Interview Preparation

Interview is an opportunity for both the employer and the applicant to gather information. The employer wants to know if you, the applicant, have the skills, knowledge, self-confidence, and motivation necessary for the job. At this point you can be confident that the employer saw something of interest in your resume. He or she also wants to determine whether or not you will fit in with the organization's current employees and philosophy. Similarly, you will want to evaluate the position and the organization, and determine if they will fit into your career plans. The interview is a two-way exchange of information. It is an opportunity for both parties to market themselves. The employer is selling the organization to you, and you are marketing your skills knowledge, and personality to the employer.

Research is a critical part of preparing for an interview. If you haven't done your homework, it is going to be obvious. Spend time researching and thinking about yourself, the occupation, the organization, and questions you might ask at the end of the interview.

Know Yourself

The first step in preparing for an interview is to do a thorough self-assessment so that you will know what you have to offer an employer. It is very important to develop a complete inventory of skills, experience, and personal attributes that you can use to market yourself to employers at any time during the interview process. In developing this inventory, it is easiest to start with experience. Once you have a detailed list of activities that you have done (past jobs, extra-curricular involvements, volunteer work, school projects, etc.), it is fairly easy to identify your skills.
Simply go through the list, and for each item ask yourself "What could I have learned by doing this?" "What skills did I develop?" "What issues/circumstances have I learned to deal with?" Keep in mind that skills fall into two categories - technical and generic. Technical skills are the skills required to do a specific job. For a laboratory assistant, technical skills might include knowledge of sterilization procedures, slide preparation, and scientific report writing. For an outreach worker, technical skills might include counseling skills, case management skills, or program design and evaluation skills. Generic skills are those which are transferable to many work settings. Following is a list of the ten most marketable skills. You will notice that they are all generic.

  • Analytical/Problem Solving
  • Flexibility/Versatility
  • Oral/Written Communication
  • Organization/Planning
  • Time Management
  • Motivation
  • Leadership
  • Self-Starter/Initiative
  • Team Player

Often when people think of skills, they tend to think of those they have developed in the workplace. However, skills are developed in a variety of settings. If you have ever researched and written a paper for a course, you probably have written communication skills. Team sports or group projects are a good way to develop the skills required of a team player and leader. Don't overlook any abilities you may have When doing the research on yourself, identifying your experience and skills is important, but it is not all that you need to know. Consider the answers to other questions such as:

  • How have I demonstrated the skills required in this position?
  • What are my strong points and weak points?
  • What are my short term and long term goals?
  • What can I offer this particular employer?
  • What kind of environment do I like? (i.e. How do I like to be supervised? Do I like a fast pace?)
  • What do I like doing?
  • Apart from my skills and experience, what can I bring to this job?

Know the Occupation

The second step in preparing for an interview is to research the occupation. This is necessary because in order to present a convincing argument that you have the experience and skills required for that occupation, you must first know what those requirements and duties are. With this information uncovered, you can then match the skills you have (using the complete skills/experience inventory you have just prepared) with the skills you know people in that occupational field need. The resulting "shortlist" will be the one that you need to emphasize during the interview.
It is also in your best interest to identify the approximate starting salary for that position, or those similar. There are several ways to find out about an occupation:

  • Acquire a copy of the job description from the employer
  • Look in your friend circle if anybody already works in the same company. Please Refer LinkedIn to find out!

The Career Resource Centre has general information files on a variety of occupations. Make sure you have read through the appropriate file and are updated on the occupation. If you belong to a professional association related to the occupation, use its resources. These associations often publish informative newsletters and sponsor seminars. It is also a good way to meet people working in the field. Conduct information interviews with people working in the field. Read articles about people in the occupation, and articles written by people in the occupation. Sources include newspapers, magazines and the internet. Find out what the future trends are in the area. Is technology changing the job?

Know the Organization

The more you know about an organization, the better prepared you will be to discuss how you can meet its needs. Some of the characteristics that you should know about an organization are:

  • Where is it located?
  • How big is it?
  • What are its products and who does it serve?
  • How is the organization structured?
  • What is its history?
  • Have there been any recent changes, new developments?

You can find about the company through a lot of resources:

  • Ask your friends if they know someone who works in that company
  • Search on Google about the company.
  • Go through the company's official website. For Exaple if you want to know about McAfee, Go to McAfee Homepage India
  • Consult Wikepedia: McAfee Wikipedia Page
  • Finally, you can visit the office premises and ask the employees about the work culture and other informations, This would help you if the company is relatively small or is a startup.

If the company is relatively small or is a startup there is a very less chance that the above methods would help you know the company.

Prepare Questions

After you have gathered information about the company, use these informations to form intelligent questions about the company. Ask quetions based on a new strategy that the company has implemented recently or any new acquisition that the company did. But be careful, Do not ask too many questions as this can create a negative impression on the interviewer.
Avoid critical questions which proves that the company's decision is worng as this would mean that you do not respect the Board of the company. Ask questions that are important to you. Some sample Questions are:

  • What are the work timings?
  • What are the shifts that the company operated in?
  • Do you have night shifts?
  • What is expected from a new hire?
  • At what time of the year are the products generally released?
  • If the company acquired a company recently, what was the motive and ehat are the plans ahead.
  • Are travel arrangements available for employees?
  • How is the food in the cafeteria?

It is also very important to ask one last question about the company which can show that you are interested in the position. Ask information about the role you are getting hired for, and what is expected from you, you can also ask about the perforamnce of the Business Unit that you are going to join or just ask the details of the product.
If the company is a renowned one avoid simple and general questions like "What is the history of the company, or what are the products that the company has?" , You can find the answers easily on internet. Do not ask silly questions just because you have to ask a question, your questions should reflect your intelligence and the research done on hte company.

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