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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 September 18, 2019

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

Are you looking to move up the career ladder? Or maybe you’re tired of having a “job” and want to start looking for a more permanent career?

Whatever your motivation, you are going to have to learn some new and different hard skills to broaden your opportunities. After all, there’s a very famous quote that says:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

While the insanity part doesn’t really fit here, the overall message is a good one. If you are looking for a different result (career advancement, more money or even a career instead of a job), it’s up to you to make it happen. This is both the good news and bad news!

The good news is that because it’s up to you, you have complete control over it happening. The bad news is that change is hard. Humans are creatures of habit, that’s why we develop routines, and anything that disrupts that routine causes us anxiety. And we will do almost anything to get rid of that anxiety. The overweight person will calm their anxiety by eating that doughnut, the smoker will light up a cigarette to avoid anxiety.

What we want to do with this article is to give you the hard skills you’ll need to reduce that anxiety so you can move up that corporate ladder, make more money or have career instead of just a “job.”

The following hard skills are essential to learn if you want to advance your career. They may not be easy to take up, but definitely worth your effort of learning:

1. Cloud Computing

“Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, intelligence and more—over the Internet “the cloud” to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change.” Microsoft[1]

There are many different jobs available in the cloud computing world today. They range from architects and developers to data scientists, security pros. Each job is its own specialty and requires a high level of specification for advancement.

This is definitely a hard skill that requires education. But if the tech world and computers are your thing you can make cloud computing a lucrative career.

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2. Data Mining and Statistical Analysis

Again, these are highly specialized fields. Data mining is defined as using large sets of data to look for anomalies and other patterns that can be used to predict future behavior.

Amazon is probably the best known company to use data mining. Have you ever noticed that when you buy something at Amazon, you’ll see a little ad at the bottom that says “customers who bought this also bought…”and it lists 2-3 other items? All of that information comes from data mining, by examining the millions of sales amazon makes they can predict that if you buy item #1 there is a high likelihood that you will buy one of the other items too. T

his not only increases sales for Amazon, but it also serves as a reminder for you that you may need these additional items for your project. This is very valuable information and has a wide range of uses. Although it has a bad reputation and evil sounding name, it is a very useful tool for maximizing productivity and sales.

3. Data Management

All companies today deal with a ton of data! Being able to manage that data in an efficient manor is not only highly prized, but a necessity.

We all have these things on our desks called computers. Unless there is a need for a paper copy, almost all of our data is computerized. Meaning that, in theory it is all at our fingertips. Being able to organize that data so that it’s easily and quickly retrievable is why computers are replacing filing cabinets!

However, just like the old fashion filing cabinet, data management on a computer is only good if it’s well organized. You want to make sure that you are keeping your data well organized so that it’s easy to find when needed. This is a skill that comes easily to some people (are you a person that makes lists? Good!) but with others it will be a skill that needs to be practices. Make sure that this is a discipline you master.

4. Scheduling

Being able to make and keep to a schedule is a very useful tool in both business and life. Effective scheduling means that you can prioritize projects, understand the tools needed to get the job done on time and that you are organized enough to lead people.

An important point here is to write things down! Whether it’s in an old fashion daily or weekly organizer or in a PDA. Have a copy of your schedule available at your fingertips at all times.

5. Financial Skills

These are especially important when looking for that promotion. The higher up the ladder you go, the more you’ll have to deal with things like accounting, budgeting, financial planning and cash flow management.

While you may not need to be an expert at all of these, you should have a good grasp of all of them. This is where taking a few night classes at your local community college is a good idea. You don’t need to become an expert, but brushing up on these skills will help you tremendously.

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6. Research Skills

These are important in all aspects of life, but especially in your work-life.

Are you looking for that first job out of school? Nothing impresses a boss or hiring manager more than someone who has researched the company. Trust me, they deal with people walking in off the street everyday looking for a job, but managers and owners need to see the value in hiring (or promoting) you.

So do your research and have some company specific questions ready to ask. Show that you are interested in working for that company or that position and not just “a” job or the “promotion” because you have seniority or need the money.

If it’s a promotion that you are after, never bad mouth the previous occupant. Instead pick out an example that he/she was good at and explain how you would like to use or expand that policy and how it would enhance the policy changes you’d like to make.

If it’s a new job you’re going for, then make sure to have some company specific questions ready to show that you have done your homework for the new position.

