So You Say You’re Prepared to Interview?

contributed by Dr. Stephen Bangert

Many people prematurely say: “Yes”.

Solid preparation will put you in the winner’s circle.

Are you prepared to interview? Besides shining your shoes, dry cleaning your suit and immersing yourself in anxiety, what have you seriously done? Hopefully you can honestly say that you have anticipated—anticipated questions and situations that might occur throughout the interview.

It is my experience in talking with others who frequently conduct interviews as well as my on-going work with executives, managers and professionals who are in a job search mode, that there are basic questions posed in each interview. I simply call these Commonly Asked Questions. And it is my contention that if you are prepared to answer these questions, you can then answer any question that comes your way.

But…there’s a catch. It is not a matter of simply answering the questions correctly and passing the “test”. Rather the challenge is seeing each question as an opportunity to sell yourself and figuring out how to position yourself as an ideal candidate. So, while the questions may be somewhat standard, your responses will account for the situational context and link your skills, experiences, and achievements to the expressed corporate needs.

For example, a common question or request is: “Tell me a little about yourself”. Many people are initially inclined to give a verbal autobiography. (“I was born in a log cabin 42 years ago where the only running water was from the creek outside….”) Perhaps this is the making of an interesting story but not during an interview.

One’s response to this question needs to be succinct with a focus on the skills, experiences and achievements that support you as a top candidate. In short, the message needs to say that given your background you are well prepared to address the expressed corporate needs for which this position is responsible. In other words promote the assets that you bring to the table as resources in meeting their challenges, solving their problems or exploiting marketplace opportunities.

In preparation for an interview, the best place to start is with the basic message that you want to convey in each and every interview. Once you have identifies the four, five, seven or eight key points of your message you can weave those key points into your responses.

Of course, what you say is also conditioned by the context. Factors such as: whether the interview is by phone or face to face, whether you are speaking to a decision maker or a non decision maker, or whether you are just two minutes into a conversation or twenty minutes into it. Other factors conditioning your response include: whether it is a one-on-one interview or a group interview, whether the setting is a private office or an airport lounge, whether it is the first interview with a company or the third.

By anticipating questions and situations that you are likely to encounter, you will not only be better prepared, but also find yourself more confident. Such a proactive stance that will put you in the winner’s circle.

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