New Year’s Resolutions for Job Seekers

The ball has dropped, and you’ve made a promise to yourself that 2017 will be a year to remember when it comes to taking the next step in your career.   But, if your number one goal for the New Year is to land a new job, hopes and wishes are not enough; you need to define and execute a plan to ensure your success.

Finding a new job is both an art and a science, and there are a few tried-and-true guidelines for helping job seekers prepare to land that coveted job in the New Year.  So if you want to start 2017 off on the right foot, career-wise , consider adding one of these to your list of resolutions:

  • Create a plan – You can’t get there if you don’t know where you are going.  Define your goals and a specific plan to achieve them, along with actionable steps.  Assess your skills, strengths and interests.  Think about the type of work you enjoyed even it was in internships, part-time jobs or even volunteer experiences.  Document your plan and measure your progress against it.  Set weekly goals, and hold yourself accountable.  Reward yourself by doing something you enjoy once you’ve accomplished your weekly goals.
  • Prepare your tools – If you are planning a trip, you pack your bags and make the appropriate reservations.  As you embark on your job search journey, you also need to have the appropriate tools.  Is your resume up-to-date and ready to go?  Have someone else proof it for you to ensure that it has no typos or grammatical errors.  Practice writing customized cover letters, and ask for feedback.  Consider developing a networking profile to share during networking meetings.  Think about who you can use for references and ensure that you have their current contact information.  Having the right tools won’t get you the job, but it can get your foot in the door so you have an opportunity to sell yourself for the job.

 

  • Develop a target list – What companies are you most interested in working for?  What industries interest you the most?  What companies hire for the roles you are considering?  What companies are in your geographic target area?  Start your list and then expand your research.  Use online tools to create a robust target list.  Research those companies to learn more about them.  Use your target list to direct your job search efforts.  Prioritize your list based on where you have contacts, alumni connections or LinkedIn connections.  Look at recent posting history to further prioritize your list.

 

  • Network, network, network – This is the single most important thing you can do in your job search.  More positions are filled through networking than all other approaches combined.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 80 percent of all jobs are filled through networking.  Online postings often receive hundreds of responses.  To stand out and be noticed, you need an internal contact to pass your resume to the hiring manager.  Networking helps you build and identify those internal contacts.  Networking is NOT asking for a job, however.  It is meeting with someone at the company to learn more about the company, the industry, the types of roles they offer, they skills they value, the corporate culture and their hiring process.  Networking involves a significant amount of listening.  The holiday season can be the perfect time for networking – some businesses are less busy so managers are more likely to have flexibility for meetings, you will see family and friends at holiday gatherings and you can ask who they might know in your target companies, as well.

 

  • Identify networking contacts – Identify all your contacts (family, friends, former colleagues), and see who they know at your target companies.  Think about former work colleagues, former student colleagues, etc. and see who they know.  Utilize your alumni database.  Search LinkedIn.  The true power of LinkedIn can be found in the groups, so identify relevant groups to expand your network. Work to identify contacts in all your target companies.  Do your neighbors or your parents’ friends have contacts in those companies?  Ask for 15 – 20 minutes for an informational interview.  Come to the discussion well prepared and learn as much as you can.  Ask each contact for at least three other people you should contact.  Always thank the contact and keep track so you can follow-up when you see an opportunity at that company.  Challenge yourself to make at least five networking connections each week.  It makes a difference.

 

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare – For each informational interview, prepare as if it were a real interview.  Research the company.  Prepare your questions.  Make a positive impression.  Demonstrate your interest and passion by coming well prepared.  Practice with friends and family if you are not comfortable.

 

  • Always say “thank you” – Interviewers remember when candidates send a hand-written thank you note.  Stand out from the crowd.  Time is a precious commodity so say thank you when someone is willing to share time with you.

 

  • Add value to your resume – If you know you are missing critical skills on your resume, can you volunteer a few hours per week?  Most non-profits need the help and would give you an opportunity to develop and enhance your skills.  Maybe an unpaid internship is a good investment to add critical skills to your resume.  In addition to adding valuable skills, it also shows your initiative and creativity.

 

  • Protect your social media presence – Many potential employers check applicants online before making an offer.  Be careful what you post knowing that it may be seen by a potential employer.  Pay close attention to your security settings. Put your best foot forward.

