For this, my “debut” blog for my brand-new employer, Aviation Personnel International, the topic of interviewing tips and tricks is quite fitting.

Being the “new kid on the block” has its advantages—especially because I just navigated my way through the very process of self-examination, research and follow-through that many of API’s candidates will need to engage as they market themselves, their skills and experience for whatever aviation position they’re angling to land.

So, while it’s still very fresh in my mind, I’d like to share with you some of things I’ve learned about the interviewing process, and myself, which are applicable to most any interviewee.

Here are the five “big” questions I asked of myself, and what I did to prepare for the interview that has changed my career direction and—with it—my life.

Although these questions were a product of my recent experience, they are pertinent to anyone in a job-seeking endeavor, and I hope you find them helpful.

1. Who am I?

As odd as it seemed to ask myself this question, it turned out to be a terrific exercise in self-evaluation. So don’t avoid it—add it to your arsenal. The fact is, as you prepare to put yourself on the line as a candidate competing for a new job, you are definitely going to need to know who you are and, by extension, what you’re bringing to the table—good, bad and indifferent.

The question isn’t so much about the personal details of your life as it is the general facts about you:  are you a parent, and, if so, how does this “leadership” role define your work ethic values? This personal fact gives potential employers an insight into your skills, your flexibility, and—in essence—where you’re coming from. Do you participate in athletics? Sharing my experience of competing in triathlons demonstrated that I’m goal-oriented and have interests outside of the office. Are you a voracious reader? This hobby indicates your eagerness to learn well beyond your college years and that you enjoy quiet time to yourself.

These are just a few examples of personal facts you might consider sharing if they pertain to you, or reflect who you seek to become as a professional.

2. How (and how much) should I research?

Conducting due diligence is really vital if you’re serious about being selected for the job you’re seeking, so plan to do your homework.

Before my initial interview with API’s President and CEO, Sheryl Barden, I researched the company for several hours. I poured over the company’s website, news articles, press releases, LinkedIn page and Facebook page. These online resources helped me learn about API, its history, its successes and challenges, its philosophy, its staff, its position in the aviation industry and even what companies it considers its competition.

Not only did this step help prove that I’d done my advance research, it also gave me a certain sense of confidence that I wasn’t walking into an interview blind— potentially vulnerable to getting “caught” by saying something that would let Sheryl know I didn’t really understand that much about her firm.

Another important way that I prepared was by getting in touch with trusted colleagues and peers—people I knew that I could count on for their confidentiality, whom had a business and/or personal connection with the API team. Luckily I learned that the company has a stellar reputation within the exact same industry I’d been working in for 10 years. It was refreshing to hear that the brand is synonymous with success.

The bottom line? Don’t leave any stone unturned in the research department!

3. What are some questions that I should ask?

During your interview, when the hiring manager inevitably turns to you and asks “What questions do you have for me?” you’ll want to have a few in your pocket that convey your professionalism.

Another tip I’d like to share with API’s candidates is this: “Your questions are only as good as your research,” (which takes us back to tip No. 2!) Preparing a variety of questions shows your understanding of the company, the position and its requirements, and, lastly, your ability to digest and quickly evaluate what you’ve just been discussing.

If, for example, you know that the hiring company generated $32 million in sales in the last fiscal year, and that it was up, say, 25 percent from the previous year, then that’s something you might want to explore by inquiring, “What steps did the company take over the past year to generate such an impressive increase in sales?” You might follow that up by asking, “How aggressive are you year-to-year, and do you plan to grow at a similar pace in this fiscal year?”

Whatever your questions are, try and keep them in synch with the pace and flow of the interview. And remember…it’s perfectly acceptable to ask questions throughout the interview. Just be sure to time them based on your sense for how formal or casual the exchange is occurring.

4. How should I follow up after my interview?

The importance of following up immediately after your interview can’t be overstated. At the very least, send a brief, cordial email to your interviewer—no longer than the day following your interview—and let him or her know how grateful you are for the opportunity. I also highly recommend mailing a formal note so that you’ll be top of mind within a week’s time, when they get their mail.

Also, don’t forget to follow up, genuinely, to thank others who might have intervened in your behalf to help you by providing you with information, or putting in a good word in for you. Remember that a little warmth and humility go a long way. After all, employers are not hiring a skill set; they are hiring a person.

5. How should I handle the question, “Why do you want to leave your current employer?”

People say that it’s never good to wait until you’re out of your current job before thinking about looking for a new one, but I, personally, was in the position of interviewing for a new job when I already had a very good one, at a great company, where I’d been employed for a relatively long period of time.

Still, I knew that the last thing I was going to do in my interview was to speak negatively about my former company or any of its practices. Thankfully, I didn’t have those issues myself, but for anyone who might, speaking negatively about your employer (or, frankly any topic), sends a giant red flag to the interviewer.

So, no matter what your current situation entails, you need to put a positive spin on your job-seeking rationale and be exceedingly diplomatic. Look for the answer within yourself: maybe you’ve been satisfied in your current position, but wonder where you’ll be in five years time? Communicating to a potential employer that you’re thinking about your long-term future within the company is a solid indicator that you’re operating with a broad, forward-thinking perspective—and that can never be considered a bad thing.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these interview tips, and invite you to share your interview successes in the comments section below.

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