Some people think preparing for an interview takes place within a few days of the face-to-face meeting. You review your resume to make sure it’s focused to the job and make several copies to carry with you. You make sure your business suit is pressed and clean, get a good night’s sleep and pack your business cards.
These are important tasks to complete, but the time to really prepare for an interview is not just before a particular appointment. Preparing for an interview is a perpetual process as much as a result.
Assemble Your Qualifications Regularly How can you best present yourself in the interview, appropriately expressing the attributes and skills that will get you the job? First you need to identify them.
Think quietly and carefully about yourself when you are completely relaxed. That could be anytime, but it shouldn’t be something you vaguely ponder as you get ready for the meeting.
Relaxed and composed, you can focus on the qualities and traits that truly distinguish you. Maybe this is the time to think less about your technical expertise and more about your approach and who you are. Since you won’t be agitated or agonizing over the impending meeting, you will be able to think more clearly about exactly what you want to communicate to an interviewer.
Perhaps you may experience a bolt from the blue when stopped at a traffic light or waiting for the bus. Maybe you will be in the shower.
If that is the case, after you get dressed, write down your thoughts. Over time, you will assemble a catalog of your qualifications for a significant promotion or a new career direction. You can divide the catalog into topical categories, such as thinking skills, personal qualities, resource use, interpersonal communications, information/technology management and so forth. Your analysis of these items may further suggest what else you might want to accomplish in your work life or what other career paths you might travel.
Other methods can trigger your thought process and help uncover these components. Career consultant Dr. Adele Scheele, author of Skills for Success and more recently Launch Your Career in College, suggests reviewing your resume once a year and looking at both the duties you merely completed and those that excited you.
Another exercise that addresses this goal is rereading the acknowledgement messages your boss may have sent after you completed a particular project. A sentence or two may spell out particular strengths you brought to the assignment. If you are a freelancer or consultant, be sure to write into your contracts that you will receive a letter thanking you for the contributions you made to the success of the particular venture. The person for whom you have fulfilled these tasks may reference assets you have not considered.
Finally, look at copies of your annual performance reviews to note what human resources and personnel recruiters think of your most impressive characteristics.
Additionally, throughout the year, take careful notes about aspects of your daily tasks that interest you and skills you’ve learned and enjoyed using.
How to Promote Yourself and Your Accomplishments Considering which of your skills and accomplishments points you to a promotion or different career direction brings you to your last challenge. You need to be very clear about what you bring to an opportunity and why you should be considered and ultimately chosen for it. You certainly don’t want to brag, but you do want to play into exactly what the interviewer is seeking.
Scheele says that professionals should think of completing their recent accomplishments and duties as a rehearsal for tomorrow or next year. Take the opportunity to continuously practice your presentation skills so you can communicate exactly what you want to convey. Your personal marketing techniques will be of use here.
Even if you are not thoroughly comfortable with the atmosphere in the room or the questions you are being asked, choose your responses carefully. In reply to a question that might have stumped others, you might say, “I’m glad you asked that question.” You’ll send a signal that you are still at ease replying to tougher questions. Then recall the situations you have been keeping track of on a regular basis to articulate how you have handled a similar situation or task.