Interviews: 5 Ways to Ace Them Before Stepping Through the Door

Interviews are inevitable. Whether you’re being considered for a promotion or a brand-new job, chances are you will have to meet with someone face to face before you’re offered the position. Even though interviews are a source of anxiety for many, there are plenty of things you can do to help lessen the stress and take them on with confidence. Here are five tips on what to do before your next interview to help you walk in with your best foot forward.

Tip 1: Study, Study, Study!

It never hurts to be prepared. When it comes to interviews, preparation is especially fundamental. Before an interview, you should take some time to get familiar with every detail on the job listing. Also, thoroughly research what the organization is, what it does and how your role will fit into the bigger picture.

The agency’s website is a great place to start, but reading reports and new stories from other sources can help give you a more complete understanding of your potential employer’s mission. Doing this research will clue you in on what the interviewer will be looking for in a candidate, and which areas of your resume to highlight in the discussion.

Tip 2: The Interview Process Is There to Help You, Too

Although the pressure can make this hard to believe, an interview is ultimately there to help you, too. As the interviewer is trying to judge whether you’d be a good fit for the job, take the opportunity to do the same. The interview is your chance to get an inside look into the organization and establish a sense of its culture, practices and workplace environment.

Take some time before the interview to reflect on what your personal strengths and career goals are. What kind of a workplace environment do you flourish in? Write these down. Do you see any common themes across them? See if these resonate with your experience in the interview.

Tip 3: Ask Questions

At some point during the interview, you will likely be asked if you have any questions. The answer to this should be yes!

Asking questions in an interview is important for several reasons. Relating to tip No. 2, it’s your opportunity to learn what working in the organization would be like. It’s also your opportunity to use some of that research from tip No. 1. Asking questions about the agency’s operations shows that you’ve done your homework and that you are passionate about the impact your work would have.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask a few questions in advance of the interview. Practical questions about location and procedure (how much time will it take me to get through building security?) and interview format (will it be one-on-one or with a panel?) will help you know what to expect walking in and avoid unexpected hiccups.

Tip 4: Practice, Practice, Practice!

While it’s impossible to predict exactly what you’ll be asked during an interview, there are some general topics that you should be prepared to talk about – for instance, why you want to work for this organization, and what makes you a good candidate for the position.

Many employers, especially in the federal service, conduct behavior-based interviews. This is where a candidate’s past behavior is analyzed to assess how they might respond to future challenges. You may be asked questions like: “Tell me about a time you made a mistake. How did you handle it?” or “Tell me about a time you set and achieved a goal. How did you accomplish this?” Find someone who you can practice answering questions of this kind aloud to. Getting used to this style of question will help you keep your composure and answer with confidence.

Tip 5: Do Yourself a Favor (Or Two)

At the end of the day, the best piece of advice for an interview is to simply relax. Of course, this is probably the hardest advice to take, as it’s much easier said than done. Even though eliminating pre-interview stress is more difficult than just flipping a switch, there are a number of things you can do in advance to make the big day go as smoothly as possible.

For instance, you should plan your exact route to the interview location before the day-of. If you have the opportunity, practice getting to the location so you know how much time to budget yourself to arrive on time, plus a little extra (you never know when traffic could strike). Also, lay out your outfit, important documents and essential items the night before. This will ensure that you won’t forget anything and save you time getting ready. And lastly, the best favor you can do yourself before an interview is to simply get a good night’s sleep.


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