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Interview Tips & Strategy


So you applied to a position that looks like it will be a perfect fit for your skills, it looks like an ideal career step forward in both responsibility and salary and you are so eager for the interview, you are bouncing in your seat like a kid on the way to Disneyland.

How do you best prepare for this “perfect job” interview?  Wing it? Over prepare?  Stress yourself out completely?

The best bet is actually somewhere in between those extremes.  it is best to prepare as much as you feel comfortable doing, and then leave some things to develop naturally.  Some of the best interviews I have had, where I walked away feeling strongly that I got the position, were more casual, conversational interviews. You can’t prepare for those types of informal conversations and similar interests that arise from them, but you can prepare for other parts of the interview to help set your mind at ease.

Interviews are unique each and every time – however, the interviewer has their “need to know” questions prepared in advance to make sure that you will fit their most important criteria for the role.  Depending on the company and the level of the position those “need to know” type questions could revolve around fitting into the company culture, having the specific technical skills needed in the job role, or determining if you have staying power so as to not create turnover.  There are some situational and behavioral interview questions that you may hear in an interview to test your reactions and thought processes, and then there are the standard, tried and true, types of questions.

When interviewing, to avoid feeling put on the spot, you can have a game plan of how you want to answer the normal/standard questions, without feeling like you scripted your entire reply. So here are some interview tips.

Most employers are going to ask in an interview “Why do you want this job?” or “Why do you want to work here?” So…why do you want this job? Be honest, be yourself and be professional.  Maybe you have admired the way this company treats their employees and the culture they have created;  Maybe you know this particular company is on the cutting edge in their field and you want to be a part of the forward progress; Maybe you want to work in a stable field with an established company; Maybe this position would enable you to take a big step forward in your field and you want the opportunity  Whatever the reason (as long as it isn’t “I just need a job”) tell the interviewer and let them in on what you value in an employer.

Many interviewers will also ask you to describe why you are a good fit for this position, or simply drill down on the areas/skills they fear you may be lacking, or ones that are crucial to the position.  Either tactic is easily prepared for by reviewing the position’s job description objectively against your own experience.  Print out the job description, highlight the skills you have actual working experience with and are already comfortable discussing.  Now what’s left are the “weaker” areas you may need to address,  Be very brutally honest with yourself during preparations…if they ideally want someone with Lotus Notes experience and you’ve never used Lotus Notes, can you offer a similar alternative of what you have used?  Can you offer up a time that you needed to learn a new skill quickly with minimal training?  Be prepared to discuss specific examples in the areas that you don’t fit the mold exactly of what they are looking for.  This is a much better strategy than simply saying “No, I don’t have Lotus Notes experience.”

What are some ways you prepare for the interview?

Check out my article on  What Not to Do at an Interview and How to Write a Great Thank You Letter

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