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Published on January 3, 2019

23 Essential Things to Keep in Mind When Preparing for an Interview

23 Essential Things to Keep in Mind When Preparing for an Interview

Pre-interview jitters is real. If not managed, the anxiety, the lack of sleep, and even personality changes before a big event like an interview can negatively impact your interview performance.

This post contains very practical tips on how to manage interview anxiety and deal with imposter syndrome so that you can deliver an amazing interview performance.

In no particular order, here are 23 essential things to keep in mind when preparing for an interview.

1. Keep a master list of everything you were responsible for at your previous position

Sometimes you want to prove to your interviewer that you are well-rounded and have been responsible for tasks beyond your pay grade. The good news is that you can do that.

The simplest way is for you to maintain a list of all the important duties you were responsible for at previous jobs. While you can do a general copy and paste of your job description, an actual list of the tasks you completed––which aren’t in the job description, will give your interviewers a better understanding of how your skills can be utilized.

2 Update your knowledge of the company’s history and background

The easiest way to look silly before an interviewer is to lack an understanding of what the company does and its current challenges.

For example, while a company might advertise itself as a food processing plant, it is a better idea to know exactly what types of foods are being processed and if you can stand being in such an environment.

3. Know industry-specific questions

It’s not enough to be competent at answering common interview questions. Depending on your role and position, you may be required to display more technical or analytical skills than design skills.

The offer may depend on strong writing and communication skills than public speaking skills. It is your responsibilities to know what questions to expect and prepare adequately for them.

4. Remember who you worked for and when

It’s common for interviewers to reference a previous position on your resume. What you don’t want to do is appear ignorant because you do not remember working for your previous employer.

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If you have worked in multiple positions, be aware of where you held these positions and what your responsibilities were.

5. Do not rehash your resume

While it’s important to know your resume inside out, you do not have to memorize your resume from bullet point to bullet point. It’s sloppy work and makes you seem lazy and unprepared.

6 Pay attention to your digital footprint

Although you have nabbed an interview with your desired organization, it’s not over yet. Depending on the structure and sensitivity of the position you’re interviewing for, some companies will take to the internet to get more knowledge of your social activities online.

While this isn’t a call to change your life, it helps to be mindful of how your converse online and scrub questionable material that might make getting a job very challenging.

7. Research the address of the interview location

Arriving late to your interview location because you got lost or are stuck in traffic is hardly a valid excuse. It is your responsibility to plan your route prior to the day of the interview and add in time buffers in case of emergencies.

An extra 45-60 minute buffer can mitigate unforeseen events like traffic accidents, weather conditions, and other things that might derail your plans for showing up early.

8. If it’s virtual, make sure you have the necessary software

Interviews have gone virtual these days and that’s great. What’s not great is discovering that your computer doesn’t have the necessary tools needed for the interview to run smoothly.

Examples of things you need to inspect include your microphone and pending software updates. It is not a good surprise to have your computer shut down on you to install software updates while you’re in the middle of a conversation.

Other things you want to be aware of is the need for a quieter space, better lighting, or the need to purchase additional equipment to make your interview stand out.

9. Research the position you are interviewing for

It’s not enough to want to accept an offer. You have to know what will be required of you in your new role.

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Some questions you need to answer for yourself before the interview include:

  • Will I be performing the same duties I performed at my old role?
  • Is the job title a true reflection of the responsibilities I’ll hold?
  • Will this role require some investment in personal development?
  • What is the career path for someone in this role?

10. Prepare to ask your interviewer pertinent questions

You have come a long way already. But to make sure you’re prepared to immerse yourself into this role should you receive an offer, be prepared to ask questions related to the role, the company culture, or expectations from an ideal candidate.

Questions give you tremendous insight into what the company expects from you. With the answers, you have the choice to either move forward with your application or decline an offer should you be presented with one.

Other questions to ask include why the role is unfilled, the typical progression or career path of someone in that role, and what support the company provides employees to make sure they remain a great asset.

11. Prepare the appropriate outfit

While you’re getting ready to ace your interview questions, be mindful about the company’s dress code.

Yes, you will be judged based on your appearance, and because first impressions do matter, it is essential to figure this out way before the night of your interview.

Other helpful things to note include personal grooming, minimizing perfume, and policies on body jewelry.

12. Practice answering interview questions with someone else

Do practice answering your interview questions with someone else. You can never have too much practice. It’s not a matter of personality types; organizations need to know that you can articulately communicate your ideas on the spot.

