Most job-seekers wait to polish up their interview skills until they are looking for a new position. Important interview opportunities however can present themselves at any time. For example
- Unplanned internal job openings: You encounter a sudden opportunity to advance your career from within and your boss recommends you as a candidate for the job. Are you ready to communicate your contributions to the company?
- A recruiter calls: The position sounds like just the career move you've been wanting. Will you say the right things to win the job or will you blunder your best chance?
- A former colleague introduces you to his boss:The organization is building an exciting new division and looking for new staff. Can you entice the boss's interest in you as a must-have new team member?
Those who continually grow in their careers are always prepared for these situations. Their interview skills are sharp at all times. To know if your skills are sharp enough to handle a surprise interview see if you can answer the following four questions: 1. Can you concisely state your value proposition in 30 seconds or less? A value proposition is meant to intrigue your listener with a quick overview of your skills expertise and industry know-how. If you can offer a precise summary of why you are the perfect candidate for that job you are more likely to get to the second or third interview. A concise value proposition can make a critical difference in winning you a new position. [Editor's note: See also Your Unique Selling Proposition.] 2. Can you list your top five accomplishments and can you communicate their impact to your employer's bottom-line initiatives? A list of your top accomplishments will enable a prospective employer to imagine what you can do for he organization. Accomplishments give employers a way to associate your skills with their needs and a reason to remember you. Be prepared to list your top skills and show how they can help meet corporate needs. 3. Are you prepared to answer your own toughest interview questions or do you hope they just won't come up? Don't leave yourself vulnerable to such questions as: "If you're doing so well in your job why do you want to leave?" A good recruiter or hiring manager will see you sweat and stutter and squirm; you'll lose their confidence and destroy a chance to get your dream job. Think about the questions that will be your biggest pitfalls and be prepared to answer them. 4. Do you know how to find out your interviewer's motivations to understand how best to answer his or her questions? This is a very important question. Without knowing your interviewer's motivations how will you know if your answers hit the mark of what he or she is looking for in a perfect candidate? Conduct research and determine exactly what that employer needs. Once you have those answers in hand you can target your interview answers accordingly. A good career coach can help you answer all these questions and more preparing you for the interviews you plan -- and the interview you didn't expect. With those answers in hand you can take your career from mediocre to marvelous with "always-ready" interview skills. Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college career and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms. Deborah Walker is a Certified Career Management Coach. Her expertise includes resume writing and career coaching. She holds membership in the National Resume Writer's Association. As a former headhunter her advice comes from an insider's prospective based on years working with HR professionals and corporate hiring managers. Visit Deb on the Web. Or email her for a free resume critique/price quote at firstname.lastname@example.org.