How to prepare for an interview
“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” –Arthur Ashe
Many of us dread interviews. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to ‘perform well’ when we go for a job. So what does performing well actually mean? What should you be focusing on to convince employers that you’d be a worthy addition to their team?
The good news is that you’ve already overcome your highest statistical obstacle – your resume was picked out of the mountain they will have received. They’re already impressed with your credentials enough that they want to meet you. Now your job is to create a clear link between the you on paper and the you in person.
Here’s some things to remember when preparing for your next interview:
Learn your resume
If you haven’t already,go through each section of your resume and write a couple of lines that expand on each point – then practice talking about each one out loud. Try and think of each point as a story with a beginning, middle and end.
So if they want to know more about that certain claim you’ve made about your experience or qualifications, you’ll be fully prepared to elaborate.
Take the job description and anything else you need in with you
An interview isn’t a test of your memory and you certainly shouldn’t feel like you’re walking into an examination hall. I always recommend that you take in as many materials to refer to as you feel helpful – whether those be extracts from their website that were of particular interest to you, an article you found by their CEO or an analysis of their latest viral marketing campaign. Most importantly take the full job description in with you.
If you can refer to their literature at the appropriate times in your interview, it will help establish that you’ve put a lot of energy into your preparation and shown real respect for the position you’re up for – e.g. ‘I read an article here about your focus on staff retention and it really resonated with me…’
Last impressions are more important
Yes a first impression is important and you should always remember to smile and make eye contact as you shake each person’s hand. However don’t put too much pressure on yourself when you walk into the room. The old ‘they make up their mind within the first 30 seconds’ statement is not only untrue, it’s also incredibly unhelpful. Say an interviewee is nervous when they first walk into the room, but then relax as the interview goes on and end up giving the most compelling and interesting answers of all the candidates – that’s what will be remembered.
If you place too much importance on the opening of your interview you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself. Instead use that time to take in your environment and those sitting opposite you.
Share your eye contact
Often you’ll find yourself faced with more than one person on the other side of the table. Whether there’s 2, 4 or 12 other people (yes it does happen!) it’s quite common that just one of them will be asking you the majority, if not all, of the questions. An easy trap to fall into is to just answer that person directly, effectively ignoring everyone else in the room.
So when you answer, remember to share your eye contact with everyone. This engenders confidence and ease and also displays that you are self-aware. Remember the person asking the questions is not necessarily the decision maker either – it’s more likely to be the quiet person in the corner making notes!
You’re interviewing them as well
To play upon famous quote ‘ask not what you can do for the organization, ask what the organization can do for you’. All too often an interview can end up being a 1-way street – you simply turn up, answer a number of questions and leave with your fingers crossed. Remember that no matter how much you want the job, the other side has to impress you as well. Ask questions about the things that are important to you in an employer, e.g. ‘do you invest a lot of resource in learning and development?
If you practice and follow the above, every interview you land will be that much less daunting and that much more enjoyable.