 

  • Sweat the details – They really do matter! Many cover letters and resumes are not moved to the “interview pile” because of lack of attention to detail.  There should be absolutely no typos or grammatical errors in the cover letter or resume.  Do not cut and paste your cover letters – it is too easy to send with the wrong company name or wrong job title.  Be careful not to brag about your attention to detail when the letter has obvious errors.  Don’t exaggerate your experience – two years is not extensive experience in anything.  Be sure to be well prepared.  Arrive on time.  Know who you are meeting with.  Don’t ask the interviewer what the company does, instead have some well-thought out questions already prepared.
  • Remember, it isn’t all about you – A hiring manager has business needs to address.  That is why they received approval to fill the position.  There is a specific job to be done, and they want to find the best qualified person to fill that job and the best fit for the organization.  Don’t focus your cover letter and/or interview on what this position can do for your career or how much you need particular benefits.  The employer really doesn’t care.  Focus instead on how you can help the company meet their business needs.  What valuable skills do you bring to the table?  How can you make a difference?
  • Be responsive – When employers do start calling you for interviews, be responsive and professional every step of the way.  Make a positive impression with every interaction.  Dress professionally, arrive a few minutes early, answer your phone professionally and come well prepared.

 Differentiate yourself – There are many candidates for each open position.  Use every opportunity throughout the process to differentiate yourself positively.  Again, the focus should be on how you can meet the employer’s needs, not what they can do for you.

 Don’t leave your career path to chance; now’s the perfect time to revamp your approach as you resolve to pursue new opportunities in 2017. Develop a plan and execute it flawlessly, and there’s a good chance you’ll be celebrating a new job in the New Year.

 

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Trends in the Job Market for the New Year

For those planning to seek a new job in the new year, where are the best places to look?  It is challenging to identify overall trends because companies in the same industry may be facing very different challenges.  Sometimes a company is cutting positions in one area but hiring in another due to specific needs and skills sets required to support the business.  Here are some significant opportunities to consider as you plan a job search in the new year.  With recent rises in the stock market, indications are that people expect the new administration to be business friendly which should increase opportunities in the year ahead.

Small and Mid-Sized Companies – It is easy to assume that there are more jobs in the largest companies but in reality there is more hiring in the small to mid-sized companies and these are the organizations that are growing.  Do your research to identify smaller organizations in your target industry and location.  Smaller companies are often looking for a broader set of skills.  They don’t hire someone to do one very specific thing, they need strategic thinkers who can grow and change with the company.  Project management, strong communications skills, the ability to work across functional areas and to ability to change directions quickly are critical in this environment.  These opportunities represent positions that provide broader cross-functional exposure to the business and you are closer to the decision making process.

Supply Chain – Jobs in this field continue to be hot.  Whether it is in supplier management, category management, procurement, operations, transportation or logistics, these skills are in demand.  While once found only in manufacturing environments, we are seeing a significant increase in demand for supply chain knowledge and experience in financial services, healthcare, retail, distribution and technology organizations.  Often effective management of the supply chain is one of the few areas for companies to still identify savings and efficiencies.

Marketing – We are seeing many firms investing in their marketing functions again.  Skills in the new technologies are critical – web marketing, social media, etc.  Product management and brand management are also critical needs.  We are seeing an increased demand for marketing analytics for market research, consumer insights and timely information to make business decisions.

Finance – The biggest demand we are seeing for finance professionals in the corporate finance world.  Companies of all sizes need to close the books every month, plan, implement and monitor the budget, analyze the results and support business decisions.  Strong financial skills are still in strong demand.  The ability to review large amounts of data, identify trends, issues and opportunities is critical in this field.  There is a significant increased focus on compliance issues.  Successful finance professionals are also managers who learn the business and understand the direct impact of financial decisions.

Healthcare – Americans are getting older and health care continues to become more complex.  There is a strong need for business skills within the healthcare industry whether it is project management, product management, supply chain or finance.  With increasing amounts of data, skills that allow you to manipulate and analyze the data are critical and employers need talent that can identify the trends and issues in massive amounts of data.  This is also a highly regulated industry so knowledge and experience have increased value.

Across functions we are seeing increased demand for strong analytical skills, communications skills, project management, working with teams as well as negotiation and persuasion skills.  You often need people in other parts of the organization to do something in order to meet your deadlines without having any authority over them.  Negotiation and persuasion skills can make or break your success in many organizations.  The ability to analyze data and make recommendations based on the data findings is critical.  Employers are also seeking the ability to summarize significant analysis into key salient points and action items for senior management.

