How To Practice And Prepare For Job Interviews

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Trent Arendse once hired a professional interviewee.

The branch manager at financial and accounting staffing firm Accountemps described her as someone who knows herself so well she could engage everyone from Ghandi to the Pope.

“They just have the natural affinity to walk into a room and totally incorporate themselves into it,” he says.

The recent grads who succeed most often are those who left school with a “clear, conscious and capable idea of what they want to get into.”
Trent Arendse, Branch Manager, Accountemps

They’re not liars, or even actors. They are fast thinkers who give great answers and “know themselves so well that they make other people in their space feel very comfortable….If a person like that finds themselves with [an engaging interviewer], they will automatically hit it off.”

Be warned: with great (interviewing) power comes great responsibility. Arendse fired the so-called pro 30 days later – she talked the talk but wasn’t the candidate Arendse thought he had interviewed.

Moral of the story: Brushing up on interviewing skills will help you, the right candidate, beat all the other wrong candidates.

Job interviews help employers see your personality

Interviews help employers put a face on job candidates and, all too often, a shambled interview can ruin all the experience and credentials you’ve worked so hard for. A quick check-up, which includes your own personality, is key to being prepared for any question, from standard questions to oddballs.

Here are some tips to get you floating like a social, professional butterfly:

Know your degree

According to Arendse, the recent grads who succeed most often are those who left school with a “clear, conscious and capable idea of what they want to get into.”

If you don’t know how you want to apply your past degree, “at least find yourself in an interview knowing what you want to do in the next three to five years.”

Practice makes perfect

Find a list of interview questions and answer them aloud, even if only in front of the mirror or to your dog, says Arendse.

Your best bet, however, is someone you trust who isn’t jaded about interviews or the company interviewing you. And no need spending hours role playing. “It’s 30 minutes just going through the motions of understanding the kind of responses that you garner in these circumstances.”

Your answers tell the most about your personality and while outgoing people tend to let their freak flag fly, answers should be specific to the audience (your interviewer and the potential company) and should always speak to the details of the job posting. Answers should be intelligent, intuitive and to the point. And don’t forget to smile.

Your biggest job interview mistake: Confidence (either too little or too much)

Excessive meekness can come off as negativity, and you’ll fail to convey that your experience can help the employers find the right solution to the role they’re looking to fill.

Likewise, “you have to be confident without being cocky,” or “You’ll come across as “I know everything about what you need done and more,” says Arendse.

How to handle curve ball interview questions

Curve ball questions: “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be and why,” or “If you were a box, how big would you be?” What do these mean? Even more, what do these have to do with the job requirements?

Arendse admits curve balls are tough to judge and can be very circumstantial, but when it comes down to it, “they’re done purposely [to] see whether the person is willing to take the plunge. Half the time, that’s it.”

It may also be a gauge of how interviewees manage crazy things that may land on their desk. “If I haven’t tested [that] as an employer, then I’m not doing my job to make sure you’re well prepared for what you’re walking into.”

Your best bet is to answer the question if you’re comfortable with it or not. Arendse curve balled an interviewee during her first interview, who answered that she wasn’t prepared to answer the question. She didn’t know him well enough. Arendse thought it was cool being put on hold, and he’s probably going to ask the question again in the third interview.

How to handle shyness in job interviews

Chronically shy people can struggle in an interview setting but can easily take steps ahead of time. For the shy type: emphasize your experience and how hard working you are. Ideally, have a reference mention your natural mildness, too.

And don’t worry about being shy. Arendse just hired a shy person whose reference promised she would wow him once she came around. “And I couldn’t speak any greater for that because she matches our branch perfectly. [Every] cup has a saucer.”

Photo credit: bpsusf on Flickr
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