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How to Feel Prepared for an Interview

By Carol Henger

There are many ways to prepare for interviews, from researching a company’s website, to practicing interview questions with friends and colleagues, to gathering your accomplishments. But let’s face it, despite this preparation everyone feels nervous before an interview, even if you are a “perfect fit.”

Years ago, I was recruited for an HR Director position at a start-up and really wanted the chance to build the HR infrastructure from the company’s inception. This was the greatest opportunity of my career and I prepared extensively. I created a methodology to quickly demonstrate how I qualified for each and every requirement listed in the job description, and in so doing, managed to decrease my anxiety. This simple approach anticipates the questions most likely to be asked and includes the corresponding answer. The “thinking” part of the interview is done before the interview even begins.

As a career coach, I have shared this method with many clients over the years, who say they felt calmer about meeting with recruiters after using it themselves.

Here is how it works:

  1. Find the job posting and copy and paste it from the Internet, or email, into a Microsoft Word document (Excel also works, but I prefer the text editor in Word).
  2. Create a Microsoft Word Table with two columns and many rows. (You can do this by selecting Table from Word’s Insert menu.)
  3. Copy and paste each job duty and qualification from the Word version of the job posting onto separate rows in Column A of your table.
  4. For each item in Column A, write notes, words, or bullets in Column B that illustrate you can do each job requirement and meet each qualification. Even if you do not have the exact experience or skills listed in the job posting, jot down similar experiences that prove you can do what the company is seeking, and add them to Column B. For required qualifications that you don’t have, leave blank for now, but make sure you clearly understand what they are.
  5. Look up any words you don’t understand in the job posting. Write their meaning on your table.
  6. For unfamiliar software and/or business processes, search for short videos on YouTube for an overview. It’s quite possible you may have experience with something similar for the software or process the company wants you to know. Write that similar experience in Column B. This research enables you to confidently say during an interview: “While I don’t have direct experience with XX software, my research shows that it works a lot like YY software and I’m very comfortable with YY and quickly can learn XX.”

Click to see an Example of the Interview Preparation Table.

The reason this methodology works is simple; it removes (hopefully) the dread of not knowing what questions will be asked. Presumably, any potential employer will try to ascertain if a job candidate meets the qualifications listed in the job description. Having jotted notes in advance, you’ll feel more prepared and able to decide when to share the information during the interview and reduce the anxiety of having to wrack your brain during an interview to recall information that may or may not be relevant.

It’s true that this approach is considered 80% preparation and 20% execution, but it’s well worth the time! Unfortunately, it won’t help you prepare for the “off the wall” questions that some companies like to ask, such as: “If you were an animal, what would you be?” or “Why are manhole covers round?” You are on your own with these.

Carol Henger is a Career Coach at the Ignite Career Center of Jewish Community Services.

Whether you are new to the job market or a seasoned professional, the Ignite Career Center, a program of Jewish Community Services, can help you go further and get there faster. Our highly experienced Career Coaches provide individuals of all backgrounds and abilities with the customized services and tools they need to stand out from the competition. To learn more, visit ignitecareercenter.com or call 410-466-9200.

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