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How to prepare for a job interview

Melissa Llarena is the president of Career Outcomes Matter, where she coaches top executives how to prepare for a job interview.

Melissa is an employee transition expert, interview specialist, career coach and blogger. Her articles have been featured in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and The Huffington Post just to name a few.

She is the author of the eBooks The Mommy shift: A reentry strategy, The guide for landing a global assignment and the ebook we will discuss today How to get back in the driver seat Become the strongest job candidate.


Melissa started her career in careers after soon earning a full-ride scholarship from Chase Bank to attend NYU. At the time, Chase, now J.P. Morgan Chase, offered many different professional development programs to participants in their scholarship program.

As a result, Melissa was exposed to many career-related workshops such as how to write an effective resume and how to interview more effectively.  Because she attended these courses, she was always surrounded by high-level senior executives.

The combination of exposure to these executives and the workshops provided Melissa with the opportunity to apply what she was learning with her peers for free.

This eventually led Melissa to turn her “pro-bono” work into a full-time business helping senior leaders or corporate Olympians as she refers to them, prepare for job interviews.   


Many of Melissa’s clients ask her how to prepare for a job interview. So to help them, she put together a guide titled, “How to get back in the driver seat Become the strongest job candidate”.

Melissa looks at the interview as a rich business conversation v.s. just a question and answers session.  It’s this mindset that drives her in helping her clients prepare for a job interview.

Her primary focus is on helping these corporate Olympians relate their experiences of how they have solved problems in the past to how they will solve similar problems at the new company.

She does offer a “warning” to her clients, however.  She issues homework.  Which means if you're going to get the most out of your sessions with her, you're going to need to do some work.


In exchange for an email address, Melissa will provide you with her guide to help you become the strongest job candidate by learning how to prepare for your job interview.  

Melissa starts her guide off by explaining the differences between the “old interview process” v.s. what is now the “new interview process”.

In the past, say six years ago, you would submit your application online and wait for someone to call you.  You may do this a hundred times. Hopefully, at some point, you get a called in for an interview where you would talk to one maybe two people and that was it.

Today, however, it’s different.  Melissa knows your future employer is watching you online.  This means they already have a good sense of who you are before they ever call you into an interview.  

In all likelihood, every person you speak with during the interview will have already Googled you. Which means if what you say doesn’t match what you say online, as Melissa put it, you’re probably toast.       

Because of this, you have to be much more prepared for the interview both offline and online than ever before in the past.


As it happens in every interview, you will get the opportunity to ask your own questions.  We’ve all had this happen, right?

Knowing this is the case, Melissa offers five potential questions in her guide for you to ask any hiring manager.  We don’t cover all five questions during our discussion but before we dove into a couple of them I was curious to know if it is ever OK to not ask any questions.

Melissa’s response was a resounding No!

In fact, she tells us if you don't want the job, then don't ask any questions.  It’s that simple. Melissa believes what really matters in business is being able to ask the right questions to solve any business challenge.     

The job interview is the place for you to ask the right questions.  The right questions will show the potential employer how well you prepared for the job interview.

Questions Melissa recommends asking during an interview

One of the questions Melissa Llarena recommends you ask is how the position you are applying for will contribute to the department goals.  

The reason to ask this particular question is to quickly get to what the hiring manager believes are the key focus areas for the position.  This is really important since you are asking the question to the person who will ultimately measure whether or not you have met the goal.

This question also helps you understand what is on the hiring manager’s mind while at the same time opening up the door to be able to place yourself in the position and explain how your experiences will help you contribute to the goals.

Essentially, you’re helping the hiring manager visualize you in the role.

One question I have been coached to ask in the past is “Do you have any concerns about my qualifications?” Melissa refers to this as a negative question because you are essentially asking the person to point out your weaknesses.

Instead, Melissa recommends asking about the ideal qualities a candidate needs for the role.  Phrasing the question in this manner provides you with the opportunity to once again explain how your qualities align with the position.    


Melissa also includes in the book, five questions that potential hiring managers could ask you. Like the questions you should, we didn't cover them all but there is one question we discussed that I personally dislike.  Peter Drucker once said,

‘A person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weakness”.

Assuming this is true, I asked Melissa what is an interviewer looking for when they ask, “What is your greatest weakness?”

Melissa quickly answered with self-awareness.  She explained that organizations today need leaders who are self-aware. They are looking for leaders who know their strengths but at the same time understand the areas where they are not as a strong.

Being self-aware will allow them to build the best possible teams with people who can complement their strengths and fill in the gaps for their weaknesses.   


Melissa recommends going into the interview with a 90-day plan.  The plan is both for you and the employer.  You develop the plan as you prepare for the interview.  

The 90-day plan you develop could very well be the plan you follow in your first 90-days in the role.  The plan is derived from your research and forces you to scale up your knowledge of the company, the role, the competitors, the skills required, and how you meet or exceed all of them.  

The plan gives you a good sense of how you would approach this new role if you were to be hired.  In addition, it once again allows the employer to see you in the role as well.  

When developing your plan Melissa recommends starting with the job description and using it as a skeleton to draft your plan.  Look for “themes” within the job description.

As an example, one theme might be you in the role of leader with five direct reports.  In this case, as yourself what will you do with those reports in the first 30, 60, and 90 days.  

Will you review their current projects, will you attend their meetings, will you travel with them to a customer location?

If the role is cross-functional, how do you plan to interact with your peers over the 90-day period? List out the activities you intend to complete.  

The 90-day plan will show you’ve given serious thought to the role and that you’re able to hit the ground running.

I think the 90-day plan framework might just be the best way to prepare for a job interview.


Web: http://melissallarena.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CareerOutcomes


Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.”

Preparing for the job interview is exactly like sharpening the ax.  

Like honest Abe, Melissa understands the success of any task is in the preparation.  You need to prepare for the job interview as if the preparation itself was your job.  

And because the preparation requires so much effort, If the role excites you, you’ll want to dive in and research and develop a 90-day plan.  

On the other hand, if creating a 90-day plan for a particular role feels like drudgery to you, then maybe you’re looking at the wrong role.  

So, If you want a new position, take the time to sharpen the ax because that’s how you prepare for a job interview.

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