Does this scenario sound familiar?

You landed the interview for what you think might be your next big position– this could even be your dream job. You figure they must have liked your resume, although you wrote it so long ago, you don’t even remember what all those bullet points say.

Then, you remember how uncomfortable an interview can be, and you start feeling nervous.

You aren’t sure what to do next, so you plan to do a little research on the company. But instead, you spend your time worrying about how many other people they will be interviewing.

As the interview date gets closer, you call your friends for moral support. You begin to think about how you can make the best impression. Your focus shifts to picking out the best outfit, rather than actually preparing for the interview.

You end up squeezing in time right before the interview to pull up the company’s website and try to come up with a few intelligent questions to ask.

When you finally walk into interview, you feel flustered, unprepared, and you don’t present yourself in the best light.

Know the feeling?

What you need is a plan.

To be fair, most people don’t know how to prepare for an interview. Next to public speaking, interviewing is one of the most dreaded social interactions people engage in.

That dread will cause you to focus on how to deal with disappointment, rather than how to confidently walk into an interview with clarity. You will need to be clear and confident to determine whether the position and the company is the right fit for you.

Next time you have the opportunity to interview for what could be a career changing job, you have two options: You can decide to put your energy into hoping that you will get it, OR you can learn how to have more control over the interview process so that you can clearly decide if the job is truly the right place for you.

I will be honest here, effectively interviewing takes work. You have to put in time to research and prepare so that you can walk in confident in your abilities and clear about what you want from a potential employer.

Here are five steps for what can make an interview a success.

1 – Define Your Priorities

Why do you want this position? What do you care about deeply? What does the job need to include for you to feel like taking this position is the next best step in your career?

What is your priority?

  • Money?
  • Flexibility?
  • Work Environment?
  • More Responsibility?
  • A Better Title?
  • A Good Boss?
  • An Office?
  • Independence?

There is no right or wrong answer; there are only your priorities and what you want. When you know what you want, you can be clear about why you are interviewing. And why you are interviewing is going to be of keen interest to the people who interview you.

2 – Know Your Value

Take out a pen and paper and answer these questions:

  • What is your profession?
  • What are your top 25 skills, talents and abilities?
  • Why are those skills, talents and abilities valuable?
  • How did you develop your expertise?
  • What appeals to you about this position?
  • What is important to you in your career?
  • What brings out your best work?

These questions are designed to help you understand how your strengths and values are attractive to your potential employer. And most importantly, they build your confidence. Be thorough and think through your answers. Nothing is too trivial because your goal is to have the tools to create common ground with the interviewers and the organization.

3 – Do Your Homework

  • What is the culture of your potential employer?
  • What are the job requirements?
  • Who would be your new boss?
  • What do they believe in?
  • What is their management style?

To answer those questions, you can research on the web and you can ask people in your network who know other people who work for the organization. You can work through your alumni association to see if other alums work for that organization.

But first and foremost, you need to carefully read the job description.

Once you have the answers, think about how they resonate with you.

  • Where would you fit in this organization?
  • Would you feel inspired and engaged if you worked there?
  • Is this position a challenging next step or would it be more of the same?

4 – Match Your Skills and Build Your Signature Story

Once you understand more about the job and the culture of the organization, begin to match your skills, expertise and priorities with the qualities that are important to your potential new employer. Do they match? How?

Write out the specific areas where you can see that your skills compliment what the employer wants and where their standards and culture intersect with your priorities.

Once you have written it out, build your signature story based on those intersections. Your signature story is based on how your skills, growth, interests and talents brought you to this point in your career. Your signature story explains why you want the position and helps interviewers emotionally connect with who you are and what is important to you.

Your signature story also needs to match your resume. If you haven’t thought about how to organize your resume, make sure it outlines your story. You resume is a brief introduction; your story is designed to fill in all the gaps.

5 – Questions, Questions, Questions

You know that your prospective employer will have questions for you. You should practice answering interview questions with a partner. Ask your husband or a friend if you can role play. This is the best way to get comfortable telling your story and bragging about your accomplishments. Tell them to give you feedback on your body language, long pauses or awkwardness you have about listing your skills, talents and expertise.

An interview is a two-way street. An employer is interviewing you to see if you are a good fit for the organization. You need to ask questions that show your confidence and that probe into whether this is a good fit for you. Employers make judgments about you based on the questions you ask. This means that developing good open-ended questions is a must.

All this preparation will help you focus and create a true connection with your interviewer. It also helps you to remember that you are the catch.

An interview isn’t only about whether they want you. It’s also about making sure that the position and company is a good fit for you, and that this opportunity is the next best step in your career.

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