7. Marketing Skills

While marketing a companies products or services has always been a highly sought after skill. In today’s world, it can take on several different forms.

Some of the marketing skills that are highly sought after today include, SEO, Search Engine Optimization, SEM, Search Engine Marketing and marketing campaign management. Familiarity with Google Analytics as well as Word Press are also valuable.

While traditional marketing and branding were focused on advertising and selling. Almost all marketing efforts now a days are focused on the internet.

8. Network Security Specialist

Again, this is a highly skilled position that requires specialized training. But the amount of data that all companies store is significant, and if that data is leaked or stolen, it can costs them millions of dollars in both lost revenue and lawsuits.

So, if you have an interest in network security you will find the field both lucrative and stable.

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9. Communication Skills

At first glance, communication skills may not look like it fits into the category of “Hard Skills” that can help you succeed. But in this ever shrinking world where companies can do business from almost anywhere, communication is more and more important.

Are you bilingual? It really doesn’t matter what language you speak, there’s a company out there looking for someone who speaks that language.

10. Computer Programming

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that computers are going to be around for a while! As both the hardware and software get more advanced, the need for computer programming is only going to increase.

11. Graphic Design

As of 2018, there were 4.37 million new websites launched.[2] A good number of them will fail because they just aren’t interesting enough visually. The use of templates and replicated websites is only making the problem worse.

Part of the way Google ranks sites is through originality, this almost ensures that replicated sites will never get ranked through Google. So the more original your site is, the more likely people will visit and actually spend time there.

That is what a good graphic designer does. Takes your basic idea and turns it into a website that people actually want to visit.

Embrace the Anxiety That Comes with Change

You know it’s going to be there, you know that you’ll want to give up as you’re learning these new skills but, you’ll also know that the end result is worth the journey.

Here’s a little trick when you’re feeling overwhelmed:

Have you ever met an ex-smoker who was sorry they quit? An ex-drinker or drug user that said life was much better before they quit? These people have gone through some of the most difficult challenges humans can go through including weeks, if not, months of intense physical withdrawal symptoms. They did it because they knew that the pain and anxiety they would experience would ultimately get them to a much better life.

Now what was that complaint you had about attending night-school?

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This is the part everyone hates, everyone thinks night-school, adult education and just generally giving up family and/or spare time. While those are certainly possible ways to develop the necessary skills, they aren’t the only way.

You’ll want to check with your human resources department because depending on the company, a certain degree maybe required in order to even be considered for a position. In those cases, night-school, on-line or some other form of adult education maybe your best route.

But as long as a degree isn’t required, then your options are wide open.

Let’s just say that you’re a sales person interested in becoming the sales manager but, the territory you’ve been given will never produce the sales figures that would make you stand out as a good candidate for sales manager. So how about you start your own side business (don’t compete with your company), but let’s say you enjoy golf.

In this day and age, there are plenty of places that will teach you how to sell products on-line and even set you up with your own website. So you start a site selling golf equipment and accessories (don’t worry, you won’t even have to carry inventory or worry about shipping).

Now, when that sales manager spot opens up, you can explain that even though other salespeople had better numbers than you, it had nothing to do with your sales ability, it was more of a consequence of the territory your were given.

And to prove it, you brought in some information about a side business, you started showing that you’re on target for a sales growth rate of 30% this year. And because you had to do all of the marketing for the business, you came up with some marketing strategies that you can bring to the new job (built-in experience).

The Bottom Line

We’ve put together these 11 hard skills as a way to give yourself a “leg up” on the competition. We’ve tried to make this a mixture of both skills that require a great deal of training, and also ones that you can work on and develop by yourself.

We know that not everyone is cut out to be a cloud computing expert, but we also know that working on and having good scheduling skills will make you a much more desirable candidate for the position!

We also don’t want you to discount the idea of a “side hustle“. Especially for people new to the workforce, having a business that you have started and run successfully shows potential employers that you have initiative, scheduling skills and ambition which can put you well ahead of your competition!

As usual, we hope you found this article both enjoyable and informative. If you did, may we ask that you share it with your family and friends through social media. It really does help us and is greatly appreciated!

More Skill to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Kyle Sterk via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Microsoft Azure: Cloud Computing
[2] Netcraft: December 2018 Web Server Survey

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