8 Essentials for Acing Interviews

Job interviews can be scary propositions: there is usually a better job and quality of life at stake, then as if this weren’t enough pressure we shackle ourselves with the fear that failure to land the job is an indictment of our worthiness. Here are eight simple steps you can take to dramatically improve your performance at job interviews.

Take them and your ability to turn interviews into job offers is going to undergo an exciting transformation.


Step #1—Focus on a specific and realistic target job: one in which you can succeed once in the saddle. This “being able to succeed” is an important consideration. Being able to do 70%+ of the job will get you in the running for the interview cycle. Less than this and you may need to re-evaluate your target job title; most people don’t get promotions to the next step up the professional ladder when they change jobs, because that would mean coming onboard as an unknown quantity in a job they had never done. Typically, most professionals accept a position similar to the one they have now, that offers the opportunity for growth once their mettle is proved. An exception might be when they are already doing that higher-level job but without the title recognition; or it might be the executive who is combining experience and credentials from a number of jobs into a new in-demand configuration.

Step #2—Develop your own job description of the target job by surfing job sites and collecting recruitment advertisements, with the goal of half a dozen relevant job postings. From this collection you now create one single all-embracing job description, with each requirement getting its own bullet on the document. The result will be a document that comprehensively describes your target job and puts in your hands an outline of all probable areas of inquiry.

Step #3—Under each bullet point of your target job description you should enter the relevant skills you use in the execution of this particular responsibility/area of expertise, the education and/or special training necessary, followed by your achievements and contributions in the area.

Step #4—No one is ever added to the payroll for the love of mankind, at some level all jobs are the same in that they all focus on the solution and prevention of problems. Take a few minutes to think about your job in terms of the problems it is there to solve and to prevent, and then go through each of the bullets and identify the problem areas that go along with this territory. In each instance come up with an illustration of successfully tacking this type of problem: addressing the problem’s origin, followed by your solution analysis, its implementation and the results.

Step #5
—Next, think of the best people you have ever seen doing this job and what made them stand out. Describe their performance, professional behaviors, interaction with others and appearance. You are describing a model for your own professional development, and a profile of what employers are seeking.

Step #6—Think of the worst people you have ever seen doing this job and what made them fail or stagnate. Describe their performance, professional behaviors, interaction with others and appearance. You are describing a model for career suicide and a profile of what employers want to avoid.

Step #7—As you have now developed a workmanlike outline of what employers are going to want to hear about, and what you have to say on the issues, take the time to check that your resume reflects this awareness. The result will be a more productive resume because it reflects a specific target job, rather than an unfocused recitation of all you have done in your professional life.

Step #8—Resumes not only open doors they act as interviewer’s road maps during the selection cycle. You now know what employers will want to talk about and the nuts and bolts that will hold your answers together. Do take the time to match each of the bullet topics in your job description with real-world illustrations of your successfully doing each aspect of your target job. Such illustrations help employers see you successfully tackling the issues that lie at the heart of your target job. A little understanding of what is happening on the other side of the desk and application of these eight steps can set you free from fear and prepare you for success.

Join Martin every week to learn more about writing a killer resume, getting more job interviews and turning job interviews into job offers at his free weekly webcast, Mondays at noon central. Details: http://my.knockemdead.com

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  • Anonymous

    I like this list and do plan to implement it. I think that the ideas here will be useful to me. My hurtle now is to overcome interview nerves! Normally I am as cool as a cucumber, but at this point I am so anxious about making a mistake in an interview I have become Nervous Nelly. I called the last interviewer and she said they needed the cool cucumber for the job, and had I taken it down several notches I may have landed the job. Now to figure out how to calm my nerves before an interview…