Job Seekers: How to Prepare for an Interview

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Looking to make an impression on a potential employer? Follow these interview tips for a memorable meeting
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By Jenn Danko

You have already impressed a potential employer on paper — now it’s time to see how that persona translates in an interview. Today’s tough economic times have created an even tougher job market; how can you separate your skill set from the rest of the talent pool?

April Callis, president of Springboard Consulting and author of Springboard to Success: Strategies to Keep Business Casual from Making Business . . . Casual, says that if interviews were as easy as slipping on a shirt and tie or a smart pair of heels, everyone would get a job offer. The key to success is well-executed research. “Obviously you can do an Internet search on a company and get their public face,” Callis advises.

But a visit to your local library provides a deep pool of resources not always accessible on the Web. “A company’s annual report may not be available any other way besides through the library,” Callis says.

How else can the library help you prepare for that Monday morning interview? We’ve compiled a list of tips to ease you through the prep work.

Read Between the Lines

Today’s librarians are engaging patrons in a conversation more so than ever before, says Callis, who recently served as a staff development trainer for the Michigan Library Consortium.

And when it comes to helping prep patrons for their interviews, Callis adds that librarians are often one of the greatest untapped resources available to job seekers. “They are more like personal job consultants than librarians,” she says.

They might know of specialized journals or magazines that provide information about a specific company of interest. “Librarians are helpful in this way — they can offer ways to find information that we can’t imagine.”

Background Check

Other resources — such as Standard and Poor’s and Dun & Bradstreet — can provide background on the financial health of a company, says Cheryl Palmer, an executive career coach with 15 years of experience in career development and owner of Call to Career, a career coaching and resume writing firm.

Either report is readily available at local libraries. Do the research, and then work the knowledge seamlessly into your discussion. Librarians can help you make better sense of your findings along the way. “Try to weave some of this data into your answers early in the interview process so the interviewer(s) will know that you have done your homework,” Palmer says.

Do Your Due Diligence

Professional social media sites such as ZoomINFO and LinkedIn provide a wealth of information about the interviewer’s background, including previous positions held and education.

LinkedIn even has a feature where you can view the groups the interviewer belongs to, as well as the questions he or she has answered. Much of this research can either be conducted at the library or supplemented with additional research available in the magazine stacks. “This research can really pay off as you establish rapport with the interviewer(s) based on the information you have about them,” Palmer says.

Talk a Good Game

Callis divides every interview into three basic parts — the opening, body and conclusion. In the opening, be prepared to talk small talk. “Small talk is very important — have the ability to talk about current events or topics such as traffic, weather or sports,” she suggests.

In the body, make sure you have well-prepared statements for staple questions including:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your strengths or weaknesses?
  • How would your former boss describe you?
  • What was your response to a difficult situation?

For the last question, Callis says it is important have an answer prepared that demonstrates your loyalty to the current or past employer. She also suggests having at least two company-focused questions prepared in advance for the conclusion.

“Discuss some of these possibilities out loud with a librarian and talk to (him or her) about the research that you found,” Callis says. “Having a conversation with another person before you bring out your questions makes a big difference.”

Interested in learning more about preparing for a job interview? Check out these books and resources available to job seekers at local libraries across the country. Also, contact your library to inquire about workshops available in your area.

Recommended Resources

Springboard to Success: Strategies to Keep Business Casual from Making Business...Casual
By April Callis
Looking to upgrade your professional image? Consider how you interact and communication with others in the organization from the first point of contact. This book explores other key points such as making a strong first impression, refining nonverbal communication and conducting yourself properly on an interview.

24 Hours to the Perfect Interview: Quick Steps for Planning, Organizing, and Preparing for the Interview that Gets the Job
By Matthew J. DeLuca and Nanette F. DeLuca
Career coaches Matt and Nan DeLuca prep job seekers with a quick and easy system of pre-interview pointers including: researching the company and position before the interview, putting together a professional look, responding to difficult questions about past job experiences, and knowing what to reveal, and what not to reveal, about past work experience.

Winning Job Interviews: Reduce Interview Anxiety/Outprepare the Other Candidates/Land the Job You Love
By Paul Powers
Career expert Dr. Paul Powers puts a psychological spin on the job search with his book that demystifies the interview process. Powers shows how interviewing actually favors the job hunter and offers tips on improving success.

Career Development Workshops 2009 (various libraries)
While the economic recession has spiked national job loss, it has also spiked a renewed public interest in local libraries. The American Library Association reports that libraries in nine states are seeing an increased use of computers for job seeking and government-related purposes. Many libraries are responding to the employment fall out with free workshop series that are centered around resume writing, job research and turning interviews in offers. Inquire at your local library to see what programs may be available.

Useful workshop links from select libraries across the country:

 

American Library Association's Getting a Job in a Tough Economy Toolkit
The Getting a Job in a Tough Economy toolkit is an interactive Web site with tips, narrative and suggested links, readings, podcasts, activities and checklists for those looking to change position, people who have been laid off, and others who are having difficulty finding the right position.

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