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Question: "How should I best prepare for job interviews?"
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Job-seekers can best prepare for job interviews by anticipating interview questions, researching the employer, developing interview response outlines, and practicing your responses (but avoiding memorizing those responses).
In all your interview preparation, always remember that a job interview is a sales call; you have to actively sell yourself to the employer -- from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave.
You can anticipate questions in a number of manners. If you have an insider with the prospective employer (a friend, colleague, or champion), you can seek his/her opinion about the types of questions you should expect. If you have any sort of weaknesses (perceived or otherwise) in your background, you should prepare responses that downplay them and/or spin them in a positive light. If you have no clue what to expect, then prepare for a mix of interview questions by reviewing the types of questions employers frequently ask. (See Question 4.)
Researching the employer is vital. In the job interview, and within the context of most of your answers to interview questions, you'll want to showcase your knowledge of the employer and relate yourself to the employer. You must expect the "what can you tell me about our company" question -- and you must be able to provide a detailed response. One of my favorite clients develops a detailed "client briefing book" for each job interview; the book is a three-ring binder of key information about the company gathered from company sources, such a brochures, annual reports, and the corporate Website. When employers ask the question, he not only responds intelligently, but pulls the book from his briefcase -- and it has never failed to impress the interviewers.
Developing responses to interview questions is important because you want to have intelligent responses rather than rambling answers. In developing responses, remember to focus on positive, quantifiable, and specific issues. Never say anything negative about previous employers or bosses and always spin any negatives or weaknesses into positives. For many types of interview questions -- and as a great memory aid -- you should consider developing short stories or anecdotes that describe a situation that illustrates your answer... that shows more than it tells.
Practicing your answers helps reinforce to memory (but without memorizing) your answers, while also allowing you to work on fine-tuning responses. Ask a friend to serve in the role of the interviewer and ask the questions. If that's not possible, at least spend some time going over them with yourself. Try to critique your responses from the point of view of an employer.
Tools that can help you with interview preparation:
This article is part of a series from The Career Doctor's Cures & Remedies to Quintessentially Perplexing Career and Job-Hunting Ailments. Read more.
See a list of all the most common college, career, and job questions -- and Dr. Hansen's solutions.
Who is the Career Doctor? Learn more, read his current career column, or browse the column archives when you visit the Career Doctor's homepage.
Dr. Randall S. Hansen is a nationally recognized career and job-search expert. He is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He's often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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