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Interview Preparation

Enda Goodwin

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Field Agent

Field Agent

Being successful in your interview depends on the quality of your preparation for this important part of your job search. Here are six steps to follow as you prepare for your interview:

Step 1: Research the company, the interviewer and the position

A company is more than facts, products, and statistics. You want to know what it’s really like to work there. At the start of your research, you should spend some time on the Glassdoor website. It’s an online database of millions of company reviews, salary reports, and interview reviews and questions. Search for the company on Glassdoor and see if there are any interviews posted. You can get a good idea of the type of questions you will be asked.

Before going to the interview, you should find out:

  • Why is the position open? (Did the last person quit after a few months? Was s/he promoted?)
  • How long has the position been open? (Is it hard to fill? Or have they just started looking?)
  • How big is the company, and what is its primary business?

Use social media, especially LinkedIn and your network to research the company and the interviewer. Spend a little bit of time on Twitter too. Type in the company name in search and see what employees, customers, and clients are saying about them.

You can also find out key information from the recruitment agency or the human resource contact. Look around when you get to the interview. Are people chatting in the halls? Informally dressed? Or, is the environment “all business?” Are people introduced as Ms. Green, Cathy or Cat? Is there is an employee lounge? Is it full or empty?

You may also be asked to take a skill or personality assessment. These assessments are a way to measure how well you match the job. There isn’t a way to prepare ahead of time for these assessments, so just relax and be as honest as possible.

If you are in the technical or scientific fields, you may also be asked to prove your technical knowledge. Be prepared to showcase your knowledge to an expert in the technology they are seeking.

Step 2: Match your strengths to the job

You have probably seen a job posting or job description that includes the skills and other requirements for the job. You need to show the interviewer that your skills and traits are a good match for the job. The best way to do this is by verbalizing each trait or skill required with accomplishments that may be found on your resume.

Job criteria  Strong accomplishment statements 
Creative problem solver While working at XYZ company, I came up with a consolidated template that streamlined the process by eliminating the need for several clicks when inputting data.
Excellent communication skills I helped keep a half million dollar account by explaining the order delay and negotiating a new delivery date, which exceeded the customer’s expectations.

It’s a good idea to prepare more accomplishment statements than you included in your resume. They provide proof that you have a wide variety of desirable skills and traits that you have demonstrated for previous employers, and you will do the same for your new boss.

Step 3: Prepare questions to ask

Interviewing is a two way street. By asking thoughtful questions, you communicate your interest, and learn a lot about the job and the company.

You should ask questions such as: What is the work environment like here? What kind of person does well here? How would you describe your management style?

Don’t ask a lot of questions about vacation time, coffee breaks, and sick leave. It will appear that your main interest is relaxation, not working.

Review sample questions to ask at the interview and select the questions that are most appropriate for your situation and to the position at hand.

Step 4: Prepare answers to difficult questions

Even if the intent is not to provoke stress, you will probably encounter some challenging questions.

Today there is a trend among interviewers to ask behavioral questions. Behavioral interviewing is a technique used by employers to predict a potential employee’s future success based on actual past behaviors, instead of based on responses to hypothetical questions. You are asked to give specific examples of when you demonstrated particular behaviors or skills. Questions are open-ended and expect a story in response. Behavioral interview questions usually begin with words like:

  • Describe a time when you ....
  • Give an example of ...
  • How did you handle...?

General answers are not what the employer wants. You must describe in detail a particular event, project, or experience, how you dealt with the situation, and what the outcome was. While you cannot prepare specific answers to behavioral or hypothetical questions, review your accomplishments so that you can demonstrate that you possess the skills in question.

You might encounter any combination of the difficult interview questions, some of which may seem inappropriate. Try not to take inappropriate questions personally or be offended. Responding with humor, or with a question expressed pleasantly and without belligerence, can prevent an awkward impasse.

Review Difficult Interview Questions and Suggested Responses to help you prepare for your interviews.

Step 5: Practice aloud

This may seem awkward at first, but it is the best way to rehearse your answers. It is one thing to think about what you’re going to say, another to actually say it while observing yourself, or being observed for feedback. You can practice with others, in front of a mirror, video yourself with your mobile device, or use the LHH Interview Center.

While reviewing your practice interview, pay attention to:

  • What you say: The actual meaning that you convey. 
  • How you say it: Your choice of words, words you omit, and how you build your case. For instance, “I do best in a flexible environment,” is preferable to, “I hated the petty rules and regulations at my last job.”
  • Body language and tone of voice: Do these support what you are saying, or contradict it? If you are claiming to be energetic and motivated, speak with conviction and sit forward in your chair. It would be hard for an interviewer to believe you if you rarely talked above a whisper and leaned back or slouched down in your chair throughout the interview.
  • Your communication style: Be prepared to apply the iSPEAK® techniques. This will help you focus on other people as you strive to analyze their own style and adapt your own.

Step 6: What to bring

Here is a list of items to take with you for your interview:

  • A portfolio to hold and protect papers
  • Tablet, Notebook, appointment calendar/pen to jot down important information or schedule next interview. We suggest, however, that you don’t take extensive notes during the interview. This interferes with good eye contact and distracts your attention.
  • Extra copies of your resume in case the interviewer has trouble finding his/her copy, and a copy for you to refer to.
  • Your reference list - Develop a Sample Reference List
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