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Successful interviewing depends on confidence and the ability to effectively sell yourself. In this regard, preparation is the key to capturing the interest of hiring managers. It’s important to continually hone your interview skills and keep up-to-date on hiring trends.

According to the 2016 Staples Workplace Index study, 68 percent of the more than 3,000 workers surveyed said they expect to be looking for a job within the next year.

If you’re in the market for a new job, it’s a good idea to brush up on the types of interviews you’ll encounter and how you’ll answer difficult questions about your career and past work choices.  

Here’s how to prepare for any interview so you won’t get caught off guard:

1) Be Ready for Anything

There’s no one-size-fits-all interview. That’s why you should be ready for any type of format the hiring manager may present, including:

  • Phone/screening – Hiring managers use various screening methods to determine whether or not you meet the minimum requirements to move forward in the interview process. This is when you should really focus on honestly selling your strong points. You want to give the interviewer something valuable beyond what your basic application materials reveal that will convince them you’re a top performer.

    In this round, you can choose a relaxing atmosphere to take the call. However, the lack of face-to-face engagement reduces your ability to gauge the impression you’re making on the interviewer. The key is to answer questions clearly and concisely and use verbal cues to show your enthusiasm and appreciation for their consideration.
  • One-way video – This type of interview allows you to record answers to questions for later review by the hiring team. A perk of this format is that you can typically re-record answers until you’re ready to submit your response. A downside is that you’re not able to ask follow-up questions or for clarification on a question that may be confusing.

    It’s important to be aware of your body language and make eye-contact by looking into the camera. Also, do not read your responses or appear too rehearsed and be sure that the quality of the video, both sound and lighting are acceptable before submitting.
  • Live video – Video interviews in this form can be conducted in a panel or one-to-one format. Live video interviews are performed via an online video chat platform such as Skype or Zoom or through a dedicated video interviewing platform. An advantage of this format is that you can choose the setting (most job seekers are able to interview from their home offices) which eases the burden of interviewing long distance or at inconvenient times.

    Technical difficulties are a common drawback, so be sure to check your system beforehand. Also, you want to prepare for this interview in the same way you would in-person. Dress appropriately for the formality of the interview by researching the company culture online and be sure there are not distractions in your environment that may interrupt the process.
  • Panel – In this particular interview situation, you’ll encounter a group of interviewers and answer their questions one at a time. There are pros and cons to this format as well. A benefit is that you’ll be able to influence several professionals at once. Answers that may have put off one interviewer could have resonated with another. Each decision maker experienced the response firsthand, however, so they can discuss their reactions later and come to a more informed decision together.

    Candidates often find it difficult to establish rapport in panel interviews or find the situations heightens nerves. It’s important to take a moment to process each interviewer’s question and make eye contact when responding. Also, ask questions if you need clarity and be prepared to answer follow-up questions from other members of the panel.

Behavioral interview – Behavioral interview questions can be asked in any interview. Likewise, candidates may go through a number of forms of screenings and interviews, with any one type being focused as a behavioral interview. In these situations, you’ll be asked pointed questions aimed at determining how you approach different scenarios — typically relating to past work experiences.

Whether you find being challenged to show the real you highly stressful, or you enjoy the opportunity to provide insight into how you think and approach problem-solving situations, it’s important to remember that there are no right or wrong answers. Be genuine in your responses and show the interviewer how you react to workplace trials and triumphs.

2) Get in the Right Mindset

You should always make research a priority when preparing for interviews. Knowing specific details about the company demonstrates you’re interested in more than just a paycheck.

In fact, off the 4,653 talent acquisition leaders surveyed for the 2017 Glassdoor HR and Recruiting Statistics report, 88 percent said they’re impressed enough by informed candidates to place them in the “top tier” for consideration.

Coming to the interview armed with specific company details and knowing what skills are necessary to succeed in the role will give you an advantage over other candidates.

You should also be ready to interpret different ways of asking standard interview questions, such as “What’s your greatest strength?” Some variations include “Tell me what you do well?” and “What are the core values you bring to a company?”

“What is your greatest weakness?” can be rephrased as “What do you struggle with at work?” or even “Tell me about challenges in your career?”

Also, be aware that some cross-over questions can crop up (for example, a behavioral question in an otherwise standard interview format).

3) Use Personal Stories to Show How You’re Unique

Interviewers appreciate job seekers who can use storytelling to demonstrate how they’re the best fit. These stories should demonstrate how your insight and initiative created an impact both in- and outside of previous workplace experiences.

Beyond proving valuable character traits and soft skills, your stories should be action-oriented and detail moments when you were able to reflect on past success and challenges. Explain how you used them to better yourself personally and professionally.

For example, rather than vaguely mentioning a time when you increased sales by 30 percent, expand on the story by explaining how you saw a problem, came up with a solution, and were able to implement your ideas to the benefit of the company.

Show problem-solving skills by detailing a time when you successfully resolved a conflict between co-workers. This not only demonstrates a focus on team dynamics, but also proves that you can use innovative tactics to reach a mutually-beneficial end.

Another option is providing an example of when you failed but were able to overcome the incident and learn a valuable lesson. For instance, if a project was delayed because your task was not submitted by the deadline, you can explain how you’ve taken steps to prevent it from happening again (time management, making detailed checklists, etc.).

Regardless of the stories you share, it’s essential that they are true and accurate. Don’t exaggerate your role in the favorable outcome. In addition, keep stories brief and to the point. If an interviewer loses interest in a rambling tale or tangent, the result can actually be damaging to the impression you make.

It’s important to remember that interviews are a two-way street, and the purpose of each meeting is to determine the best fit for all parties involved. While you make the case for how your unique skills and experience would add value to the company, you must also determine how the company’s mission and vision mirrors your own values.

By preparing for any — and every — type of interview, you’ll be in a position to calmly and know how to effectively present your credentials, and you’ll be able to easily make a case for the professional value you bring to any company.

How do you prepare for interviews? Let us know in the comments!

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