Practicing with someone else can also reveal some nervous tics that you’re not aware of like speaking too fast, using filler words, or rubbing or hands together. Not only is it embarrassing to ramble your way through question, lack of preparation can create a false impression of how skilled you truly are.

13. Have a few anecdotes ready behavioral questions like “tell me about a time when…”

Anticipating behavioral questions isn’t enough. You need to have anecdotes ready to share when you’re faced with questions of this nature. A helpful technique is the STAR method:

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  • S stands for situation. What is the background or nature of the problem you encountered?
  • T stands for task. What was required of you to mitigate the problem?
  • A stands for action. What did you do in that situation?
  • R stands for result. What was the outcome of your action?

With this technique, instead of mentioning how adaptable you are in various situations, you’re providing more depth with your answers with some factual experience.

14. Check in with your references

You may or may not have been asked to provide a list of references prior to your interview. However, it pays to notify your references that you have been selected to move forward in your hiring process.

This prompts your references to complete any forms sitting idly in their email inbox or alerts them to look forward to receiving an email from the company soon.

15. Print more copies of your resume

Ever been to an interview only to discover you had to meet several other hiring managers who have zero copies of your resume? This is your chance to prepare for uncertainties.

You might find yourself in company of other decision makers and there’s no better way to communicate your readiness than you give them a document to start their assessment with.

16. Prepare a portfolio of your past projects

It is perfectly okay to bring folders of your previous projects to the interview as long as they help your cause.

Examples of things you can bring to your interview include art designs, content samples, photography pieces, and other samples you can reasonably fit into a portable folder.

17. Hire a career coach

It’s okay to say you can’t do this by yourself. It doesn’t make you look weak. Rather, it takes a great deal of self-awareness to identify your weaknesses so that you can improve your interview performance.

18. Make a list of accomplishments you’re proud of

It helps to be able to talk about your proudest moments, but sometimes we falter when we’re asked. Maybe it’s because we’re trying to seem modest, but this comes across as lack of preparation.

With a handy list of your accomplishments, you sound confident which creates better impression of what you’re capable of to your interviewers.

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19. Identify weaknesses in your job history and prepare to address them

Maybe you’ve had a job gap that sticks out in your resume. You are probably going to be asked why, and although you need to be honest, you also need to know how to phrase your response so you’re seen as a responsible applicant.

20. The marketplace is solution-driven

It doesn’t matter how many degrees you have or are currently working on. What matters is how you fit in with the organization’s goal and desires.

Make a list of how your skills can directly affect the results or improve working processes.

21. The length of the interview

Some interviews can take anywhere from forty-five minutes to six hours. If your interview will last more than two hours, it is your job to make sure you’re adequately prepared to survive the day.

Make preparations for a lunch break if the company isn’t providing one. Bring your medication with you if you have any chronic condition that could flare up if neglected.

22. Print a checklist of all these reminders

Bringing back the old-fashioned checklist is a creative way to improve your memory. Sometimes, it is better to have a physical list of reminders so that you know exactly tasks to complete, when, and how much time you need to spend doing them.

23. Indulge in self care

There’s no point in getting all these done only to mess up because you’re anxious or not well-rested.

Preparing for interviews can be very exhausting, physically and mentally. Get your hair done. Invest in a body massage. Watch movies and relax with your friends or family members. Meditate or complete some journaling exercises.

The Bottom Line

It is normal to feel nervous before a big interview. What matters more is acknowledging how you feel, preparing yourself for success, and putting your best foot forward so that you are seen as an ideal candidate.

More Resources to Get Prepared for an Interview

Featured photo credit: Nik MacMillan via unsplash.com

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Margaret Olatunbosun

Creative coach who teaches high-achievers how to thrive at the intersection of creativity, passion, and profit.

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Last Updated on January 14, 2019

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

Regardless of whether you hold an entry-level administration role or regularly travel to the ends of the Earth as a hot-shot senior executive, you can still find yourself harboring an emptiness… a feeling that something is missing. A popular assumption that experiencing job satisfaction and a successful career should be underpinned by a well-rounded suite of tangible benefits, no longer holds true for many of us.

We’d never deny health care benefits, appropriate and fair remuneration, bonuses and travel perks in a job package. However, even if served to us on a silver platter, those features can only satiate us to a certain point.

You might wonder what governs entrepreneurs and start-up business owners to quit their lucrative jobs, essentially look the gift horse in the mouth and kiss such benefits goodbye! There can be an irresistible pull to mastermind a business with products and/or services that serve the greater good of community wider than that constituting their daily existence.

