Preparing for an interview is one of the most difficult parts of a job search. There is no wiggle room for error. If you blow it, you will know it immediately, likewise preparing for an interview well leaves you with a great feeling!

Recently, April Miller shared her story on a networking group that I belong to in Rochester NY and gave me permission to share it with the Elephants at Work readers.

April’s monologue on preparing for interviews…

I’ve had a couple of interviewers comment on the work I have done to prepare for their interview. I thought the comments were interesting, but to me the preparation is just a given. It wasn’t until last week that it occurred to me that maybe the interviewers weren’t just making small talk and not everybody prepares the way I do.

With more animation than previously exhibited, a search committee member asked an ad hock question in the middle of the planned list, “April, I can tell you’ve done some preparation for the interview. Can you tell us what you did?”

Well, I read through the job description and there were a few acronyms in there I didn’t know so I looked them up and read a little about the government programs they referred to. And I went to the department website and saw that some of the reports this position is responsible for are available on the web so I browsed through them, and looked at the formulas for calculating FTEs. Enrollment numbers are also listed for the last 8 years or so, and I jotted them down and plotted them and noticed that numbers were up a few years ago, but have dropped a little. I looked at the committee members’ departments and home pages, and checked out your LinkedIn profiles. I did notice that many of the administrators and staff have been here a long time, and certainly one of my questions today will be what is it about your experiences that has motivated you to stay here. I looked up the average amount of snowfall per year and saw it wasn’t much different than Rochester. I looked at the airport and another question I have is if you find travel to be difficult when you want to fly someplace. I also downloaded a trial version of the statistical software you use and started the tutorial and tried some things in there since I haven’t used that specific program before.

My take home story is, even if you don’t typically get the chance to talk about how you prepared, there’s a good chance your interviewer will either consciously or subconsciously pick up on it. There are so many things you can’t control in the process, so it makes sense to take advantage of those things you can control.

Here is what April did right. In preparing for an interview, she:

  1. Thoroughly researched the company that she was interviewing with and investigated terminology she did not know. In other words, she did not glance at their information.
  2. Put herself in the place of their customer and tested some of their product/services.
  3. Visualized working and living there and ran through different accessibility scenarios.
  4. Prepared questions that let the organization know that she did her homework and helped them visualize that she was already working there.

Is preparing for an interview important to you? How do you know you are successful? The interview becomes a conversation and not a ping-pong match of questions and answers.