To win the job, you will need to demonstrate to the interviewer a combination of skills, experience, and personal attributes that set you apart from other applicants. Think about how to summarize your resume quickly and in a way that will emphasize what is most relevant to this job opportunity. Also consider what you learned from each of the previous experiences you listed on the resume and how these experiences will benefit your potential new employer. Prepare a list of “personal themes” that you want to highlight during the interview, especially your professional goals, skills, and accomplishments. Think of examples from your past that demonstrate each of your skills and successes. Think, on the one hand, about what makes you excited about this opportunity and what you would like to gain from it (aside from the paycheck) and, on the other hand, what you will bring to the table for your new job.
During the interview, you will want to emphasize your strengths and the positive aspects of yourself. However, the interviewer may ask to discuss your weaknesses, how you handle conflict or stress, gaps in your employment history, reasons for leaving previous jobs, or other negative experiences. You need to think about and rehearse your answers to such questions beforehand so that you are fully prepared with appropriate answers. It will be important to answer honestly, but in a way that highlights what you have learned and how you have grown from previous experiences. For example, an interviewer may ask, “What techniques do you use to manage your time?” Even if time management is a problem for you, answering “I have real difficulty managing my time” will not help you win the job. Rather, knowing that this a weakness, plan ahead to answer along the lines of “I’ve learned to make a real effort to keep a to-do list with deadlines to keep myself on task.”
Finally, plan ahead for several questions that you want to ask the interviewer. Asking thoughtful questions provides you with additional information about the job, demonstrates that you are actively thinking about how you will be a successful employee, and initiates a conversation that builds rapport with your potential future supervisor and enables him or her to envision you doing the job. Above all, you do not want to freeze up during the interview, unable to think of or articulate a good question to ask.
As with your research of the company, write down all of the key points and questions that you want to remember so that you can review them quickly on the day of the interview. Referring to your notes during the interview is acceptable and will demonstrate your diligence and preparation. Seeing all of your research and preparation on paper will give you a great feeling of confidence just when you need it.
Another technique to help you prepare is to conduct a mock interview. Consider recruiting family or friends to ask interview questions and provide feedback on your answers. Mock interview sessions may also be available in your local American Job Center, in employment and staffing services, educational career centers, and other job placement organizations as part of their professional services.