Job Interview Preparation: Navigating the Essentials

Knowing how to put your best foot forward during a job interview is an essential skill in today’s competitive job market. The most important thing to remember about navigating through it is that every position will have specific needs that require you to do a totally new round of job interview preparation for each one. This is partly because corporate culture and the exact definitions of duties will vary from position to position, but most of the time it’s because people tend not to interview for just one occupation, focusing instead on several related jobs they have the skill set for. Luckily, even if the interview itself can vary a lot from occupation to occupation, the process for navigating it is fairly consistent. If you learn it, you should have a good toolbox for approaching future interview situations.

Planning for the Interview

The first phase in the preparation process is interview planning. This is typically done from home in the days leading up to the actual interview, and it involves a combination of rehearsal, mental preparation, and brainstorming. To be effective, your planning phase needs to cover both your specific career-related skills and also your general approach to professionalism and critical thinking, so that your prospective employer sees both your experience and also your potential. Breaking the job interview preparation process down into steps helps. Here is one way to do that.

  • Research everything, from the employer to the industry. This will let you make more specific plans down the road, during steps like planning your own questions for the interviewer.

  • Identify the most important characteristics to showcase in the interview. Base them on what you know about the position, so don’t plan on featuring leadership qualities if the job is totally data and process oriented.

  • Understand the type of interview you will be doing and the unique demands of it. Phone interviews are very different from traditional office meetings, and there are many other formats as well. Be sure you know which one you will be facing and what that means.

  • Do the same for styles of interview questions, and make a list of the most common questions and the ones you think are most likely to be applicable to the potential position.

  • Research and practice! Remember that you want to feel comfortable saying everything out loud, otherwise you are not completing the job interview preparation process, and you are not likely to feel as comfortable in the interview as you otherwise would.

  • Last but not least, get feedback and then keep rehearsing. Having a live audience that lets you know what they think is essential, because it helps you feel more like you’re really engaging with another person the way you will in the interview.

On Site Preparation

The day of your interview, there are a few essential steps you can take before it begins. These will help you to feel more relaxed in the space and to be more familiar with the company you are interviewing with, and there are a range of other benefits as well. Here are a few tips to help you prepare to navigate your interview day by engaging in some short-term final stage job interview preparation.

  • Arrive at the building or site a little early. Take a few minutes to observe the space. Being too early is a bad idea, but a couple of minutes can be enough time to get used to the space.

  • Work on building a rapport by being ready to reply honestly and spontaneously when you’re engaged. Don’t try to plan a specific script, but work on committing to searching for the best common ground to start on.

  • Have a plan for a fallback topic or strategic retreat in case there are any sticky situations or tense moments. Showing that you can pivot to a more comfortable area of discussion that is still relevant is a powerful skill.

  • Last but not least, remember that job interview preparation is not about anticipating what will actually happen, it’s about making you comfortable enough to be engaged and responsive during the process. Focus on building that comfort level, not on trying to anticipate exactly what might happen.

Going into your interview prepared and ready for anything that they might need to ask to assess your qualifications for the position is a matter of putting in the time and energy on the right activities during your preparation process. Whether you are getting ready for your first serious interview or heading back out onto the market after spending some time in a career, knowing how to be ready to meet the needs of a specific prospective employer is the key to getting the job, and having an established problem solving method just for that goal is the entire key to the job interview preparation process.

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