You have put time and effort into your job application, perhaps polishing up your résumé and crafting a well-constructed cover letter, earning you a coveted interview. Now is your chance to show why you are a great candidate and how you would fit in with your potential team. If you do your homework, you will be prepared for anything the interviewer throws at you.
Get into the right mind-set by reminding yourself what the job entails and reading the employer’s mission statement, if it has one. Make a list of reasons why this job may be the right fit for your career journey, such as the skills, experience and network you would gain. Focusing on how this job will help you achieve your career goals is a good way to get excited about the role—even if it is not your dream job. This will help you to express why you want the job and to convey enthusiasm during the interview.
Think about what makes you the best candidate for this job. Look at your résumé, and pick out which parts of it align with the job requirements. Write down examples of how you tackled particular projects or problems in your previous experience at work, school or elsewhere in your life that demonstrate you have the skills the employer is looking for. As you work through the job description and mission statement, make a list of your proudest accomplishments that could be used as examples. If you are suffering from imposter syndrome, this can also help you recognize why you are the right person for the job.
2. Be prepared to address gaps in your résumé or background.
Make a list of anything in your background or résumé that makes you feel nervous and prepare explanations for gaps you may have in your experience. “If there’s something that freaks you out, sit down and…think about how you’re going to present it in the best possible way,” says Pamela Skillings, chief executive of BigInterview.com, an interview training website.
If there is a gap of time in your résumé when you weren’t employed, think about what you gained during that time. Perhaps you learned important life skills or experienced personal growth, which you can present as assets. For example:
- If you were traveling, you could talk about what you learned from exploring new cultures, and how you would bring those insights into your job.
- If you were caring for a child or a loved one, you could discuss how the experience shaped you and gave you fresh perspectives.
“If there’s something that freaks you out, sit down and…think about how you’re going to present it in the best possible way.”
Prepare to address any gaps in your knowledge or experience. If the job description mentions anything that you are not fully familiar with, read up on the subject until you are comfortable discussing it at length. If there are requirements in the job description you don’t have direct professional experience with, think about what you have done at work or elsewhere in your life that demonstrates you have the skills required. If a job requires previous management experience and you have never been a manager in title, perhaps you have led a project, mentored and trained colleagues or filled in for your boss while they were away.
If, after carefully considering your work experience, you still have a gap you can’t fill, acknowledge it and prepare to talk about how you would learn this skill on the job.
“Redirect and reframe. Bring up some of the positives that will ease any concerns,” Ms. Skillings says.
3. Practice, practice, practice.
Study some of the top questions that may be asked of you.
“Practicing is key,” Ms. Skillings says. “A lot of smart people don’t do it because it feels awkward, but it makes such a huge difference.” Practicing talking about yourself is important at any level of your career. Even senior executives who are “great communicators” sometimes struggle to talk about themselves, she says.
You have already compiled a list of all of the reasons you are a great fit for the role. Now it is time to synthesize and communicate them. If you can’t find someone to practice with, do it in front of a mirror or record a video of yourself. If you don’t like to talk up your own accomplishments, focus on communicating, clearly and efficiently, why your skills and experience meet each requirement of the role. Practicing helps you to identify anything that might distract from the substance of what you have to say.
Top tip: Observe the way you present yourself. If there is anything you are not fully comfortable with, now is the time to address it. If it is your posture, practice sitting up straight. If you notice a distracting habit, like playing with your hair or fidgeting, be aware of it and try to avoid it. Find an alternative place for your hands, such as on the table.
Be authentic. A May 2020 study found that people who behave authentically during a job interview do better overall than those who try to cater to an interviewer’s interests and expectations. This is because it takes a lot of mental energy to try to be someone you are not, which ultimately increases anxiety and could ruin your efforts to create a positive, authentic connection with your interviewer.
4. Final preparations
Write down some thoughtful questions, and be prepared to ask them during or at the end of your interview.
To help combat nerves, visualize a successful interview. Many top athletes use this technique before a big game to focus and reaffirm their positive outlook. Some CEOs have also credited the technique with helping them achieve their goals.
- Mindset: The New Psychology of SuccessIn this book, Carol S. Dweck describes the power of mind-set in unlocking success in work, school and life.
- Biginterview.com This website offers video training and AI-driven virtual interview practice tools.
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