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Perfecting the Interview You Weren't Prepared For

Selena Dehne -- Whether you're preparing early for an interview (as you should!), or scrambling at the last minute to research the employer and rehearse responses, keep these critical pointers in mind.

You've known all week a job interview was approaching. Everyday you promised yourself you'd research the employer and rehearse answers to interview questions. Yet, it's the night before your interview and you haven't done a single thing to prepare for it!

Sound familiar? If so, you're not the only job seeker who has left interview preparation to the last minute. According to a survey of job recruiters conducted by Korn/Ferry International, 22 percent of job seekers come to interviews without knowing enough about the company.

Michael Farr, author of Next Day Job Interview, believes this is one of the worst mistakes a job seeker can make when trying to land a job.

"The interview is the most important 60 minutes in the job search. A great deal is at stake, yet the research indicates that most people are not well-prepared for the interview process," says Farr.

"Ideally, the best way to prepare for an interview is to research the organization and the job for a week or two, get a good handle on your qualifications and experience, and carefully consider your responses to the tough questions that might come up."

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, short notice, or just plain laziness, many job seekers fail to ready themselves for the last obstacle standing between them and a job. Farr offers unprepared interviewees three steps that will help them answer the majority of questions they will likely be asked during their interview.

"There are thousands of questions that you could be asked in an interview, and there is no way you can memorize a 'correct' response for each one -- especially not the night before the interview," says Farr.

Instead he recommends job seekers consider his "Three Step Process" when answering questions during an interview:

1. Understand what is really being asked.

Most questions relate to your adaptive skills and personality. These questions include "Can we depend on you?"; "Are you easy to get along with?"; and "Are you a good worker?" The question may also relate to whether you have the experience and training to do the job if you are hired.

2. Answer the question briefly in a non-damaging way.

A good response to a question should acknowledge the facts of your situation and present them as an advantage rather than a disadvantage. Don't allow yourself to ramble or speak off topic. According to Korn/Ferry International the number one mistake job seekers make during an interview is talking too much.

3. Answer the real question by presenting your related skills.

An effective response to any interview question should answer the question in a direct way that also presents your ability to do the job well.

According to Farr, it is important to understand that the interview question being asked is often an attempt to discover underlying information, and he encourages job seekers to use his "Prove-It Technique" to make their responses more effective. Job seekers should remember to:

1. Present a concrete example. People relate to and remember stories. Saying you have a skill is not nearly as powerful as describing a situation where you used that skill. The example should include enough details to make sense of the who, what, when, where and why.

2. Quantify. Whenever possible, use numbers to provide a basis for what you did. For example, give the number of customers served, the percent you exceeded quotas, dollar amounts you were responsible for, or the number of new accounts you generated.

3. Emphasize results. Providing data regarding the positive results you obtained is important. For example, you could state that sales increased by 3 percent over the previous year or profits went up 50 percent. Use numbers to quantify results.

4. Link it up. Although the connection between your example and doing the job well may seem obvious to you, make sure it is clear to the employer. A simple statement is often enough to accomplish this.

Whether you're preparing early for an interview (as you should!) or scrambling at the last minute to research the employer and rehearse responses, Farr believes these techniques will allow you to effectively provide recruiters with examples of why you're the best candidate for the job.

© 2007 Selena Dehne

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