How to Interview Effectively

Job interviews are a common source of anxiety, and can at times be as pleasant as a trip to the dentist.  With some extra preparation and planning, however, interviews can also become an easier and more successful experience.   Some 44 years after my first interview (to be a stock boy), here are 10 practical ideas to help job seekers be interviewed effectively and reduce anxiety in the job search process.

Research the company.   Spend time beforehand  learning about the organization you’re hoping to join.   It’s generally easy to find data on web sites, annual reports, marketing literature, etc.   The more you know about a company and its business, the more intelligently you can converse, and consider how you might fit in.  (At the other end of the preparation spectrum, CareerBuilder did a fine survey this past February examining common interview mistakes… and one question noted from a job seeker was: “What company is this again?”)

Research the interviewer.  Hey, nothing creepy.  But knowledge is power.  Try to get some sense of whom you’ll be speaking with – often easy to find online – and their professional background and responsibilities.  It can only help your conversation to have a clearer sense of whom you’ll be meeting.

 Don’t try to be someone you’re not.  That’s way too hard and is just a waste of energy… and if you get the job you can’t be that other person anyway!  So relax and be yourself.   It’s more honest and credible – and a whole lot simpler.

No distractions.  First and foremost, an interview is a business meeting, so act in a businesslike fashion.   While some small talk and appropriate touches of humor  are OK, stay on track.  In the aforementioned CareerBuilder study, interviewers cited a variety of distractions – in particular talking on cell phones and texting during interviews – as clear turn offs to an interviewer.   (Personal aside: yes, bad judgment, couldn’t agree more.)

Don’t let one mistake throw you off your game.   I’ve heard this same concern voiced many times from interviewees over the years: I botched one question and then became so flustered that I got nervous and it ruined the entire interview.  My response to this is: Hey, go easy on yourself.  Everyone makes mistakes; there’s no perfection in life.   It’s completely fair to say, “You know, I don’t think I gave the best answer I could to that last question… do you mind if I try that one again?”  It’s a reasonable bet the interviewer will be impressed by your composure and honesty.

Know your vulnerabilities.  Give hard thought beforehand to potential weaknesses and how you’ll handle them in the conversation.  Everyone has them.  It could be gaps on a resume, it could be a prior job that didn’t end well – or any number of things.  Again, no one’s perfect – every job candidate on planet Earth has areas to improve.  Of most importance here is how openly and constructively you can address such questions… and make them non-issues.

 Know your value proposition.  This is the enjoyable part – the reverse of my last point – the strengths you offer.  What are the particular skills you bring to the table that can make a difference for this organization?  Why are you the ideal candidate?  Think about how you’ll package that information concisely and convincingly.  The more comfortable you are with these specific points, the more effectively you’ll make your case to an interviewer.

Ask questions yourself.  It’s a chance for you to do some interviewing too, to learn more about the company, the culture, the expectations for the position.  Thoughtful questions are appropriate and reflect well on the person asking them.

Always be businesslike.   I mentioned this earlier, but it can’t be overemphasized: Stay on task, stay businesslike.  An interview isn’t an opportunity to flirt, tell jokes, or make a new friend.  (The HBO series “Girls” had a great episode recently dealing with this.)  It’s an opportunity to advance your career. Professionalism matters.   You’ll never go wrong with a thoughtful professional approach.

Go for it.  Try to enjoy the experience as best you can.  At its essence every interview is a chance to move to a new job, a new level, a new career opportunity.  So say goodbye to nerves and embrace the moment.

Originally posted on http://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2012/06/28/how-to-interview-effectively/

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