonstrate your ability to add value to this job. When developing your agenda, be sure to cross reference the job description carefully to ensure the relevancy of your agenda.

For example, in the section “The ideal candidate must be able to”, you may find statements like these:

· Develop business plans that include market and competitive analysis, channel and distribution strategies, and financial models to identify international markets for target penetration

  • Create and deliver external and customer facing communications
  • Work with advertising agencies in designing product brochures
  • The first two bullets may represent strengths or areas in which you have experience. Be prepared to tell a brief story highlighting business plans you have developed and focus on the results you achieved.

What if the third bullet represents an area you have yet to experience? Rather than simply admit that you have never worked with advertising agencies (never a great idea), you should recognize before your interview that this is an area that is likely to come up. Network with alumni in marketing roles and get their perspectives and advice. This extra effort can allow you to respond that you have spoken with several people in very similar roles and that you are aware of key aspects that are important in working with advertising agencies (and be able to describe them).

Be prepared to take initiative. If the interview is drawing to a close and your interviewer says something like: “Well, I’ve asked all the questions I have; do you have any questions for me?” consider responding “Actually, I do have some questions and I hope to be able to ask a couple of them but, if you don’t mind, I’d like to mention a couple of things that I think are important for you to know about me that have yet to come up in our conversation.”

You can then briefly and concisely mention a couple of skills or accomplishments that did not come up in response to questions you received. In a worst case scenario, your interviewer is now aware of these skills or accomplishments. In a best case scenario, your interviewer may ask you to go into more detail about these areas.

Either way, your planning and initiative have helped your interviewer make a decision on your candidacy based on a more complete view of what you bring to the job. That’s a very good thing! I hope these suggestions were helpful.