Even with research showing entrepreneurship to pose greater threats to their mental and physical health, this unique breed of individuals choose to go against the grain in chasing their dreams of being their own boss. Why? Why would anyone risk this type of career suicide?

Whether you’re an employee, have recently taken the leap to being a business owner or been in business for a while, the commonality is a congenital condition we all share as human beings; to feel a sense of purpose, value and contribution to our community. Despite it being harder to find this for ourselves in today’s world, these approaches will help you achieve ultimate satisfaction through the twists, turns and joyrides that are essential features of shaping a successful career.

1. Search for Opportunities That Feed Your Passion, Not Temporary Excitement

Even though well-intended, the ‘feel good now’ compass that career coaches and consultants often recommend you use to create career satisfaction can actually do you more harm than good. Excitement is transient. It doesn’t last. Passion is the compass you need.

Passion and excitement are two different things. The resounding career legacy that still draws you to turn up on the job regardless of the sunshine or storm that awaits you…that’s passion. It’s like a mental and/or emotional itch you can’t shrug off. Staying attuned to that calling will breed success for you sooner or later. Patience is key.

You’re also likely to have more than one key passion. Beware of getting caught in the notion you have to find your one true purpose. In fact, run immediately from any coach who tells you there is only one. There isn’t.

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Your passion is a journey that can take multiple forms so forget thinking there is the single dream job out there that will give you satisfaction in every way you can imagine. It simply doesn’t exist.

Consider embracing different roles and projects to help you fuel your passion or fuel your pursuits in finding it. Job satisfaction and your career success will be all the more sweeter from a wider range of enriching experiences.

2. Don’t Position Job and Career Satisfaction Assessments as Pivotal Guides to Your Success

Despite their popular use for vocational guidance, assessment tools such as Gallup’s Clifton Strengths and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator have come under fire[1] as being limited to the amount of true value and direction they can offer partakers.[2] These and many other guidance assessment tools (e.g. VIA Character Strengths , DISC ) are self-report questionnaires that don’t have normative population data against which to compare your results.

Simply remember these tools help you develop a stronger sense of what you identify as strengths and weaknesses within yourself, not in comparison with other people. They will still add insight around what sorts of career opportunities, tasks and projects are going to light your fire, what ones are going to extinguish it and what will prod and keep the coals steadily smoldering.

3. Be Clear on Your Personal Values, Ethics and Principles and Choose Relationships That Support You Honoring Them

Teamwork, collaboration, open communication and trust are commonplace for any flourishing work environment. However, whether or not your personal values can be honored in your work can make or break your job satisfaction.

How committed do you want to be to an organization that expects an average of 10 unpaid overtime hours every week under the guise of ‘reasonable overtime’? Are you willing to accept their construing this expectation as ‘strong commitment’ at the expense of your partner and children waiting at home for you? What are your boundaries concerning when you clock on to their time and when you clock off to yours?

Being very in tune with what your personal values, principles and ethics are will bid you well in the job satisfaction stakes. Spending time to reflect on experiences and working relationships you’ve had – the good, the bad and the ugly – will help you make well-informed searches and grounded decisions that will propel your career success.

Finding and nurturing relationships with associates and colleagues who share similar values doesn’t just make your day-to-day pursuits more enjoyable. You become fortunate to work with like-minded people who will support, understand and appreciate you like a second family.

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Being able to honor your personal values in your work means you will still be able to sleep at night when you have to tread where others fear to, and make extremely difficult decisions others would never ever dream of having to make as you forge success in your career.

4. Be Clear on Your Own Definition of What Having a Successful Career Means for You

It’s tempting to get caught up in the ideals and projections of success expressed by those we love, admire and respect. Underneath, we all want on some level to belong to a successful club of some sort.

With research reporting how much money we feel we need to be truly happy,[3] many of us try to subscribe to the notion that having the car of our dreams or taking a European holiday annually will not bring us happiness. The truth, however, for many of us is these tangible rewards are congratulatory reminders of our persistent efforts to chase our career pursuits.

If those are things you aspire to, don’t let anyone steal your desire and want to feel deserving of these things, that those are some parameters by which you define your career success.

Despite consistently being the top revenue earner for two years running, you may not wish to become the sales manager. You may not wish to step out into running your own business even though you consistently excel as an employee, delighting clients and repeatedly receiving glowing testimonials.

