Improving on one’s interview strategies is a core concern for everybody who has to navigate the job market, whether you work in a field where mobility is expected or you’re interviewing for your first new job in years. It’s a competitive marketplace out there, and new interview and resume screening techniques keep pushing people to give more, be better, and refine their approaches. To make sure that you are building better interview strategies with each new meeting you take, the key is to practice, and not only for general interview questions, but for questions that draw from specific knowledge about the job you are pursuing. Building up a preparation routine that is designed to highlight research, performance, and mental flexibility is the single best way to make sure that your interview strategies are as refined as possible.
Preparation and Research
The first step is always preparation and research. Chances are that you have a fair amount of information at your disposal already, since you had to look into the company and the role you are applying to fill before sending in a resume. If you’re selected for an interview, though, it will be essential to show that you have continued to learn about your prospective employer. You don’t want to show off, but you do want to be able to answer questions that are relevant to scenarios you might encounter during the course of daily business. Better interview strategies will be available to you if you can reference your knowledge of particular details about the company as well, so don’t focus on trivia about company history. Instead, focus on understanding how things are done and what your employer’s position in the industry looks like.
The other side of preparation is to make a plan for the interview and for your practice interview sessions. You don’t want to just leap forward by writing responses to a few common interview questions. Instead, it’s worthwhile to look at the likely approaches your employer will take and to plan for a few practice sessions with different people who will use different questions. To use the practice to figure out better interview strategies, you will need to hear a variety of different kinds of feedback about your answers, so pick a wide variety of friends and acquaintances when asking for help practicing, too.
Approaching the Practice Session
For each practice session, you will want to make sure that you prepare just like you would for the interview. Dress appropriately, in the kinds of clothes that you are considering wearing on the day you go in. Practicing in a few different outfits and inviting feedback can also be helpful if you can’t decide what the best choices in your wardrobe are. Even if you are confident about your choice, though, you still want to practice in the interview outfit so that you are used to moving in those clothes. That way, you will be as comfortable as possible when the pressure is on. If you’re working on identifying better interview strategies, then you will want to be sure that each session includes the following stages:
Sample skill and experience-based questions, randomly selected so that you can’t quite predict the order or exact questions used.
Sample behavioral interview questions that allow you to practice your general approach with a variety of them. Remember, you can’t always predict what the most relevant behavior-based questions will be.
Practice asking questions back to the employer, and if possible, work with people who are comfortable giving you answers. You can even provide them with some of your company research to help.
Debrief. This is very important. You want to take the time to hear feedback about your approach and to take tips and criticism without talking back and explaining aspects of your performance away. At the same time, though, it’s important to identify any aspects of the scenario or questions that are frustrating, and to either talk through them or make a plan for researching better interview strategies that get around them.
The more you practice, and the more thought you put into processing the things each practice reveals, the better your interview strategies will become. Just remember, you have to practice the way you will be interviewed. Writing out ideas can be great for brainstorming, but it can’t replace being comfortable saying the words and narrating your way through the examples you will need to fully answer each question.