Six Steps to Prepare for an Interview

Be-Prepared-Sign-iStockYour resume and cover letter helped you achieve one of your major goals — an interview. Now you are on to the next step.

Your interviewer is interested in who you are, what you can do for his/her organization, and how your skills match organizational needs.

Your interview objective is to provide the interviewer with good reasons for hiring you. The key to successfully achieving your interviewing objective is preparation, but what steps should you take?

Step One: Mentally Put Yourself in the Interviewer’s Shoes
The first step is to mentally put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes. This is critical because most people lack interview training, so think of your role in the interview as helping the interviewer effectively obtain the information he/she desires.

In doing so, don’t forget that an interviewer’s effectiveness is judged by his/her ability to gather enough information to predict your future performance and behavior in relation to the job.

The more you help the interviewer do well, the more your odds of an offer increase.

Step Two: Think About the Three Unspoken Questions
Be cognizant of the fact that all information-gathering activities (testing, discussions, questions, etc.) are usually related to three, often unspoken, questions in the interviewer’s mind:

  • Can you do the job? (technical skills, experience, capabilities)
  • Will you do the job? (work ethic, motivation, attitude, track record, etc.)
  • Do you fit? (general style and personal characteristics, work performance, values, ability to get along with others, etc.)

Again, it is important for you to help the interviewer obtain the answers to these questions.

Step Three: Get Your Emotions in Line
Employers consistently tell us that there is no substitute for a positive approach, maturity, and a strong sense of self-esteem.

It is imperative that prior to the interview, whether on your own or with others, you address any lingering issues regarding yourself and your readiness for this new position.

Emotionally, it helps to do the following:

  • Define an interview as a business meeting for the purpose of exchanging information. This mindset will help you gain the confidence you need to present yourself and your qualifications objectively.
  • Use your imagination to build a picture of how the interview will proceed and how it will feel if it goes well. Create a mindset where you are acting as if it has gone well.
  • Smile. It seems trite, yet it is often overlooked. Clients repeatedly are naturally attracted to candidates who display an ability to do this comfortably.
  • Work through the emotional aspects of leaving your job before you    interview. When clients don’t ask a candidate back for a second interview, it is   frequently because they do not believe the candidate is ready to move on. Remember, the interview is not the place to work through these issues!

Step Four: Demonstrate Self-pride
Don’t undersell yourself. Too often clients report that candidates minimize their experience or downplay their background. Be evident and proud of what you have done and accomplished. Be excited to tell the interviewer about it.

Equally problematic is when a candidate tells an interviewer that while the job sounds okay, they really would like to do something else. Remember, there is nothing more important than the current opportunity.

If you find the emotional aspect is still an issue, wait until you are ready before interviewing.  A poor presentation of your talent and commitment can do more harm than good.  Set yourself up for success, not failure.

Step Five: Tailor Your Approach
It goes without saying that you should learn as much as possible about the job, the firm or company, and the interviewer ahead of time. Interviewers repeatedly tell us that this is what often separates the stars from the ordinary candidates because so few applicants go through the trouble.

If you are doing your own research, do what you can to find out what this specific employer needs. If you are fortunate enough to have a recruiter involved, ask the recruiter what information the interviewer is seeking.

You should then determine, in relation to the specific position and the needs of the employer, what are:

  • 3 key talents you bring to the table
  • Primary personality traits
  • Key accomplishments

Take stock of your own information and make it a point to communicate it to the interviewer.

Be prepared to convey some of this important information even if the interviewer fails to ask you questions that elicit the information. You can do this within the interview by stating, “There are a couple of things that would be helpful for you to know about me.”

Step Six: Don’t Forget About Image
It may or may not be fair, but it is often true that a critical impression is formed in the first 90 seconds. The person who looks and acts the part is often hired over someone else with high technical qualifications.

This is a good time to assess your entire appearance and the image you project — especially if you have not been in the active job market in several years.

Remember that if you are interviewing with a firm, they are probably assessing whether you are someone who can be in front of a client. If it is an in-house position you are seeking, they are similarly assessing whether you are someone who can be in front of all levels of management. As such, always dress impeccably. It will pay off!

Above all, remember to be proud of your accomplishments and believe in yourself. You have worked hard to get where you are today. Being selected for an interview is one more example of your success.

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