Hiring Trends

Retirement Wave

The predicted wave of retirements over the past few years did not materialize as expected due to the economic downturn.  With shrinking 401K’s many retirement eligible employees continued working.    The backlog of retirements is now significant in many organizations.  With the stock market recovering, many companies will be faced with significant hiring needs.  Experience will be key for much of this hiring but the company knowledge among the retirees cannot be replaced.

Movement of the Complacent

When the economy was considered unstable, many employees stayed in jobs they considered less than ideal for the security.  With the stock market rebounding, many of those less than satisfied employees will be seeking to make a job change and there will be more opportunities in the market for them to consider.  Companies who have experienced low turnover the last few years may see a surge in movement in the year ahead.

Emphasis on Flexibility

Companies are looking for new employees who are flexible and resilient.  Business changes with time and economic fluctuations.  They need employees who can weather the storms while continuing to be productive and creative about new ways to get things done.  It is not about the candidate who can do one thing but rather the candidate who can grow and change with the company and its changing needs.  Demonstrating your flexibility is critical.  Often employees can learn more and gain more visibility in the company that is growing and changing than in an organization maintaining status quo.

Those who network effectively and consistently should be very successful in their job searches in 2017.  There are definitely opportunities available for talented individuals.

 

 

Enjoy the Holiday Party But…

Tis the season for holiday parties and gatherings with both business and social contacts.  These activities can help you advance your career if you use them appropriately.  It is important to avoid any negative impact on your career.

Holiday Office Parties

  • Network like crazy. This is an amazing opportunity to make connections outside the group you with work with every day.  Try to meet as many people as possible and ask about what they do.  Keep track of people you want to follow-up with back in the office.  Use this informal opportunity to make a positive impression and build your connections.  Remember spouses and significant others can be valuable connections as well.
  • Use Every Opportunity to Connect. Resist the temptation to hide in the corner or spend the entire evening with the people you work with every day.  Take advantage of the opportunity to network as much as possible.  Talk to people waiting in line for the bar, the buffet or even the rest room.  You have something in common already so use the opportunity to introduce yourself and learn about what they do.  You may be pleasantly surprised by who you meet and what you learn.
  • Keep it professional. Yes it is a social event but it is still a business event.  You have to face these people on Monday morning.  You do not want to be the talk of the office on Monday morning.  Do not do anything to stand out in a negative way.  This is not the time to overindulge, make unwanted advances, bad mouth the company or take over the microphone for karaoke.  Keep it professional and you’ll have no regrets.  Drinking too much at the party could be a career limiting move.
  • Dress professionally. While it is fine to get in the spirit of the festivities and dress up a bit, keep it professional.  Avoid anything suggestive, revealing or inappropriate.
  • Social Media Considerations. Resist the urge to post FaceBook photos of an out of control colleague at the party.  Do not tweet inappropriate comments.  Even if someone is acting inappropriately it doesn’t make you look good to be the one highlighting their bad behavior publicly.  Keep photos and tweets professional.

Professional Holiday Gatherings

  • Network Constantly. Many professional and business organizations plan holiday events.  These are great opportunities for networking with peers in your field.  Use each gathering as an opportunity to meet new people and learn a bit about what they do.  For those with whom you wish to have a more in depth conversation, ask if you can follow up after the holidays.  Most people like to talk about what they do so just ask and you’ll be surprised by what you learn.
  • Share Your Focus. If you are seriously looking for your next opportunity, let people know what you are looking for so they are able to identify opportunities to help.  They may have contacts at your target companies.  Don’t spend the entire event pressing people for contacts but bring it up as appropriate in your conversations.  You never know what valuable connections may result from a casual conversation at a social event.  Be interested in others by asking what they do, where they work, what they like most about their jobs.  You will be amazed by how much your can learn.
  • Behave Professionally. Make a great impression so people will remember you positively and will want to introduce you to their contacts.
  • Make Introductions. Help others meet people at the event by offering to make introductions.  They will appreciate the connections and they will value your support.

