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How to prepare for a job interview

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how to prepare for a job interviewCongratulations! You made it through the stacks of resume in the HR department and landed an interview at your dream company.  Now for the next hurdle: how do you make sure that you can turn that interview into a job offer?  Here are some tips to help you prepare…

Research interview questions

Don’t just focus on the most common interview questions, such as “what is your greatest weakness?” Instead, search for questions that are specific to your target employer.  Thanks to free websites like www.Glassdoor.com, many people are creating reviews of the employers’ hiring process, including the actual questions they faced in the interview.

In addition to Glassdoor.com, other sites such as Indeed.com and http://top-interview-questions.com/ list insight into previously-asked questions.  A simple Google search of “interview questions” plus the company name will show you a plethora of resources.

Practice answering questions – especially behavioral questions

Before you sit down with a buddy and lob questions at each other, pull out your pen and paper.  From your list of questions, identify which ones would be hardest for you to answer.  Then write down one or two possible answers.  Don’t shirk on this task.  The more questions you answer, the more prepared you will be.

What you are doing is training your brain in how to answer questions.  One big mistake that candidates make is trying to memorize answers.  If those particular questions aren’t asked, they can be easily thrown off.  Instead, learn how to be flexible by facing a number of questions, from the complex to the simple.

Be sure to do a hefty number of possible questions.  If you sit down and truly write out answers to over 50 questions, you will be amazed at how prepared you will be.

Prepare for common questions

Some employers still rely on the old standard questions, such as “where do you see yourself in 5 years” or “what is your greatest strength.”  Not having an answer for these pat questions definitely will brand a job seeker as unprepared.

In most cases, I favor honest answers to these questions – honest, but not fatal.  For example, a weakness for a salesperson may be completing paperwork.  This is fairly common, and therefore acceptable to some degree.  However, it needs to be backed up with how the candidate handles that weakness.  On the other hand, if a salesperson states that his weakness is not following up with clients in a timely manner, no one would hire him.  That’s a fatal weakness for any sales professional.

Don’t forget the most common question

How about that first question: “tell me about yourself?”  If you have a planned and prepared introduction, it can actually help you calm down for the rest of the interview.  When your very first answer is delivered with confidence, you gain peace of mind for yourself.

Tip: don’t just repeat your resume.  This is very boring for the interviewer, especially since the rest of the interview is discussing your work history.  Instead, consider a variation of your elevator speech, tailored to hit one key point that relates to the job.  And please, keep it to 30 seconds or less.  The whole point is to establish some rapport, not give your life story.

Practice with a human being

Find yourself a job search buddy.  Take turns running mock interviews on each other.  This is not the same as just saying questions back and forth.  Try to make it as real as possible.  Consider even trying different hiring manager personalities, just to stay on your toes.  Remember, not all interviewers are polished, so prepare for that possibility as well.

Take a class

There are a number of resources available for interview training.  The Workforce center in any state has many workshops for job seekers, including interview skills.  In Denver, Donna Shannon offers intensive workshops through the Colorado Free University (www.freeu.com)

Hire a coach

If interviewing is still a mystery, hiring a coach to evaluate your performance and make recommendations can be very valuable.  A professional can identify the true weaknesses as well as your strengths.  Knowing what you will say is only part of the process.  Ideally, you will get a recording of one of your mock interview sessions.  This way, you can see where not only your answers can be improved, but your body language and nonverbal communication as well.

Evaluate actual interviews

When you leave an interview, be sure to take a few moments to write down what you did well and what could have been improved.  Take special note of any question that you wished you answered better, and then write down that answer.  You can’t get a second chance at that opportunity, but you can use it as a learning tool to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

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About the Author:

Since 2004, Donna has been teaching job seekers of all levels effective job search strategies. In 2009, she published her book "Get a Job Without Going Crazy: a Practical Guide to Your Employment Search." Donna is based in Denver, and has presented workshops in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas. She continues to work with job seekers across the country.
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Comments

  1. Deborah Olson  April 7, 2014

    Hi Donna, so many good pointers! I especially like the one about evaluating the interview afterwards, and making notes on how to improve the answer to a particular question. It’s always helpful (and impressive) to have good examples from your work experience to relate to the questions. It takes preparation to have those stories ready to go, and when you do, the interview becomes more conversational.

    reply
  2. Oliver  June 19, 2014

    Hi, I would like to subscribe for this website to get most recent updates, so
    where can i do it please assist.

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    • Donna  July 7, 2014

      You can subscribe through the RSS feed at the top of the website.

      reply
  3. Bob  October 19, 2015

    Great Interview prep tips! I personally coach my clients to select their VERY STRONGEST JOB-RELATED ACHIEVEMENT that shows they have hands-on success meeting the requirements of the target job. By clearly quantifying outstanding job-related results, we’re able to entice related questions later in the interview that invite the interviewer(s) into our strength. In other words, when we’re … “Telling them about our self”…we’re baiting them to ask something like “How did you accomplish that?” “What problems did you have to overcome?” Regardless of their follow-on questions, they’re in our zone, asking about our professional strengths!

    reply

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