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Job interviews strike fear in most of us, but a little preparation can help your meeting with an employer go well. Of course you need to remember the basics: arrive early, leave your cell phone in the car, dress professionally, and research the company and position as much as possible to be well informed about the job.
In addition, doing these three things can ensure you are well prepared for your job interview. These are the steps I advise all job seekers to follow when preparing for job interviews–and they are incredibly easy!
1. Anticipate the interview questions that you will be asked.
There are commonly asked questions that you can assume will be a part of most job interviews.
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- How much experience do you have doing this type of work?
- Why do you want this job?
- Why are you the best person for the job?
- Why are you seeking to leave your current job?
If the position is a supervisory position, you can also expect to be asked about your management style, conflict resolution and performance coaching.
You may also encounter interviewers who ask for examples of how you have handled situations in the past similar to those you will face in this position. These interview questions are often phrased as “Tell me about a time when you…”
Think about what the job involves. Will you need to provide customer service, multitask, supervise employees, increase sales, manage time well, oversee budgets, or solve problems? You could be asked for examples of how you have done these things in the past. As possible questions come to mind, write them down so you have a list to think through.
Some interviewers also ask hypothetical questions based on situations you could encounter while on the job. The best way to prepare for these is to imagine what typical tasks you would do daily in this position. What problems could possibly arise, and how would you handle them? Though you can’t guess every question an employer will ask, beginning to think about possible scenarios will help you be better prepared to formulate your answers.
2. Think about your responses ahead of time.
Some people have the ability to think quickly on their feet. A clever, articulate response to any question is always at the ready—able to be eloquently set forth at a moment’s notice. For those of us who don’t possess that ability, it is a good idea to spend some time thinking about what we will say when asked about certain things. This includes preparing your 30-second commercial, or elevator pitch—the clever answer you have developed to address your experience, the position you seek, and why you are the perfect candidate for it. When crafted correctly, this is usually a great answer for that common first interview question, “Tell me about yourself.”
Look again at the list of questions that you may encounter. How will you answer them? Do you have good examples ready for each if the interviewer were to ask for specifics? For instance, when you list your strengths or your top skills, what are some ways you have used those in the past to make a positive difference at work? When have you worked to solve a complex problem, or demonstrated excellent customer service?
3. Practice your responses out loud.
Yes, this probably sounds like overkill to you. Yes, it does feel silly to do it. Yes, you may get some odd looks if you do this in the car by yourself on the way to the interview. Still, this is the one thing I tell everyone they must do! It really does help! As you practice your answers, you solidify them in your mind.
You don’t want to memorize your answers word for word or sound like a robot, but you do want to be able to make all your important points (selling your strengths and experience wherever appropriate) in a conversational and relaxed way. This is one of the best ways to combat nervousness. As you begin to communicate your skills and experience more smoothly, your confidence grows—and appearing confident and well-spoken is a crucial aspect of a successful job interview.
This three-step process may seem like common sense…but you would be surprised how many job seekers do not do this. They head into job interviews with their fingers crossed and hope they will be able to answer whatever a hiring manager asks them. Instead, take some time to thoroughly prepare yourself for your job interviews. You’ll be glad you did!