Preparing for Your Interview: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

Even the most confident people are nervous at interviews.  Who wouldn’t be?  A lot is riding on a 30-minute conversation where your personality and career successes are scrutinized. 

I bet you can remember your worst interview; I do!

I had researched thoroughly.  And as always, I showed up 15 minutes early to scan through my notes one last time in the busy public lobby.

Eventually, my name was called, and I took the endless walk down the oak paneled corridor to the interviewer’s office.  I sat down in the overheated room and faced my interviewer.

It was tough!  The questions were in-depth, and my interviewer was giving nothing away in his reactions. 

As the interview progressed, I was becoming more and more in need of water.  My nerves and the heated room caused my throat to dry up, and I could barely speak.  Too keen to impress, I did not dare ask for a drink, and I had not brought one with me.

Approximately 20 minutes in, I could not speak at all, except in a suffocated whisper.  The interviewer, now concerned for my wellbeing, got up from his desk and left the room in search of water.  By the time he returned 10 minutes had passed, by which time he had no doubt forgotten anything he had liked about me.

I didn’t get the job.  I was unprepared.

I learned failing to prepare is preparing to fail!

We can be our worst enemies in an interview.  Sometimes we don’t have to be tripped up by a difficult question because we are already rooting against ourselves. 

So here are some important ways you can prepare for your interview:

Analyze the job description:  This is obvious but crucial.  Before you can determine what you want to put across in your interview, you need to know the details of the job in question.  This means knowing the day-to-day responsibilities, the travel required, and who your supervisor will be.  It also means you know the skills the interviewer will expect to see and even anticipate some of the questions.

Learn about the organization and the department:  Go to the organization’s website and determine its mission statement and its current projects.  You will almost certainly be asked about those.  Also, review their social media, recent stories in the news, and their annual report.  Ask yourself what you can offer them and how you have demonstrated a commitment to their values in the past.  Be prepared to explain why you want to work for them over similar organizations.

Basic competency questions:  Consider the core skills required for the job and how you have demonstrated them in the past.  The Leadership Institute’s Job Seeker’s Guide (pages 17 & 18) contains a list of competency questions you should be able to answer.

Plan your outfit:  Have your outfit picked out the night before.  If you’re indecisive about what looks good, this will give you time to work it out.  Just don’t change your mind in the morning!  I recommend wearing business clothes you have worn before. 

Materials:  Do not leave this until the last minute.  Otherwise, you risk forgetting important documents.  Take three copies of your resume printed on professional paper, two lists of references, letters of recommendation, writing samples, and take a notepad to jot down relevant information and anything you promise to send the interviewer as a follow-up.

Logistics:  Plan ahead when it comes to your interview.  How are you getting there?  How long will it take?  What potential pitfalls could delay you?  I recommend checking traffic reports and weather.  If it’s going to be hot for example, you don’t want to sweat because you have walked a long distance.  You may even want to allow time to change your clothes. 

Other:  Think of anything else you may need, for example, something to eat or drink, or any medication. 

Interviews are stressful, but with preparation, you have every right to feel confident!  If the employer has asked to interview you, it’s because she or he thinks you are qualified to do the job; so don’t sabotage yourself by failing to do basic preparation.

For more great interview advice, check out LI's Job Seeker’s Guide.