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What is the Best Way to Prepare for an Interview? (Part One)

Estimated reading time: 6 mins

Flunking an Interview is so disheartening. Not just because we fail to land the job we’ve banked on getting, but think about all the time and energy we’ve put into even getting in front of the interview panel, particularly if you’ve adopted guerrilla tactics and found a job that didn’t even exist before you created the vacancy. Is there a ‘Best Way’ of preparing for an Interview?

In this series we will be looking at interview preparation (as an interviewee, not interviewer!) This is a big subject as it’s a lot more than making sure your shoes are shiny! Preparing for an interview in the ‘Best Way’ involves a number of things that we might not have thought about before:

  • Looking at our motivation for actually turning up to an interview
  • Assessing our confidence levels
  • Having a clear understanding of what we want to get from an interview
  • Dressing for an interview
  • Understanding nerves and performance anxiety
  • Sharpening memory

This week we will focus on motivation and confidence . These two factors are what gives us the reason and energy to go to the interview in the first place, so they’re really important.

I’ll tell you something shocking – in a survey I conducted last year across 56 professionals, 37 confessed to (at some time in their past) not turning up to an interview at least once in their career because of ‘irrational‘ reasons, such as nerves or a sudden loss of interest. That’s over half! A lot of people don’t even give themselves the opportunity of the interview because of a lack of motivation and confidence. And I believe that if we lack confidence, then we manufacture reasons in our head why the job isn’t so great after all (to protect our precious egos!), reducing our motivation … so Building Confidence in a great interview is the Key .

Confidence is a curious thing. It is often difficult to put a score on how confident we are, but we do know it when we don’t have it. Even more curious is the lack of confidence before a job interview. If you think about it…

  • If our skills and experience aren not appropriate for the job, we wouldn’t be at the interview
  • If we can’t sell ourselves well, our resume wouldn’t have been picked up
  • If the job isn’t interesting to us then we wouldn’t have applied for it

So why the heck do we get nervous? Dry throat… increased heart rate…. sweaty palms…. stuttering voice…. why the nerves?

The reason why is that we believe that the interview is unpredictable . It’s the lack of knowing what’s going to be asked that makes us shake! There are two kinds of questions in an interview:

  1. Questions the interview panel ask you.
  2. Questions you ask the interview panel and other folks you meet. You will be expected to ask questions at an interview too!

If you saw my review of Mark McClure’s IT Career Engineer then you will know that this report contains advice on interview preparation which develops ideas on the questions we should put to an interview panel to learn about the job being discussed. What Mark tells us is that it is essential to prepare questions you will put to your interviewers in advance. One mistake you can easily make if you don’t prepare your own, is asking questions that any muppet can read on the interviewer’s company website! Prepare good questions: one’s which are worth asking!

The same will be true for your interviewers. They will have questions prepared well in advance, particularly so nowadays where interviews have to be ‘fair’ and consistent to all candidates. Does that make you nervous? It does for most people too. What questions are asked at an interview?

When researching this subject I found a report that told me just that: Job Interview Answers is an 81-page guide to the tough interview questions we face. This report explains how to ‘package and spin’ your knowledge and experience to demonstrate the skills interviewers look for, e.g. critical thinking , desirable behaviors and coping with stress . The report is written for people who are not interview experts (most of us, then!) and tend to get especially nervous before interviews, despite being the right guy for the job. This is an intelligent Guide designed for people who are smart enough to invest in themselves to get the extra edge over other people who are going for the same job. I bought this report as it was only $29.90, and found out how to construct interesting responses to the tough questions I’ve been asked in interviews. For example:

Stock Question: What did you like best and least about your previous job?

Answering this question can be a minefield! Criticizing past employers is frowned upon, so what do you say?

