Tips for Acing Your Next Interview

So you landed a job interview. Congratulations!  You probably beat out dozens, or hundreds, of competitors to rank among the best and the brightest.  So go ahead, savor your victory, crank the sound track to Rocky, and run some victory laps around your cube.

Then, start preparing for your interview. Why?  Because of the paradox of practice: the more you prepare for job interviews, the more spontaneous and intelligent you will probably sound.

Prepare for your interview by:

  1. Anticipating likely questions: ask your trusted advisors to help you do so, and Google “common interview questions.” Also, consider what the likely challenges of the job probably are, and be prepared to explain why you would be prepared to conquer them.
  2. Crafting employer-centric answers to anticipated questions: Your answers should explain what you offer your target employer — not what you want from your target job.
  3. Role-playing your interview with as many of your trusted advisors as possible: Each of your role-playing partners will probably give you different, but complementarily helpful feedback.

No matter how senior your current position is, your list of likely questions should include the common “tell me about yourself” open-ender. Some tips on acing it:

  1. Milk every minute: job interviews are short. So devote all of your limited interview time to proving that you are qualified for the job and would fit in at your target office; so don’t waste time on irrelevant aspects of your background, such as where you were born, what your hobbies are or your latest basket weaving coup.
  2.  Be concise: Save your biographical filibuster for your retirement party. Instead, provide a concise, logically organized summary of your most relevant academic and professional credentials that you can deliver in two minutes or less.And remember: your interviewer might not have read your resume, and even if he did, he probably will have forgotten it by the time he interviews you. What’s more, your interviewer wants to hear how you express yourself verbally. So don’t exclude relevant credentials from your summary merely because they are covered on your resume.
  3. Start your answer with an attention-grabbing statement(s) that summarizes who you are and what you offer.
  4. Convey your credentials in reverse chronological order. Why? Because your interviewer is probably more interested in your recent achievements than ancient ones. What’s more, your interviewer may interrupt you before you finish your answer, so the sooner you review your most recent and and most credentials, the better.
  5. Convey zest: Mention why your target job would be important/ inspiring to you.
  6. Here is a sample template for a response to the “tell me about yourself” standard:

I specialize in___(or I am an expert in ___or I have x number of years of experience in___.) I offer a life-long passion about this field; I think it is important because ___. Through my current job, as a ___ at ___, I have (descriptions of some of your most relevant projects go here.) These projects would provide excellent preparation for this job because___I have also worked at___ as a ___. I have an X degree from ___.

I offer a top reputation. My annual reviews have consistently been excellent, and I have brought some samples of them along with some of my successful relevant work products; I would be happy to show these materials to you before I leave (and leave copies of them for you), if you would like.

I would be eager to contribute to your organization’s mission because ____. Is there any aspect of my background that you would like more information about?

Every question you ask during the interview should be crafted to reflect your enthusiasm and knowledge and insights about the organization and to otherwise increase your appeal to hiring managers.

Remember that the goal of the interview is to draw a job offer. You won’t increase your appeal by asking about your needs, such as your salary, teleworking arrangements and office space.  But once you receive a job offer, the balance of will change: this will be the time for you to open salary negotiations and ask about your other preference  —  but not before.

End interviews with a parting salvo, such as, “Through this interview, I have learned X about your organization and the opening — which has only increased my enthusiasm. If offered the job, I would accept it.”  Indeed, many hiring managers say that they won’t hire an interviewer unless s/he specifically affirms his/her interest in the opening.

At the end of your interview, ask your interviewer when s/he expects to make a decision on the opening. If s/he doesn’t follow-up accordingly, call him/her back about a week after his/her anticipated self-imposed deadline, and reaffirm your interest in the job.  If your interviewer doesn’t answer your call, don’t leave a message — because if you do, you will only continue twisting in the wind, waiting for a return call.  Alternatively, just keep calling your interviewer until you reach him/her.

By Lily Whiteman, author of How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job and consulting career coach and seminar leader. Twitter: @Lilymwhiteman

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