Preparation for the interview starts long before you walk through the door to the academic or human resources department. Thorough preparation for your interview is essential. Remember you are one of a select few to even make it this far. The candidate who does the best job of presenting himself or herself will be the one with the job offer. The better prepared you are, the better able you will be to effectively present yourself and your qualifications as they relate to the position for which you are interviewing. Preparation for the interview should include:
- Know Yourself/Self-Assessment: Before going into an interview, it is essential that you know yourself. Consider your interests, values, skills and needs in relation to the specific job you are pursuing. How does this position fit in with your long-range goals? Do your interests and skills match this particular job? What are your employable skills? Is this opportunity compatible with your values? Your task is to help the employer become as well informed about your attributes and goals as you are. The better you relate your career interests and qualifications to the employer's needs, the more successful you will be.
- Know the Organization: Knowledge of the organization, its products and/or services, locations and needs is essential. Generally, the more you know about the organization, the industry it represents, the position you are applying for, and how this all relates to your own career goals, the more effective you will be. Thorough preparation will not only strengthen your self-confidence, but will demonstrate sincere interest in the job.
Researching the company, agency, graduate school, school district, diocese or parish before the interview has several advantages. First, it helps you cultivate your relationship with the interviewer; giving you information to ask questions as well as answer them. Second, it allows you to formulate a list of specific questions that will influence your thinking and responses. Third, and most important, it allows you to judge whether or not you want to work for the organization.
Despite the importance of pre-interview research, a very small percentage of applicants take the time to learn anything about a company. Begin your research well before scheduling any specific job interview. Learning as much as you can, both about a specific field and specific companies, will help you target a career. Make sure you can discuss knowledgeably how your skills and background will be an asset to the company. This information should be included in your cover letter, showing you have already done your homework.
Practice Makes Perfect
Before stepping into an interview, be sure to practice, practice, practice. As with anything, you will probably find that your interviewing skills will improve quickly with practice. Interview training can improve performance. You do not want to sound as if you have memorized a speech. However, you do want to be able to communicate readily and easily about yourself. A good example for this is studying for an essay exam. You study to learn general concepts and specific facts to support them. You do not usually weave concepts and facts together into an answer until you know the actual essay question. Preparing for an interview is quite similar. Know your general points and supporting examples; allow them to come together as the questions are asked. Be a careful listener.
Listen carefully to all questions and give concise, direct answers. Be careful of your tone as well as your words. Convey the feeling that you welcome the opportunity to talk about yourself and the position. Speak slowly and clearly and do not be afraid to pause for a moment to collect your thoughts.
Doing a videotaped Perfect Interview and a mock interview is an excellent way to get feedback for yourself.
As has already been mentioned, the absolute best way to improve your interviewing techniques is to practice. Videotaping that practice session has some huge advantages. This way you will be able to see your facial expression, hear your word choices, as well as tone and speed, and any mannerisms that you may or may not realize you have.
The Career Services Office will be offering Interviewing as part of the Seminar Series. Attend one of these workshops and then set up a time for the Perfect Interview exercise.
Oral communication is a major component in your evaluation. Remember, too, that it isn't necessarily the best-qualified candidate who gets the job, but rather the one who is best at presenting his or her qualifications. Your practice will be well worth the time spent.