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Preparing for an interview

There are really three steps to fully preparing yourself for an interview, knowing yourself, knowing the company and knowing the position. Each of these is equally important to a successful interview. Also, consider how you will leverage the knowledge you have gained during your meeting – preparation is key.

Know Yourself
The first step is to review your own qualifications. This step will make you much more organized and fluent during the interview. You’ll be less likely to have regrets after the interview about what you failed to mention if you review the following areas of your background in relation to the requirements of the position:

  • Education, course work, seminars
  • Skills and abilities
  • Work experience
  • Extracurricular activities and their value to you
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Values, likes and dislikes–especially as they pertain to your work life
  • Career goals–clearly and precisely stated

Know the Employer
A standard part of most interviews is a question about your knowledge of the employer. It is imperative to do your homework. A weak answer to this question is devastating. These are the areas to learn about:

  • History of the organization
  • Products and/or services
  • Primary clientele
  • Current earnings
  • Organizational structure, hierarchy, chief officers
  • Major competitors
  • Ranking among competitors
  • Reputation
  • Parent company and subsidiaries
  • Prospects for growth

Know the Position
You should have a good idea of what the job entails, both in general, and as it exists in the particular organization to which you are applying. When researching the position look for this type of information:

  • A typical job description
  • Skills required
  • Personal traits that are desirable in this field
  • Salary information
  • Growth in the field–how competitive is it?
  • Current trends and major issues in the field

The place to start this research is with any written job description that the company provides. Spend some time analyzing this and committing it to memory. You will need to draw on this information in the interview.

Organizing Your Information
When you have finished your research of the employer and the position, match your skills, personal traits, and experiences (jobs, internships, volunteer experience, academic courses and extracurricular activities) with those that qualify you for this job.

Think through how you will present this information in a concise, organized manner. Your research of the company and the position will allow you to present your case effectively.

Determine the most important material to present. Practice including this material in your answers and strategize what to do if not asked for this information. There is usually a time for you to ask questions and make comments at the end of the interview. If you haven’t made some important point, this provides an opportunity. Don’t be afraid to bring your notes along to the interview and use them during your conversation – the employer will be impressed at your preparation and it will show that you know how to use your resources.

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