Enjoy the holiday festivities with colleagues but remember, these are still professional events.  Be on your best behavior to avoid regrets on Monday morning.  It is a valuable opportunity to meet other colleagues outside your daily interactions and to meet the interesting spouses and significant others of your colleagues.  Networking is great – just don’t try looking for a new job while attending your company party!!!  Remember, what happens at the party doesn’t stay at the party – it will face you first thing Monday morning if you act inappropriately.

‘Tis the Season: Tips for Networking Over the Holidays

Networking is the single most important thing you to do to support your job search, and the holidays were made for networking.  Take advantage of the holiday season to expand your network and to reconnect with contacts. Whether you are seeking a new career opportunity or are hoping to advance in your current position, here are a few tips for how you can mix a bit of business into the season’s festivities.

Make Networking a Priority – Many managers have a bit of breathing room around the holidays if their job doesn’t require significant year-end activity.  Their phones ring less often, they receive fewer emails, and they are in fewer meetings since many colleagues and customers take time off.  Take advantage of this opportunity to significantly ramp up your networking.  Identify contacts in your target companies.  Reach out to them and ask to meet over a cup of coffee.  They are more likely to take the meeting when things are quiet.  This is an outstanding opportunity to make more connections in a short period of time.  Use the opportunity to make key connections in the companies you are most interested in as a future employer, as well.  Set networking goals for yourself each week and hold yourself accountable.  Find alumni or LinkedIn connections at your target companies and schedule yourself a series of networking discussions over the holiday months.

Consider Low-Hanging Fruit – Not everyone enjoys networking, but it critical to career success.  Take advantage of the many social events during the holidays to network in a friendly and safe environment.  The holidays bring low-hanging fruit – family gatherings, celebrations with friends, social events with professional associations and even the office holiday party.  With little effort, you can meet a large number of interesting people over the holidays.  Be very clear with family and friends about what you are looking for and what companies you are most interested in.  Your family and friends may have valuable connections they can introduce you to.  Simply ask new contacts what they do, and it will often spark an interesting conversation.  You can always ask to follow-up for more details.

Prepare for Opportunities – The key advantage of all this year-end networking is that employers have new positions approved with the start of the New Year.  Perhaps the person you met with will have a need and will remember the positive impression you made.  Maybe the position is in another part of the organization but your contact can forward your resume with a note of recommendation.  Or there’s a chance that you will even be given a heads up about a position that will be opening soon.  While the formal hiring process may slow down a bit with key players on vacation, it is a critical time to move your search forward with some strategic networking.

So what are some do’s and don’ts for networking during the holiday season?

  • What you should do:
    • Be focused and strategic – target the companies you are most interested in and seek contacts in those organizations, particularly people in positions that you can learn from
    • Set goals – identify a target and monitor your progress for number of networking meetings each week or month
    • Be well prepared – research the company and the individual in advance, have questions prepared
    • Keep the conversation going – ask open-ended questions to gather more information
    • Be an active, engaged listener – listen carefully to the advice and information they share, and take notes as appropriate
    • Prepare to share – think about your personal elevator pitch
    • Follow up is key – ask who else they think you should speak to and would they refer you, along with professional associations they recommend
    • Add value for them – find a way to assist them with information or a connection to keep the connection mutual
    • Always send a thank you note – it can make a lasting impression
    • Stay in touch periodically – holiday card with a personal note or even a New Year’s card would be a nice touch
  • What you should not to do:
    • Do not ask for a job – this is about building a relationship, not asking a favor
    • Do not do all the talking –do more listening than speaking, you want to learn about the company and the functional area of interest
    • Do not be arrogant or disrespectful – that goes without saying!
    • Do not stalk the person – if they do not respond after three attempts, take them off your list
    • Do not monopolize their time – steer clear of taking more time than the specified without asking if they can spare a few more minutes
    • Don’t waste their time – if it’s something you could have learned on their website, don’t ask
    • Don’t over-imbibe at events – stay focused on the networking. Eat prior to attending the event so you won’t be starving.  Don’t try to balance both food and drink, always have your right hand available to shake hands.  Never indulge in more than one drink.  Keep your wits about you and put you best foot forward.

