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Building Interview Skills: Intensive Preparation Strategies

It can be difficult to know where to start in preparing for an interview. There are so many pieces of advice available to the general public that the development of interview skills can be an overwhelming and stressful process. It doesn’t have to be that way. Mock interviews aren’t always the best initial strategy, and manicures are no prerequisite to landing a dream job. For the potential employee who has just started the application and interview process, it’s best to simply be knowledgeable. People who are aware of their high degree of knowledge are likely to be confident, well informed, and capable of sustaining dynamic conversation in an interview.

Know Yourself

It’s easy enough to have a résumé. But how much self-knowledge does that really reflect? A résumé is a basic summary of experience and skills, but there’s much more to a person than one or two pages of text. It’s important to know what makes you interesting, what qualifies you to do the work you love, and what you want out of a career. Employers want to see the full 3-D image that makes you a real person, so don’t make the mistake of limiting the amount of information you provide in an interview.

• To get more information on yourself, go back through any letters of recommendation that have been written on your behalf. These will provide positive snapshots of your skill sets, abilities, and work ethic. It’s usually a good idea to have a few short quotes or quote summaries from past employers or coworkers in mind when preparing for an interview.
• Determine the high and low points of your career and analyze why you experienced success or failure in those instances. This can help you understand your strengths and weaknesses, which is useful information in an interview. It’s also helpful if you can suggest alternative ways to handle situations that have challenged you in the past.
• Figure out what you want out of your career. If you don’t know, then try to get an understanding of how work fits into your personal goals. Employers want to know whether or not they can sustain you throughout the length of your career and how much of your time you’re willing to devote to their company.

Know the Company and Position

Once you have a firm grasp of the positive facts about yourself, it’s time to figure out how you would fit into the company.

• Most e-mail requests for interviews will have information about who sent the message. Go to the company website, find the staff page, and figure out the role of your interviewer – what does he or she do to help the company grow? Would you be working beneath him or her? This is usually the case, so it’s important to know who your interviewer is.
• Find out more about the position you’re being interviewed to fill. Think about how your experience would qualify you to do this job well. What outstanding skills do you have that would set you apart from other interviewees? Comb the website to make sure you understand every detail and can talk freely about your knowledge of the company and what you could do for it.
• Think about what you would do first if you were hired. For example, is there anything about the company’s website that you would fix? If you’re an editor, find a block of shoddy text to re-write and show it to the interviewer. If you’re an expert in design, rearrange a page on the site. Lawyers can almost always find something to fix – maybe there’s copyright infringement on an image or a poorly worded summary of a legislative change. These are bold moves, but they make sure that the interviewer knows how proactive and hardworking you are.

Know the Questions

All interviews include the inevitable core of questions and commands such as “How do you prioritize important tasks?” and “Tell me about yourself.” Be sure to have answers prepared, but don’t allow yourself to sound rehearsed. It may help to write several responses to keep up a sense of immediacy and variety once you get to the interview. The following links include additional advice on how to develop interview skills, such as popular interview questions and preparation tips.

• This PDF from Sydney University has two sections that can help refine interview skills. The first section begins on page 3 and explains the importance of understanding the recruitment process of a given company or organization. There’s also a “Successful Interviewing” section that starts on page 17.
• The Iowa Resource Guide for Job Seekers has a wealth of relevant information for the potential employee. A “Preparing for the Interview” section can be found on page 9.
• This PDF is a checklist for interviewers, but it’s very helpful for anyone preparing to be interviewed. It can help you understand why interviewers ask some of the questions they ask, and it can also give you a chance to prepare strong answers.

Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching areas of online degree programs. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Photo: Public Domain
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Posted by kkowatch at July 23, 2010 02:28 PM


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