Your definition of career success might be enjoying the predictability of a regular workplace routine. You get to leave – without feeling guilty – at the same time each day, love the people you work with and get to spend a good, uninterrupted amount of work-stress free quality time with your family. That picture is also blissful job satisfaction and complete career success.

5. Identify the Sorts of Challenges and Problems You Want to Learn to Overcome

Standard advice you might receive from a career coach might be to look for opportunities where you get to capitalize on exercising your strengths and career-related activities you enjoy.

However, to become a success at anything involves improvement. To excel at anything often involves stepping outside boundaries and comfort zones where others wouldn’t. This means dedicating focus and attention to things you’re not so good at and things you don’t like.

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Here’s where working with a coach can be particularly helpful. Map out the experiences that were unsavory in your working history. Were there challenges you opted out of, projects you failed at or toxic relationships that blasted your sense of purpose and self-worth into oblivion? It’s within these experiences that you might just find the most valuable lessons and guiding lights for your trajectory to achieve greater job satisfaction.

If your natural leadership style is to be a collaborator, finding opportunities that require you to apply a more dictatorial style might be needed. Discussing a secondment or short-term project where you get to develop and test your skills can be a step further in earning contention to lead a larger project down the track.

With several of the company’s boldest personality types penciled to roll out the operation, you’ll not only develop skills that earn your right to throw your hat in the ring; those key players have an opportunity to see your competence. You can then work on building relationships with those stakeholders before you need to hit the ground running should you win the lead.

Greater job satisfaction comes with planning and choosing the lessons and opportunities you want to learn, not desperately flailing, floundering and hoping for the best.

6. Keep Reviewing Your Goal Posts and Be Amenable to Change

The word ‘career’ is indicative of a longer-term pathway of change, growth and development. The journey is dynamic.

You will accumulate new skills and let those you no longer need, become rusty. Your intrigue will be stimulated by new experiences, knowledge and people you meet. Your thinking will continue to expand, not shrink. As a result, your goalposts are likely to change.

A major part of enjoying a successful career is not just setting goals effectively, but regularly reviewing and readjusting them where necessary. However, moving the posts or the target still needs to take place by applying the same processes by which you originally created them. The strength of your emotional connection to those revised goals needs to be the same, if not stronger.

By asking yourself the following questions, you can assure your developmental and growth trajectory is still on course:

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  • Would working toward these goals still allow me to honor my personal values, principles and ethics at the same capacity if not greater?
  • Do the activities I need to undertake to meet these goals honor my highest priorities?
  • Does this feel right for me and those who are nearest and dearest to me?
  • Is this aligned with my passion?
  • Is chasing this goal a right step for me to take now or is this a detour or distraction which could delay my greater plan?

Each of your career goals should have different review periods. Whatever you do, stick to the review schedule you set. It will not only keep you focused but help you see your progress (or lack thereof) and allow you to timely re-chart your course before you get too far down the track. You don’t want to waste time haphazardly heading in the wrong direction.

7. Be Prepared to Let Go

It can be unfathomable to us as to why others risk leaping into the unknown when everything truly appears fine and dandy in the career realm. The company provided stability, recognition, financial success, interesting projects and the promise of a promotion…what was wrong? Why now jump sideways to run a café or train in another field altogether?

Nothing may have been wrong at all. It was all going right. It was just the end of a chapter. Perhaps the yearning for the next step is actually taking a different trajectory entirely. You may want to simply experience a different rhythm. Perhaps it’s time to pursue a different passion.

If you have leaped from employee-land to freelancing or have made the reverse-jump (or you know someone who has), you will have quickly grown a different appreciation for pros and cons each work lifestyle brings. Working for yourself can bring the greater realization of your creativity, whether or not it can be monetized to earn you a living.

When your customers are buying you or a product you designed and fashioned, there is a direct level of appreciation and gratitude that can elevate your confidence in the way you have never experienced as an employee, regardless of your rank.

Similarly, there are times where we need to recognize our business ventures were adventures, not long-term life-changing empires. There are times we need to recognize that time is what provides the clearest limitation of how long we persist for in such pursuits.

We have to recognize the absence of enough financial, mental, emotional and physical breadcrumbs that tells us we’re no longer meant to push in that direction. At least, not for the present time.

The Bottom Line

Above all, keep the momentum. As long as you remain committed to pursuing work opportunities that allow you to honor your highest priorities, the truth of who you are and what you stand for, achieving ultimate job satisfaction and a successful career will never be too far away.

More Resources to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Csaba Balazs via unsplash.com

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