You’ve stepped out of your comfort zone and made some great connections over the holidays. But how can you capitalize on these new relationships and keep them going once the holidays are over? Here are a few final tips for keeping your momentum with the job search as you enter the New Year:

  • When you see a position of interest at a target company after the first of the year, reach out to your contact
  • Use your contacts to gather insider information about the position and the team
  • Ask your contact to share your resume with the hiring manager – get in the short pile the manager will review instead of the mountain of online resumes
  • Follow-up with relevant information or a new contact for your networking contact to continue to add value
  • Keep your contact posted on your progress

With a little common sense and a bit of perseverance, you can make this holiday season a memorable one when it comes to advancing your career. Network the right way, and you just may set yourself up for success in the new year!

Do I really have to write a customized cover letter?

I am often asked this question.  It is so much easier to just send a resume.  Is it really important to write a customized cover letter?  Yes, if you hope to be invited for an interview.  If you don’t want the job, don’t bother but then why even send your resume?  If you are interested in the job, a cover letter is a critical component.  The cover letter may well be your opportunity to stand out from the mountain of online applications.

Why is the cover letter so important?  This is your opportunity to connect the dots for the hiring manager.  You read a job description and said “this is good job for me because…”  You need to make those connections obvious to the employer.  What do they gain by hiring you?  Focus on your relevant experience and transferable skills.  Differentiate yourself in the process with a strong cover letter.

How professional should it be?  It should be a business letter, your name and address on the top in the same format as your resume, date, address block, salutation prior to the body of the letter.  Demonstrate your professional writing skills in your cover letter.  It should never be more than a single page.  Sincerely is the acceptable close, never fondly or other approaches.  Use “Dear Mr. Smith” not “Dear Joe”, or “Dear Joe Smith”.  Your letter should contain an introduction, body and then a strong close.  Do not just summarize your resume.  Do not over use the word “I” and be careful not to start most sentences or paragraphs with “I”.  Focus on the needs of the company.

What are some of the current trends in cover letters?   An alarming trend is the number of candidates who do not bother to write a letter, this tells the employer it wasn’t worth the applicant’s time and effort.  Many applicants focus their cover letters on what they want and need when the focus should be on how you can address the needs of the employer.  Many applicants over use the word “I” in their letters.  Do not start every paragraph with “I” and do not start every sentence with “I”.  Do your first draft and then go back and eliminate half the “I”’s by restructuring the sentences.  Your letter serves as a professional writing sample so demonstrate strong grammar, proper structure, correct spelling etc.  Lack of attention to these details is a quick route to the no pile.  Make your letter engaging, tell your story as if you were talking to the person live.  Make them want to talk to you!

Does it have to be customized if my resume stays the same?  Yes!  You need to customize every letter to the specific needs of the company and the specific requirements of the position.  Show them why you are a strong candidate for this job.  Most hiring managers can spot a template letter and it will quickly move it to the “no” pile.  The major risk of not customizing your letter is that you are perceived as more of a robot than as a unique individual with relevant skills

Do not use a template and Beware of cut and paste – Most hiring managers can spot a template letter very quickly and then move it to the no pile just as quickly.  Generic language and no focus on the specific job tell the employer you were not interested enough to prepare a customized letter.  Even if you think you are being careful cutting and pasting into a template for minimal customization, errors occur much too frequently.  Employers lose interest very quickly when your letter refers to the wrong company or position.  You can talk about your attention to detail all day but if you make these types of errors in your cover letter no one will believe you.  Demonstrate your skills and your interest with your letter.  Demonstrate your interest and passion by being you in your letter!

A strong customized cover letter increases the chances that you will be invited for an interview while a poor letter earns you a quick trip to the no pile.

Mastering Behavioral Interview Questions

I recently had students engaged in a very competitive interview process that involved a case interview.  Students were so worried about the case interview, the successful students invested significant energy in preparing for that portion of the interview.  With other students, they did what they could to prepare for the case question but unfortunately left no time to prepare for the behavioral questions and that led to their downfall in this particular round of interviews.

In almost any interview situation it is highly likely that you will encounter behavioral questions.  They are easy to identify because they typically start with “tell me about a time…”, “Give me an example…”  “Describe a situation…”, etc.  Sometimes they are asked specifically during the interview but they can also be interjected during a conversation.

Why do hiring managers ask behavioral questions?  Since they can’t see exactly how you will perform in their job at their company, they are looking for situations in your past that will help them anticipate how you will perform in their job.  They are using past behavior to anticipate future behavior.

Interviewers will expect answers to their behavioral questions on the spot so it is important to have several examples in mind that you can use as needed.  The more prepared you are ,the stronger your response will be.

