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Next-level interview skills: Do your homework

In the September issue of HR Connect, we told you about interview basics. This time, we’ll be digging deeper on how to be well prepared for the interview, specifically by researching the department and reviewing the position to anticipate interview questions.

During the interview, the hiring committee will want to determine if you are a good fit for their department. They want to know that you WANT to work for them and will likely ask you why. In order to show that you truly want to work for them, you first need to know a little bit about the department.

Here are some ways you can gather information about the department itself:

  • Review the department’s website and their ‘parent’ department’s website for goals, values, current projects, leadership, etc.
  • Google the department to see if any of their initiatives, projects or accomplishments have been in the news recently.
  • Check the LinkedIn profiles of those you are going to interview with to see what they have been working on recently or what they have to say about their department.

By knowing this information, you can show that you are enthusiastic about joining their team and contributing toward their mission and goals. This information will also likely give you ideas for questions to ask THEM during the interview. What do you want to know more about?

Another very important part of interview preparation is to review the posting ahead of time, while paying close attention to the required and preferred qualifications. Look over the posting and find the competencies that they can’t determine from your resume. The interviewers will be assessing each candidate on this criteria, so it is paramount to make sure you are prepared for any questions they might ask related to those items.

For example, if the position requires “excellent customer service skills,” you will want to make sure you can provide an example of a situation where you had to provide excellent customer service.

When preparing for these questions, make sure your answers follow the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format. Also, keep in mind one example from your past work history could apply to multiple competencies. A situation where you had to deal with a difficult customer could illustrate your customer service skills, communication skills, problem solving skills, etc. Just make sure you don’t use the same story over and over again.

While you are researching the department, reviewing the posting and recalling examples from your past work history – take notes! Also, don’t be afraid to take those notes into the interview with you. They can help jog your memory, calm your nerves and show the interviewers your level of preparedness.
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