Interviews 101

In the education world, we are getting into interview season. Over the next couple of months, a number of positions will be advertised and interviews will be scheduled. I’ve been on both sides of the table over the years but in my current position, I’m more likely to be asking the questions and making the decisions. Whether it is fair or not, interviews can often be the deciding factor in getting the job or not. Given the importance of the interview, I would suggest there are some key points to remember in order to be more successful through the experience.

  1. Practice- Interviews can be a source of stress for many. A great strategy to minimize that stress is to practice through mock interviews. Write out potential questions and respond. Have someone ask you some of these questions and provide you feedback on what you say. One of the exercises I do with my graduate students is mock interviews. I try to do this in groups of three so that one person is always an observer of the interviewee. Often, we are not aware of our speech habits and an observer can point out what we typically say and how we say it and also watch for general trends in what we do. That critical set of eyes is of great assistance in learning how we respond and allows us an improvement path forward.
  2. Know the position- Make sure you do a little research about the position you are applying for and know about the organization as a whole. You don’t need to enter into a research project or become invasive but you need some cursory knowledge walking in. It is helpful if you can respond referencing something about the position available or the organization overall.
  3. Be yourself- Phoniness will eventually catch up to you so ensure that the real person comes to the interview and not a made up version. It is critical that you don’t fake it! Be real! The company is looking to see if you are the best candidate and the best fit and that is difficult to ascertain if you are not yourself. While you may get the job, inconsistencies will begin to pop up that will expose you as somewhat of a fraud.
  4. Answer the question- As an interviewer I shut down pretty quick if you don’t answer the questions and instead just pontificate! I need to know what you know through a particular question or set of questions. If there is a point that you need to make, or something you want me to know, keep it until the end of the interview. Good interviews always leave an opportunity for the candidate to end with some concluding remarks. Answering the question in a concise manner also allows for the interview schedule to remain intact. Going over the time limit because of drawn out responses does not bode well.
  5. Style is important but… There are those who are comfortable in the interview process and while I may need a strong communicator, your answer is more important than how you answer. Be sure that you add substance to your responses. Many interviewers believe that the best predictor of future performance is past performance so include specific examples of what you have done. Sell me on your strengths, don’t bedazzle me with your…

The interview process can and should be prepared for in advance. It has the potential to illustrate the difference between you and all of the other candidates. Don’t miss this opportunity by being unprepared.


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