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Successful Interviewing: Part 2 – How to Prepare for the Interview

How to Prepare for the Interview

Although most candidates know that preparation is essential to an interview, many only do half the work.  Some try to predict what will be asked, and build their “canned” responses.  This is not what we call “taking ownership of the interview” as discussed previously.  Preparation needs to include building a checklist of topics YOU want to cover during the interview.  This checklist will have all the essential items that will convince the interviewer you have the proper skill set for the job.  Just like going to the grocery store, having a list focuses you on what you need and do not need.  In the interview, it ensures you cover the items you want and do not go on tangents or rush to answer with less than optimal examples.  During an interview, it is easy to panic a little and say the first thing that pops into your head.  A checklist is your “safety net” to reference if you get stuck.  You keep it handy during the interview and check off items as they are covered—more on that later.

I joke with candidates that building a checklist is “child’s play.”  It is simple and has three steps:

  1. On the left side of your desk, put the job description and any other company information you may have.  Put your resume to the right.  Then put a blank sheet of paper next to the resume.
  2. Literally connect requirements and company info on the left with the resume experiences and skill set on the right. It is like connecting the dots with a crayon—child’s play!  Hopefully, you create a complex web of connections as you may connect a requirement to several spots on your resume.  And several requirements on the left may link to the same experience on the right.  These connections are checklist items.
  3. Build your checklist by listing the requirements (and related company info) along with the best examples of your ability and experience.  You should include boxes to check off as you interview.  You need not write out details, as all you will need is some code words to remind you of the example(s) you want to share.  For example, your list might include:
  • ASP.NET experience:  Project Ginger at Company XYZ; using since 2004
  • Web Graphics:  Project JoJo at Company ABC; Won the Peanut Award for outstanding design
  • Teamwork:  Worked on several teams (X, Y, Z); led effort of team at Company XYZ on project for Client123.

clip_image001You get the idea.  The list becomes a super-concentrated version of your resume.  By the way, it’s alright if your interviewer sees your checklist, as this just makes you look prepared for the interview.  And, it reality, it makes their job easier.  Make sure checklist items are in priority order so you can visually spot items near top that still are not covered towards end of interview.

Of course preparation also includes learning as much as you can about the company (items for the left side in the exercise above).  You might make a connection with your interviewer from this research (common clients, associations, schools, similar projects and/or processes).   Don’t stop with just the company web site.  Leverage on-line search engines, LinkedIn and other relationship marketing tools.  Archived articles on the company can be a wealth of information.  If you are working with a recruiter, make sure he or she has given you more than a job description.  They should know about the corporate culture and team, recent history, and position requirements that are not posted.

This series of articles on Successful Interviewing is also available as an eBook on the A-List Solutions web site.  Click this link for a free download:  get eBook now.

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March 15, 2009 - Posted by | Careers, Interviewing 101, Job Search

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