Career Matters

By Lily Whiteman

How to make the most out of your interview

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So you landed a job interview. Congratulations! You probably beat out dozens, or hundreds, of competitors to rank among the best and the brightest. So go ahead and savor your victory, crank up the soundtrack to “Chariots of Fire” and run some victory laps around your cube.

Then, start preparing for your interview. The paradox of practice: The more you prepare and practice for job interviews, the more spontaneous and intelligent you will probably sound.

To prepare:

Anticipate likely questions. Ask trusted advisers to help you do so, and Google “common interview questions.” Also, consider what the likely challenges of the job are, and be prepared to explain why you would be prepared to conquer them.

Craft employer-centric answers to anticipated questions. Your answers should explain what you offer your target employer — not what you want from your target job.

Role-play your interview with as many of your trusted advisers as possible. Each of them will probably give you helpful feedback.

No matter how senior your current position, your list of likely questions should include the common “tell me about yourself” open-ender.

Some tips on acing it:

Don’t waste time on irrelevant aspects of your background, such as where you were born or what your hobbies are. Instead, devote the time to proving that you are qualified for the job and would fit in at your target office. Job interviews are short, so you must milk every minute.

Be concise. Summarize in two minutes or less your most relevant academic and professional credentials.

And remember: Your interviewer might not have read your résumé, and even if he did, he probably will have forgotten it by the time he interviews you. So don’t exclude relevant credentials from your summary merely because they are covered on your résumé.

Start your answer with an attention-grabbing statement. Use one that summarizes who you are and what you offer.

Convey your credentials in reverse chronological order. Your interviewer is probably most interested in your recent achievements. What’s more, your interviewer may interrupt you before you finish your answer, so the sooner you review your most recent credentials, the better.

Convey zest. Mention why the job would be important to you.

End interviews with a parting salvo. State what you have learned about the organization, affirming your enthusiasm and stating that you would accept the job if it is offered. Many hiring managers say that they won’t hire an applicant unless he specifically affirms his interest in the opening.

At the end of the interview, ask your interviewer when he expects to make a decision on the opening. If he doesn’t follow up accordingly, call back about a week after his anticipated deadline and reaffirm your interest in the job. If your interviewer doesn’t answer your call, don’t leave a message — because if you do, you will only continue twisting in the wind, waiting for his return call. Alternatively, just keep calling your interviewer until you reach him.

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