Three Tips on Final Prep for the Interview

by: Joanne Meehl

Few things give this job search coach more pain than when candidates get themselves all tied up in knots over an interview. Too often, good candidates prep for interviews by buying books with titles like 10,001 Interview Questions and How to Answer Them, then try to memorize the answers. Then, because they can't possibly hold all that stuff in their heads, they get nervous and that makes them feel like a fraud when they KNOW they can do the job. So they can't sleep the night before, they find themselves talking like a chipmunk on speed instead of speaking in their real voice, and in this state they become vulnerable so they view the interview as A Complete Judgment of Who They Are As A Human Being.


Painful. And unnecessary.

Naturally, interview practice with a coach, especially if it's videotaped, is critical to feeling normal in an interview. That can be a career coach, or it could be another professional in your network who is NOT a good friend or family member, who just will not be as frank with you about what you can change.

But here are the "Three 'R' " tips for you as you are about to go into the interview, so that you get a great shot of confidence. You're in your car now in the company's parking lot, or on the commuter line about to get off and walk into the building, and here's what you do:

1. Re-read the job description. You matched it when you first saw it, you match it now -- otherwise, you would not be having this interview. But look at it one more time. Recall what made you excited to answer the ad or respond to the networking tip about the opening. Be sure to bring that up again in the interview: "I was so excited to see this position because I can bring my expertise here and achieve additional successes...specifically, being a product manager for your iWidget Division would mean that I'd review your current processes to see how we can shorten the cycle...." Showing that "spark of excitement" reveals your love for what you do. Since companies and organizations don't hire resumes -- they hire people, real human beings -- this joy will come through. That's who they want in the job: someone who's excited to be there.

2. Review your resume. Meaning, look at every phrase, every bullet, and remember the success stories behind them. This is why you are there. And this is where the answers to interview questions will come from: YOU. Not a book. Not a coach who tells you what to say, word for word.

Important: Think about three stories you definitely want to tell. You may be asked for more examples than that, but be sure to have three really good ones to tell, even if they DON'T ask for examples or say "Tell me about a time when you...". If you don't bring these up on your own behalf, thinking they're not necessary, don't kid yourself: your competition will find a way to give their stories.

Now you may get a question like "Why are manhole covers round?", questions that Microsoft and Google interviews have made famous. These get more to "How does this person solve problems?" Because you've prepared correctly for the interview, your mind is not cluttered with memorized phrases so you are more likely to handle these kinds of questions more calmly and with more thought.

3. Reframe the interview. Do NOT see it as A Judgment of Who You Are As A Human Being. Why can I asy that? Because hiring managers and HR people I talk with all say the same thing: they HOPE and even pray that you are THE ONE. Do you think hiring managers enjoy interviewing? Enjoy taking themselves away from their work, taking their people away from their work? Of course not. Do you think HR managers enjoy being hassled by hiring managers who are eager to have a new person tackle the growing pile of problems on their desks? Of course not. So here's the Big Secret about the interview: As they are shaking your hand and welcoming you in, they are thinking "God, I hope this is the one. We have so much work for this person to do. We want to choose the right person, of course -- we just hope YOU are IT!"

By doing your rereading, reviewing, and reframing, you'll feel more confident. And believe it or not, you will actually enjoy your interviews. And that's the way it should be.


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