Craft Your Responses Using the STAR Approach

 It is important to follow the STAR approach when answering a behavioral question.

  • S/T – Situation or Task (10% of your answer) Describe the situation you were in or the task you needed to accomplish.  Use a specific event or situation and provide enough detail to put your response in context.  Be careful not to use acronyms.  This should be a high level summary.
  • A – Action (60% of your answer)  Share details of what you did, the obstacles you overcame and how you demonstrated your skills.  Show the interviewer what you did and what you accomplished in the situation.
  • R – Results (30% of your answer) Discuss the outcome. What were the results?  What did you accomplish?  If the outcome was not positive, focus on what you learned.

 Most interviewees spend all their time on the situation and the action and neglect the most important aspect which is the results.  Be sure you allow time to show how your actions made a difference.  Also resist the temptation to spend so much time setting up the situation that you rush through the rest of your response.  Your goal is to demonstrate how you applied your skills and accomplished results.

Preparation is Key to Success

 Those who believe they can “wing it” on behavioral questions often stumble in this critical part of the interview.  While you will not be given a list of behavioral questions in advance the job description offers significant insight into what the employer values in this position.  Read the job description carefully and highlight the key critical skills.  Think about examples you could share to address each of those critical skills.  Prepare your answers using the STAR method ensuring that you have a strong results summary at the end.  Practice has a significant positive impact on your responses to behavioral questions.  Be sure to practice multiple examples since you should only use the same story once in an interview.

Remember Team has no I

 Employers realize that projects are often handled by a team.  Be very careful of using “I” to describe all the actions if you were part of a team.  Be clear about how you worked as part of the team and where you took individual responsibility.  They are often seeking new employees who can effectively work as part of a team.  Even if you played a major role, taking too much credit in the interview can be a red flag to employers who will worry about your ability to successfully work as part of a team.

So, even if you are facing the challenge of a case interview, don’t forget that there will also likely be another part of the interview focused on behavioral questions.  For success, you must be prepared for all aspects of the interview.

 

Facing Your Interview Fears

Anticipating an upcoming interview strikes fear in even the heartiest souls.  There is a lot at stake, you want to make the best possible impression with the hopes of receiving a job offer.  You want to sell yourself effectively and demonstrate both your skills and your fit for the role and the company.  While some level of anxiety can be positive in giving you a competitive edge, don’t let fears defeat you.

Logistical Fears

What if I get lost?  What if the train is late?  What if I can’t find a parking space?  What if I get a flat tire?  All these worst case scenarios keep you tossing and turning at night.  Do a trial run in advance to be sure you know exactly how to get there and where to park.  Allow yourself plenty of extra time.  You can always take a walk, stop for coffee or do some last minute preparation if you arrive too early but why risk stressing about by running late.  Take control and reduce your anxiety.

Physical Fears

What if trip going into the interview room?  What if my palms are sweaty when I shake hands?  What if I show up dressed inappropriately?  Preparation is key to confidence.  If you know your palms get sweaty step into the rest room to wash your hands just before the start of the interview or keep tissues in your pocket for a discreet clean up.  Dress professionally to make a good impression.  Prepare your answers to common behavioral and general questions in advance so you will feel more confident.  Research the company and prepare questions you can ask your interviewer.  The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be and confidence reduces your anxiety.

Response Fears

What if they ask a question that I don’t know the answer to?  What if they ask a question I don’t want them to ask such as why I am no longer at my former company?  Be prepared to tell your story.  Expect that they will ask about why you left a prior job.  Have your answers to potentially difficult questions thought out in advance.  If you truly draw a blank on a question, it is ok to take a few seconds to think about it.  You can ask the interviewer for clarification on the question.  You can rephrase the question to confirm that you understand what is being asked.  All these approaches buy you a few seconds to collect your thoughts.  If you think they want a deeper answer and your can’t come up with one, try the “off the top of my head…” response to at least show that you are thinking about it.  Sometimes talking through the question at least demonstrates your thought process which can be more important than the specific answer.  If you walk in prepared, you are less likely to be caught off guard but tell yourself worst case, you can say “let me think about that and I’ll get back to you.”  While you hope to never have to use, having an out prepared in advance will give you the freedom to consider the question because you know you have an out.  Preparation does reduce anxiety.

Recruiters want to see the real you.  The more prepared you are, the more you are able to be in the moment during your interview.