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Preparing for an Interview

Preparing for an Interview

Despite the fact that we may attend a considerable number of interviews of all kinds in our life, the experience rarely becomes any easier. Having to impress a stranger enough to hire you on their territory, on their terms, and in a very short amount of time can fill many with fear and trepidation at the sheer thought of it. This can lead to nervousness, stress and sub-optimal performance, which all combine to do little to enhance your chances as being seen as the ‘right person’ for the role for which you are being interviewed.

4 steps for better interview performance

Although your past experience may have ‘dented’ your confidence, your capacity to show or present your true skills and abilities at the interview can nonetheless be made easier and much more consistent. To do this, we do not need to be entirely “pre-programmed” but we do need  to learn and apply four simple steps:

  1. To prepare for the interview through careful research. This step involves gathering as much data as we can on the organization, department, team into which we may be recruited, the nature of the job and even on the person who will conduct the interview.
  2. To organize ourselves for the event and practice. This step involves thinking carefully about which personal aspects or experience/knowledge are likely to be “play well” for this particular job or enterprise and then ensuring that we can find ways to present it fully at the interview.
  3. To act in a clear and open way at the interview. This step involves ensuring that are responses to questions are both full, unequivocal and competent but also entails that we have worked out questions of our own that we may want to ask to get a clear picture of whether or not this is a good fit for us.
  4. To constantly review our performance and look to improve. This step involves being very realistic about the way in which each interview ran, highlighting both the good performance (to be repeated in future interviews) and the poor (to be avoided by engaging in further practice).

To put these 4 steps in even simpler terms, we need to firmly and clearly manage ourselves before, during and after the interview. If we can do this well at every stage, our chances of success will improve dramatically.

The purpose of an interview

Of course, all of this is easy to say but very hard to do. The trouble is simply that we see the dynamics of the interview in such personal and human relationship terms. For example, we may ask ourselves questions such as “will the interviewer like me?” or occasionally “will I like the interviewer?” In most circumstances, our focus needs to be almost entirely the reverse – that is, almost completely impersonal. In other words, if you stop to think about it, an interviewer is basically trying to find the best candidate who has the necessary skills and abilities to perform and not find someone they personally like! Similarly, you do not have to like the interviewer (although empathy is an important factor to establish to some degree). As such, we should view our particular group of skills, experience and attributes as a product for which we are the seller and the interviewer is a potential buyer. In this way, we can start to focus on whether the “product” is appropriate for the job in question and we can also focus on whether the job/role in question is right for our “product”.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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