Most people go into interviews with little more than an on-line bucket list of job requirements often pulled from job boards, and with little if any interview preparation. Would you sing in a choir before an audience without practice? Pitch a baseball game without pitching practice? There are techniques and actions with which you can gather essential information so that you can become prepared with powerful answers to maximize your interviewing success.  Planning for an interview is key.  Information is key. What constitutes meaningful interview preparation?  How do you plan when there is so little information offered to you before you walk into the interview?  And, how do you gain that additional information which will allow you to answer interview questions with relevant answers?

The first step in preparing for an interview is to gather the specific needs of a potential employer so that you can become prepared with an understanding of the skill-set required, and with subsequent powerful answers to maximize your interview success.  This is not at all difficult.  However, without a thorough investigation of the skills-sets which are required, the average interviewee often winds up passively awaiting questions thrown his or her way, resulting in on the spot thinking, weak answers and anxiety.  You do not want to find yourself staring off to the distance as you try to conjure up a “right” answer.

Start by going to a large job board such as Indeed.  With the basic job description in hand, do a search for similar jobs by using keywords from your current job description and applying those key words so that you see how other employers have described similar jobs.  Your goal is to find additional key words and phrases associated with similar positions.  When you have several postings, read each word and sentence, and take notes as you do.  What are they looking for? What words appear consistently in these postings?  Read the first time for content.  Read the second time for words with an eye to which words appear consistently in these postings.  Read the third time and read between the lines – what would it take to get this job done? What are they looking for?

A very helpful exercise is to take a piece of paper and divide it in half.    On one side of the paper write, “What they are looking for”, and on the other side, “What I have to offer”.  Do this each time you apply for positions that are different from one another. This exercise will help you to reflect on your transferable skills (those skills which you can take with you to any job you hold such as: your communication and people skills, or your project-management skills, or your ability to build strong relationships) and how they relate to the needs of a position.  Next focus on your knowledge based skills (those skills learned through Experience or Education such as computer programs/languages, writing skills, sales experience, etc.).  Then draw parallels between your experience and their needs.

There are several reasons for doing this exercise.  Because there is a short period of time during which you can impress an employer, you need to capture their attention.  Prepare to be spot-on in terms of what experience you will discuss which will be most relevant. Clarify your skills in your mind and on paper, and then craft stories and examples of your relevant experience which you can use during the interview at the appropriate time. Interviewing is marketing, and you need to create the perception that you are the best candidate for the job, just as the best product always captures the market.

In brief, if you can talk about your skills in a convincing manner, you are the one most likely to get the job. Examples of relevant experience will ground your answers so that what you bring to the table is specific, and your value most easily understood. Being able to clarify and qualify your skills using well crafted examples of your experience will distinguish you from other candidates.

Soon coming…How to craft stories and examples of your experience.