So I used the Job Interview Answers report to construct my ‘pre-prepared’ answer:

Answer: What I liked about my last job was the great on the job training. I was able to really develop my leadership skills, which I know will help me succeed here if I am fortunate enough to join your team. For example, I was asked to lead a BPM project where I had to gain the “buy-in” of people from across the organization, including Marketing, IT, Sales, and Customer Services. I was accountable for getting this project completed on time, even though I had no real authority over my teammates since they did not report to me. I was able to create a project vision that the team agreed on, and then day-to-day I made sure that each team member completed their work on time. I did this in most cases by appealing to my teammates’ own self-interests.

I would actually say that! The answer is perfect. And the answer is built using ‘templates’ from the report (all I needed to do was fill in the blanks.) I think the Job Interview Answers report is pretty good value in fact, as there are another 136 intelligent and effective job interview answers like this . It’s broken down by strategically discussing each and every answer in simple terms so that you can learn quickly and easily , no matter what your abilities or experience level.

There are some nice bonuses that come with the report.. The extras I liked the most were the books “Understanding The Reasons Why You Get Nervous ” and “Seven Mental Exercises to Sharpen your Persuasive Mind, Calm your Nerves, and Focus Power ” – very nice ‘froth’ to the main report.

Like most things – you reap what you sow; you need to go through all the easy-to-do exercises to get the most from it. Just reading something like this isn’t enough. You have to apply yourself , and that’s what now gives me an edge. I feel confident that I have some excellent answers to questions I might have been nervous about before. Not bad for $29.90! Buy Job Interview Answers.

Confidence in my ability to answer the tough questions with great answers means I have the edge over other candidates. I know that I will be the right person for any job I agree to interview for, and my interviews won’t let me down.

Next time we will be looking at the importance of having a clear understanding of what we want to get from an interview, and how to to dress for an interview.

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This post is part 3 of 18 in the series Interview Preparation

About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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6 Comments

  1. Michael Cruse

    The last two people that I interviewed did not take 15 minutes to read our website before the interview. This was disappointing to say the least, and I believe is a good indicator as the character of the candidate.

    I have never gone into a client or job interview without first doing my homework on the company, and know exactly the questions I wanted to ask. If they are public company, I recommend that a candidate read the last Q or K, as the risk section alone will give them plenty of questions to ask.

    I think many people tend to float along and hope that the perfect job will land in their lap. This is a pipe dream and very rarely happens. Getting oneself hired is a job unto itself, and one that many to not give real earnest effort.

    I think you bring a great point about peoples nerves. I have always suffered from a bit of stage fright so I would pump myself up before interviews. I would tell myself over and over again that the has more than good enough for the position, and that they could not ask me any question that I was not prepared to answer. I would also tell myself that it was going to be great interview. After about 5 minutes, I would go in upbeat and confident.

    Great post and I look forward to the series.

     
  2. simonstapleton

    @Michael – thanks! You know I think the nerves issue has the biggest impact of all. So much so that I’ve known many people who post-rationalize the reasons why they didn’t go for an interview: “It wasn’t right…”, “I’m better than that…”, etc. What I like about the Job Interview Answers report I discovered is that it gives us a structure in which to prepare for an interview and go in with answers to almost all questions; all we need to do is fill in the blanks!

     
  3. David Fuller

    This interview business is a two-way process. Remembering that I need to confirm that the role SUITS ME helps me feel more at ease – of course, this is easy to say if the pressure is on and the mortgage has to be paid…

    It’s about getting into a relaxed mindset to enable you to represent yourself as you are.

    I look forward to the rest of this series.

     
  4. Michael Cruse

    I agree, I really like the idea of the Job Interview Answers, I might even use it for the next person I interview, as I do not expect to be looking for work anytime in the foreseeable future 😉

     
  5. simonstapleton

    @David – how do you get into that ‘relaxed mindset’? Any tips?

     
  6. simonstapleton

    @Michael – I hope that stays true for you, although if the worst does happen you’ll be able to walk into the next interview with supreme confidence 😉

     

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