You avoid perspiration with preparation. By being prepared, you will skillfully facilitate conversation. Conducting pre-interview preparation builds your confidence, provides focus for communication, and enhances outcomes. Too many candidates spend hour after hour researching historical facts and obscure figures associated with an organization, increasing anxiety via off-target, yet well-intended efforts. These individuals research organizations too much and their own backgrounds and job descriptions too little. They don't review resumes, and they limit qualification criteria analysis to a quick perusal of brief, oversimplified job announcements.
Call a few days before any interview to confirm your meeting and, whenever possible, arrange an informal conversation with someone who knows about the job you will be interviewing for. Clarify logistics of the day, particularly for callback interviews. Know how many people you will be seeing and what to expect of your visit.
Pre-interview research does not have to be completed covertly, so specifically ask “Is there information I should be reading, or can you provide me with a very detailed job description prior to my interview?” You might also ask, “Are there particular questions I should be thinking about prior to my interviews?” Verify and be curious before, so you can be effective during any interview.
Last-Minute Tips and Strategies
You've spent hours hunting books that might help with resume writing, interviewing, and job search. Yet bookstore employees often hear from frantic customers, “I've got an interview tomorrow. What is the best book for last-minute preparation?” Here are some easy-to-follow guidelines for last-minute prepping.
Two or three days before your interview, e-mail or call the employer to confirm your meeting and to request a copy of the job description and a company profile. Offer to stop by to pick up the information or ask if it can be e-mailed, faxed, or express mailed. Specifically ask this question: “Are there questions or issues I should focus on to prepare for our meeting?”Imagine how well you can prepare if you receive a list of potential questions or critical issues to examine. You would be surprised how often interviewers will provide this information when asked. Queries can be made by phone. If you can't get through to the appropriate person(s), leave a voice-mail message, followed quickly by an e-mail or faxed note and then, later in the day, by another a call. If you start a few days before the interview, you have a greater chance of receiving a response.
Conduct an Internet search or visit a reference librarian, seeking information on the government agency and, most importantly, on general current-events articles on the field involved. If possible, enter a few keywords into a general search engine or into search options within the company's Web site. Don't dwell too long on researching the prospective employer. Basic and topical information on the field involved is often much more valuable. You should be able to discuss industry trends, major players, and “what's hot and what's not” within the field. Reference librarians are competent problem solvers. They thrive on the challenge of locating hard-do-find information under the pressure of a pending deadline.
Timing Is Everything
Arrive exactly one-half hour early, check in, and, if you haven't already done so, ask if you can review a copy of the job description as well as literature describing the nature of the organization and significant events of the past year. Sit down in a comfortable area and review your resume and cover letter. It's amazing that most job seekers forget this very simple preparation activity. Think about it. What do interviewers review when determining whom to meet? What do they review immediately before and during the interview? Most definitely,
the answer is “your resume and cover letter.” Don't forget to review these documents before your interview. Mark critical points or make notes on back. This one-page “personal note sheet” can be very effective. Have extra copies of your resume available in case you meet with someone who doesn't have one.
Be prepared to share anecdotes of your achievements. Write down at least three times when you used specific skills to complete a project or achieve success. For each, be able to describe actions that yielded specific outcomes. You may also use the back of your resume to identify key points to make in the interview and to remember questions to ask during the two-way exchange.
Answers and Questions
Ask two questions within the first ten minutes of the interview, and bring copies of your work to show. Questions should be variations on “What are the qualities you are seeking for this position?”and “What specific expectations in terms of output and outcomes do you have for the person who holds this job?” This will allow you to gain a greater understanding of the position and reflect qualifications later in the interview. The more you learn early in the conversation, the better. Remember, an interview is simply a conversation with a purpose. Be enthusiastic, optimistic, and inquisitive.
Putting It All Together
While for some, interviews can yield the appropriate excitement and anticipatory “edge,” for others it can manifest in negative ways. Sweaty palms, knotted guts, and beads of sweat are all-too-frequent physical and psychological symptoms on interview day. If you prepare and have the proper attitude, interviews can be fun. When else is it okay to brag and speak about yourself in positive ways for an hour or two? After creating and reviewing your resume, you should be very appropriately egocentric, focusing on you. You're a great candidate, or you would not have been invited to interview. Enjoy the chance to share your pride in your achievements as well as your personal visions of your future.