Updated: Nov 15
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I have a question for you. What is the hardest part of a job search? My answer is the interview. The job interview has changed so much over the years. You don’t know every question that you will be asked. You are having a conversation with a stranger who is questioning who you are, what you did, who you did it for, where you did it, why you did what you did, when did you do it, and how good or bad you did it? The X factor that is often overlooked is the interviewer’s personality. What if the interview is a jerk or has the personality of a walnut? This can affect how well you interview. You might get lucky and get an interviewer with a great personality that is an absolute joy to speak with. All of this can affect whether or not you get this job. How do you navigate the unknowns that you are definitely going to face? You must prepare yourself by researching the interview process.
How do you prepare for the interview? The first thing you should do is ask the recruiter the type of format that will be used to conduct the interview. There are different formats for the interview that will vary from industry to industry and employer to employer. According to Indeed.com, there are 7 interview formats. Individual, Group, Panel, Technical, Multiple-Round, Phone Screen, and Informational.
The most common is the Individual where you will be interviewed alone by one or two interviewers. A Group interview will consist of several people being interviewed at once. It is intended to show how individuals will interact in the group and possibly how they would function as a part of the team. A Panel interview format will utilize several interviewers to interview one candidate. This can be overwhelming if you are not prepared or did not expect this format. A Technical interview is designed for workers in a technical field like IT, web designers, etc. This is similar to an individual interview format. The Multiple-Round interview is a very common practice where individuals are required to interview several times with different interviewers, usually two or three rounds. The Phone Screen interview is a way for employers to screen potential applicants. This is more informal than a regular interview and it does not go as in-depth with the level of questioning. The Informational interview is more for the applicant. It is a tool the applicant can use to gain information about the position, company, and the culture.
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After you have identified the format for the interview, then you should prepare yourself by finding interview questions based on the job applied. I recommend that you ask the recruiter for more information on the types of interview questions that will be asked. These are the types of questions that interviewers will ask. They are Open-ended, Situational, and Behavioral based questions. Knowing this information will allow for you to be prepared. The style of questions are usually interchanged and depending upon your responses, you may receive more questions requesting additional information. Preparation is the key to confidently interview. There are countless interview questions that are categorized by job type available to view on the internet. Several job search websites will provide interview questions and offer articles to help you to prepare for the interview. Websites: Indeed.com, Glassdoor.com, LinkedIn.com, CareerBuilders.com, and several others will provide these resources.
Knowing is half the battle. You know the interview format and the type of questions that will be asked. Next, it is time to practice answering the questions. A nice piece of advice is to research some of the answers to the questions. This is not to copy answers, but find best practices for answering the questions. Reviewing other answers given should provide insight into the length and quality of the answer. You want to answer the question based on your experience and skill set. Another tip is to practice with a friend or family member who can conduct mock interviews with you. The goal is to identify areas of opportunities for improvement. If you find yourself struggling with answers on certain questions, then these areas will present themselves during the actual interview.
Another area to consider include having situations recalled that you can speak to when answering these questions. I call them hero stories. A hero story speaks to you going above the call of duty or saving the day. You should have a story prepared for when things did not go as planned. Perspective is so important. Do not come across as Mr. or Mrs. Perfect or as Mr. or Mrs. Failure. Your stories should show growth if it refers to a failure and should show strengths if your story refers to a success. Remember it’s not what you sell, but how you sell it. If you are selling a super hero, then maybe you should speak from the perspective of the average citizen perspective i.e. Clark Kent instead of Superman. Clark Kent would keep it low key and state the facts. Superman would have too many stories to tell and maybe come off a little too far fetched. You don’t want to come across as a know–it-all or as a don’t know anything. It is important that you have balance. Yes, employers want rock stars, and not the diva. Balance is key when bragging on yourself. If something seems too good to be true, they will ask you more questions about it. So don’t over sell yourself. You don’t want to undersell yourself either or you may find yourself overlooked for this position. This comes back to the resume. It should be able to provide a good summary for you and then you should be able to fill in any gaps as needed.
What else can you do to better prepare yourself for the interview? Practice interviewing yourself or have someone else interview you. A mock interview is a great way to identify what you do well and to see where you need to improve. A method that I have used in the past is to record myself asking questions using my cell phone and use my laptop or tablet to record myself answering the questions. This way I can see my facial expressions, body language (to a certain extent based on the camera view), hear myself stutter or stumble over my own words, and hear when I ramble or get off topic. Another method that is very productive is to have a trusted person conduct the interview with the goal of providing both positive and negative feedback. Typically, we all know where we struggle in certain areas of the interview, but sometimes we do not know some of the weird quirks that we may do. If you never watch yourself, then how would you know if you look like a deer in the headlights when you do not know how to respond. What if you have a nervous laugh that comes across as psychotic during the interview? It is important that you take the steps to improve where you can or find ways to stop doing the things that hurt your chances of excelling during the interview.
What does practice really look like? It looks like answering relevant job questions that you most likely be asked. Ask the recruiter what type of questions will be asked and they will let you know. Google search the type of questions identified and you will find a ton of those questions along with common answers too. The answers should be your own, but for those questions that trip you up, then use them as an example. Do not be a copy cat and recite those answers that you find. At a minimum, you should change it up to at least sound like something that you would say. It is important that if your experience does not relate to the question, then you should just say that. Practice answering the questions and getting comfortable. A big goal to shoot for when practicing for the interview is to gain confidence. An interview is not different than taking a written test. You study for it and prepare to pass it. The same approach needs should be taken regarding your interview. It is an oral test. Instead of writing down your responses, you say them. Once you understand this and take the steps to prepare to the best of your ability, then you will be successful.
Mastering the interview can ensure you have a better chance at landing the job. I hope that this information helps you to improve in the interview process. It can be the hardest part of the job search for several reasons. Being able to speak with confidence will help you in other areas of life as well as in the actual job. I would love to hear your feedback on this content. Please leave a comment below.
For additional resources to assist in your job search, visit preparationwithpurpose.com. Follow Preparation With Purpose on social media – Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and Spotify. Check out my e-book, “Rethinking Everything”, available now on Amazon Kindle. Be on the lookout for my latest e-book, “Job Search 101- From Applicant to Employee” available on Amazon Kindle.