“To be prepared is half the victory” — Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes
Finally! After months of job hunting, you have an interview.
Are you ready? Are you nervous? Are you planning on improvising your way through this process, or will you practise?
It will come as a surprise to no one that as a career coach, I strongly advise against “winging it.” No matter how strong your qualifications are on paper, it’s crucial to get right your face-to-face meeting with the people you may end up working for. And while we can’t possibly predict every question a panel will ask at every interview, planning for a few key probabilities can give you the edge over those who haven’t.
The phone call
Your interview success story begins before you even enter the room. You may think during the job hunt that you should answer the phone no matter what you’re doing, so as not to miss a potential opportunity. But if the dog’s barking, your kids are playing video games in the next room and you have your mouth full, do NOT pick up the phone if it’s a possible call about an interview.
Instead, let calls go to voicemail until you are calm, quiet and in the right frame of mind to have this important conversation. Once you’re ready, call back and arrange your meeting. Remember: All conversations between you and potential employers are two-way streets. That means that even now, you can — and should — ask some questions of your own. Consider asking who will be interviewing you, what info they can give you about the position that may not have made it into the job description, and how long the interview will last.
Before the interview
You may think you know your resume inside and out; after all, it’s your life! But now is the time to gather up your biggest and most enticing success stories and practise, practise, practise.
You will want to have a handful of powerful, concise stories that show times when you’ve faced challenges in your life and the creative and tenacious ways in which you overcame them. Less is more when it comes to these stories. Keep them short and crisp, always leaving room for the interviewer to ask for more should they want it. You don’t want to meander around with a lot of unnecessary detail; be focused and make sure each answer has a strong and clear ending.
How will you know your answers are on the right track? You are going to find a willing partner to help you practise. Have a look online for top popular interview questions and have your partner role play with you. (Having a career professional is even better: When you’re going off course we can help bring you back with knowledgeable tips and tricks.)
After the interview
Here, I stress again: Interviewing is a two-way street. Don’t walk out the door without asking a few thoughtful questions of your own. And it doesn’t end there.
Rather than wait helplessly for a call that may never come, take the situation into your own hands post-interview and inquire as to when you will hear back about the results of your interview. Then sit down and debrief. Think about what went well, what you learned about the organization, the position, how the interview felt.
Your last step is to send a thank-you letter to every member of the interview team, subtly reminding them of how well you fit the job and thanking them for their time.
You may think that spontaneity is preferable to rehearsed responses, but when it comes to interviews, being prepared will allow you to relax and shine.
For more in-depth tips on interviewing, popular interview questions, what to ask while you’re there, the best day and time to interview, and the chance to practise with a knowledgeable professional, get in touch any time to make an appointment.