Interview Preparation

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Preparation for an interview is at least a 2-person game, although more people may be involved, e.g., in a committee-style interview. However, since it should not be treated as a game of chance, preparation is essential for all participants-applicant, interviewer(s) and observers, if any. Viewed superficially, preparation may seem to involve not much more than having prepared questions or prepared answers-with varying degrees of "rehearsal", plus some essential background checking of the applicant and the company.

But things can get much more sophisticated and include management decisions about what format to use, e.g., a "check-list" resume-based approach, spontaneous tangent-friendly style, formal or casual, remote or in-person, to mention but a few. At a more sophisticated level, preparation can and often should involve contingency "flow-chart" planning-"If X says Y, I'll follow up with Z."

On the other hand, care must be taken not to over-prepare, lest questions and responses seem well-rehearsed and lifeless. One way to accomplish this is to be comfortable with the prospect of some spontaneity in the interview.

Whenever an applicant is going to be interviewed for a position in a company or organization, the proper interview preparation should be undertaken-on both sides of the desk-to ensure a successful process or at least minimize risk of a disaster. In preparing for the interview, the questions likely to be asked should be identified and, in the case of the interviewer, listed in an order that makes sense in terms of the logical and strategic progression of the interview. The organization or company ideally will, in addition, have a predetermined format for the interview process that has been honed with time and experience.

In addition to the questions, a proper interview preparation will include a background and internet search check of the applicant and of the company, to eliminate the possibility of time being wasted interviewing and considering an applicant or a job that upon investigation will prove to be unsuitable.

Interviews should be held at times when interruptions can be eliminated and in a place where distractions are not an issue. An office with a door that closes and no open windows is usually a good place, but different personality types will pursue this differently. It may be wise, where logistically possible, for there to be at least two representatives of the organization present at an interview, particularly if it is taking place in a closed office. This will help provide support documentation, avoid any appearance of impropriety (including sexual harassment) and allow for a "tie-breaking" witness who can address accusations of unfairness or worse during the process.

Another preparatory technique that is often effective is to have the applicant fill out a pre-interview questionnaire that can be reviewed before the interview and referenced during it. In some instances, a linear "march" through the applicant's resume can constitute an acceptable flow format-especially when time constraints have precluded more elaborate and imaginative preparation.

On the applicant side, being prepared to respond to anticipated questions on two levels-the general and the specific-is a valuable exercise that corresponds to being prepared to present conclusions and premises in an argument. By paying close attention to detailed evidence or reasons for one's general comments, an applicant can accomplish two things: Give clarifying examples or illustrations of the claim or point being made and thereby offer evidence for the truth of those general statements.
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