Discover How to Prepare for your Interview

This article first appeared on job-hunt.org.

In the past before an interview, I used to search online for common interview questions, read a few articles, tell myself that I knew the answers, had done the research on the company, reviewed my success stories, and was ready for the interview. 

My confidence about my accomplishments and ability to build rapport allowed me to be somewhat dismissive toward interviews. In reflecting about the offers I did not receive, I realized I was "winging it" in job interviews. Not a good idea. So, I changed my approach, as described below, and succeeded.

Instead of doing what too many job seekers do, don't wing it in your job interview. 

The roadmap for enhancing your interviewing confidence starts with having the right mindset for your job interview. Then, follow these steps to be well-prepared for your job interviews:

Really Prepare for Your Interview

Invest the time and effort necessary for success. The cost will be the time you invest. The result will be making a better impression in your interviews, feeling more confident and handling the whole situation better.

1. Write down your responses to the most common interview questions. 

The goal here is not to memorize your responses. The goal here is to be thoughtful and articulate so you're not crafting your response on the fly. By knowing these answers ahead of time, you will put yourself at ease. Even if you're not asked any of the questions directly, you'll be able to weave a couple of responses into other answers. You'll demonstrate that you've done your homework.

2. Reframe negatives into positives. 

When I was considering starting my own organizational-development consulting firm, I spent four months doing business development and looking for full time positions.

I imagined that some people might ask, "Could you explain why you have had a recent unemployment gap." I didn't want to mention I was starting a company because some people would believe I would likely leave soon. 

So, to focus on the positive I said, 

"I've been building my network and refining my functional skills. In fact, I developed a framework that can be used to help leaders better understand challenges they are facing. Would you like to learn more?" 

Using this approach I deflected the negative into a positive -- the value I could provide. I nailed it. I got the offer the next day.

Whether you believe you’re too old or too young, overqualified or under qualified, too general or too specialized, think about how can you reframe your situation into a positive.

3. Identify your three strengths the hiring manager would value, and prepare more stories. 

For another powerful interview I recently had, I took the time to think about what the hiring manager would value and what challenges they face. 

I've seen projects fail when relationships sour, don't get off on the right foot, or leaders don't lead effectively. 

Putting a more positive spin on these challenges, I said that my strengths were building relationships, acclimating quickly, and leading teams. I was prepared with specific examples to demonstrate those. 

This is a great opportunity to show restraint. Rather than rambling on about the specific examples, I asked, "Which of these strengths is applicable to this role and would you like me to go into more detail?"

4. Determine ways you can weave in your success stories. 

Role play different scenarios. You may not be asked directly, "Tell me about yourself" or "What are your strengths?" Some people may ask less explicit questions about your background. 

Determine the most important stories you think are relevant for the position, and be prepared to weave them in when appropriate.

Apply Your Preparation to the Interview

When you are well prepared, you can focus on applying that preparation to the job interview

1. Take comfort knowing you have prepared. 

I can recall going into an interview where I didn’t prepare as much as I should have and 5 minutes before the interview, I was thinking about how I could have prepared more. Reassuring yourself about your preparation efforts will help calm any jitters you may have.

2. Assess the communication style of the interviewer(s) and tailor yours as appropriate. 

Some people prefer to hear the story and the details; others prefer to get to the point. Is the person you’re interviewing direct and precise with their communication style or are they free flowing? Did they engage you in a lot of small talk or not? 

If they are direct and precise, get to your point concisely. If they like to elaborate more, feel free to give them additional details. 

If you’re unsure how to adjust your style or if there is more than one interviewer, aim for the middle and give concise yet meaningful responses.

For more information about tailoring your communication style, I highly recommend Dr. Tony Alessandra’s book titled The Platinum Rule.

3. Don’t make assumptions about what other are thinking. 

In one interview, I faced a panel of three people. I felt good energy from two of the panel members, but the other didn’t say a single word until I asked questions. 

I could tell from her responses she was relating with my answers and experiences. In fact, after receiving the offer, she became a big advocate for my work. 

Had I assumed she didn’t like my responses, I could have lost confidence during the interview. I focused my energy on the other positive cues I was receiving. Although I was discounting her quietness, I was still routinely making eye contact with her.

Discover ways to build on your success

1. Reassure yourself – there is no perfect interview. 

Give yourself credit for what worked well. Write down the several things that worked well for you. In fact, I’ll ask as the interview is ending, “What worked well for you during our conversation?” This gives me an opportunity to get instant feedback.

2. Write down the one thing you’d like to improve next time. 

Only one. If you write down too many ways to improve, it can be overwhelming and cause you to worry too much.

Bottom Line

There are many ways to increase your confidence for job interviews. This list can be overwhelming if you are trying to do everything recommended before your next interview. Overwhelm is often equal to a lack of action. Don’t feel overwhelmed. Here are three questions to help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed:

  1. What are the insights you’ve had after reading this article? 
  2. Based on those insights, which single action will help you the most? 
  3. What benefits will you receive by taking that action?

As you gain comfort taking these actions, come back to this article, and determine the next action for you take. Remember that everyone has had to face job interviews and felt that they did a less than stellar job. So, don't beat yourself up, but do focus on improving for that next job interview.