Acing the Interview—Are You prepared?

By Barbara A. Adams, CPRW, CEIP, CFRWC

Recently I came across a study in which job seekers were surveyed about their concerns with interviewing for a job. Surprisingly, over half of those surveyed said they’d rather sit in a dentist’s chair than be interviewed for a new job!

On the flipside, there were some people whose attitude was more upbeat in thinking that once they get in front of the interviewer, they’ll just turn on the charm and make it virtually impossible for the interviewer to refuse.

No matter where you fall, ask yourself if you are really prepared for some of the tough questions you’ll face the next time you sit down for a job interview?

Icebreaker: One of the most frequently asked questions used in breaking the ice is “Tell me about yourself.” You look at the interviewer, perhaps stunned that they would ask you to reiterate what you’ve already put on your resume, and suddenly begins your struggle for the right answer.

You begin to wonder if you should talk about your family, interests, hobbies and future goals. Before you realize it, you might find yourself breaking into a cold sweat from trying to figure it all out, asking yourself, “What is it that they exactly want to know?”

Most interviewers are looking at the way in which you communicate by the response to this “on-the-spot” question. By creating an open question such as this, your answer can be very insightful to the interviewer, as it will tell them a lot about you without you even realizing it.

My suggestion would be to prepare an interview answer that keeps your response simple, professional and brief. Just as you may have prepared your narrative with our professional cover letter writers, you will also need to prepare for an in-person conversation. You want to stress your primary selling points for the job; for example, you might respond to this question as follows:

“Sure, I’ll be happy to share a bit about myself. I possess 20 years of experience as a Superintendent of Facilities Maintenance and hold a Property Management Certification. Having spent over 20 years in the military working on major construction renovation projects both stateside and overseas, I am anxious to contribute my experience within a company with a global perspective where my experience can immediately add value to your organization and help with your overseas commitments.”

Interview denial: Working with thousands of candidates transitioning from the military each year, I hear both sides of views from enlisted personnel as well as officers. It’s ok to be confident; just be aware of everything they might ask and spend some time preparing for your interview.

If you are fearful about the interview process, it really doesn’t come as much of a surprise, and you are not alone. More than 75 percent of all job candidates report feelings of anxiety over having to interview for a position despite their level or qualifications. Even those that have been in the civilian job market their entire life experience the same anxiety.

To the top

There are four ways to help alleviate anxieties associated with interviewing and ace that interview.

  1. Develop a Strategy: Know yourself. You are going on an interview, so be prepared to talk about yourself.
    • Make a list of the accomplishments of which you are most proud or where you have made the most impact within an organization.
    • List your core competencies such as leadership attributes, organization skills, strategic planning, problem solving and managing people and projects.
    • Be able to spout these core competencies out from the tip of your tongue.
    • What are your strengths that you bring to a certain career field or organization?
    • Can you list the latest and greatest technologies within the industry in which you are applying.
    • In all instances, the interviewer is looking for you to reinforce your key qualifications for their position and convince them that the next 30-60 minutes will not be a waste of their time. Ace your interview by preparing an opening statement.
  2. Research the company. You may prepare for interviews by first researching the company for which you are applying.
    • Go to their website and read about the products and/or services they offer.
    • Learn about their history, and most importantly, their mission statement and goals.
    • You may want to perform some additional research by using Google to find out if there are any articles written about the company or any new projects in work. This type of information will certainly provide you with a base knowledge about the company and perhaps prompt you to ask additional questions that you may have not thought of asking. Most importantly, it shows you have just as much an interest in the company as they probably have in you.
  3. Practice Interviewing: The best way to perfect any act is to practice, practice, and practice some more. Acing an interview is no different. There are hundreds of career help books on the market that list potential interview questions.
    • Perform an internet search using the search phrase “interview tips” and see what comes up. You will be extremely surprised at the amount of information right there at your fingertips.
    • Perform mock interviews with your spouse or friends. Write scripts for the answers to the main questions that you are sure to be asked and memorize them.
    • Incorporate your knowledge of the company because the more information you learn about it in advance, the more specific you can get with your answers.
  4. Seek the Assistance of an Interviewing Coach. Be willing to admit if you need help in preparing for your interview, and seek out a qualified career coach for assistance. The value of a good coach cannot be overstated, as they can help you prepare for and overcome any obstacles you might face in the interviewing process. There are many credentialed career coaches that can help prepare you for the all-important interview. Some of these services include mock interviews, and personal profile assessments. A good career coach will provide you with feedback and confidence to help you overcome any anxiety or concerns you might have in verbally articulating why you are the best person for a position.

Interviewer’s questions are designed to get a sense of how you think. That means you have to be able to think quickly on your feet. If you are prepared to answer tough questions, you will be ready when the interviewer throws you a curve. It’s too easy to come up with the first answer that pops into your head, which is often not the best answer to give. An interview coach can show you how to take a fair amount of time to formulate a safe answer that will portray you in a better light.

Today’s employers are more savvy in terms of figuring out ways to eliminate candidates by asking some “trick questions” on the first interview, such as compensation, working conditions, hours and so forth. If you keep your cool, come prepared and think before you speak, chances are in your favor that you won’t say anything to undermine your chances of getting the job.

A few other helpful interviewing hints I’d like to leave you with are as follows:

Match the Interviewer’s Style: One of the best ways to ensure that you “connect” with an interviewer is to be able to quickly identify and match their communication style. By listening and observing how the interviewer communicates, you can quickly learn to adapt to that style which will help improve your rapport.

Learn How to Ask for the Job. Sure, you could just be blunt and at the end of the interview and ask, “So did I get the job?” However, being that direct might undermine all you’ve accomplished. Ask the interviewer when they expect to make a hiring decision and make a point to schedule a time to get back with this employer. Make sure you take down the name of the person who interviewed you or ask for their business card.

Follow-up: One of the most important acts if you do not do anything else is to send a follow-up note which can be hand written and sent directly to the person who interviewed you. Keep the note short and reiterate your interest in the position and thank them for taking the time to speak with you. Remind them of your top qualifications and that you look forward to learning of their decision.

An interview is all about closing the sale – in this case the sale of yourself as the best candidate. In order to do that, you have to be able to demonstrate that you are, without any doubt, the best candidate the interviewer is going to meet for that position. So develop a strategy, research the company, practice interviewing, and/or seek the help of a career coach to help you overcome any concerns you might have.

By taking a proactive approach to preparing for your interview, you assume more control over your fate than your competition and put yourself in a better position to come out on top. While it is certainly true that the final decision on whether to hire you rests with the employer, don’t you at least owe it to yourself to do everything possible to make that employer’s decision easier by presenting yourself as the best candidate?

All rights reserved 2006

Barbara A. Adams is the President & CEO of

Barbara has been a member of the careers community for 16 years and serves as an Industry Expert for Military Transition and Federal Government Resumes. She holds three certifications; Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW); Certified Employment Interview Professional (CEIP); and Certified Federal Resume Writer and Coach (CFRWC).

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