The biggest mistake in interviewing is not being fully prepared. Use every conceivable means possible to prepare for the interview and allow ample time to fully prepare. Understand that interviewing is a skill; as with all skills, preparation and practice enhance the quality of that skill. Preparation can make the difference between getting an offer and getting rejected.

There is no one "best" way to prepare for an interview. Rather, there are specific and important strategies to enhance one's chances for interview success. Every interview is a learning experience, so learning that takes place during the preparation and actual interview process is useful for future interviews.

Initial preparation requires recent assessment of skills, interests, values, and accomplishments; a re-assessment and updating of one's resume; and research on the targeted company/ organization and position. Preparation also includes actual practice of typical and targeted interview questions. Final preparation includes details of dress and appearance, knowledge of the location of the interview, what to expect, and protocols for follow-up, if you have an on-site interview.

General preparation before you begin the interview process:
  • Self-assessment: We recommend self-assessment annually, but most people resist this step. When one is unemployed or fearing lay-off, the time is right for reassessing current skills, talents, abilities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, and work values. In addition, it is clearly time to re-examine accomplishments and achievements, particularly those that may be relevant to a prospective employer. I recommend keeping an on-going accomplishments file in which to maintain such items as articles, congratulatory letters, kudos from the boss or clients/customers, 360 evaluations, and descriptions of successful activities as they occur. In the course of daily business life, one often forgets those notable successes.


  • Updating your resume: The accomplishments file serves as a springboard to reassessing your resume. The file contains content for selective resume inclusion. If we assume that a resume must be accomplishments-based rather than descriptive of one's responsibilities, then the file serves to jog one's memory about recent notable activities. Bare-bone the resume by removing all superfluous and/or irrelevant material, all articles (a, an, the), and work at getting it onto one page. Use functional headings to help focus the reader on what you have done and what you can do for the prospective employer. Be absolutely certain it is error-free. For more help refer to our Resume Advice section.


Let’s now assume you have a specific interview lined up.

  • Research, research, research: Depending on available time, use every possible means to learn all you can about the company and position. Use the internet liberally to locate and read information about the company/organization. Access books, journals, magazines, newspapers and any reference materials useful for job-seekers! Go online to the company's Web site as well as competitors' sites. Use newspapers and news channels’ Web sites to learn what's happening now in the news with this company and its competitors. Use industry and business journals to find business news by industry and/or location.


  • Re-assessing your resume: Even if you have sent your best-yet resume, which was obviously successful in making the cut, review it thoroughly and know everything that's on it. Be prepared to discuss supplemental experiences that might be important to this employer. Use a Job Interview Preparatory Sheet to focus on experiences you feel are most relevant and match them to the employer's needs.


Practicing typical and targeted interview questions: Review typical interview questions. Be able to answer the "Basic 3:”

  • Why are you interested in this field?
  • Why are you interested in this company?
  • Why are you interested in this position?
Be prepared to discuss anything on your resume. Be prepared to answer questions/issues you really don't want to answer. For example:
  • your greatest weakness
  • your lack of related experience
  • your low score at college
  • your lack of leadership experiences
  • your record of job-hopping
Practice with a friend, career counselor or coach, or in front of a mirror. Video or audio-tape your answers for future review. Scrutinize how you look and sound. Note inflection of your voice, mannerisms and gestures, facial expressions, poise, energy and enthusiasm in your answers as well as in your body language. How can you improve, enhance, develop, or revise your answers and/or delivery?

Because interviewing is a skill, you can only improve your style and acumen with practice. You can always prevail upon family or friends to help you prepare. ASK!!! Ask too for genuine feedback that will be helpful in working out the kinks. Practice is important too in assuaging fears and nervousness. However, a degree of tension is beneficial toward maintaining a level of alertness that causes you to sit up straight and forward in your seat, leaning toward the interviewer. The ideal is to strike a balance between poise/calm and energy/enthusiasm.

Prepare questions to ask. These questions should reflect your research on the company and position and should never include questions whose answers are readily available in company literature or Web site. Do NOT ask about salary or benefits!



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