An upcoming interview always brings a strange mix of emotions, whether it’s a grad school interview, job interview, or professional program interview. On the one hand, an interview usually takes place only after you pass through preliminary screening stages, so there’s some relief and joy. On the other hand, there’s so much riding on the dreaded event that it becomes a focal point of stress, pressure, and anxiety. Many students and job hunters go into over-drive trying to figure out how to successfully prep for this crucial milestone in time.
Does that sound like you? Don’t worry just yet. Here are some key preparation tips to help you achieve a memorable interview performance:
Begin preparing early
That’s right – early strategizing is as crucial in your interview prep as it is in any other aspect of your life. You simply cannot rely on last minute research and improvisational skills and expect to wing it. For one thing, most interviewers will ask you questions specific to the company, school, job, role, or program you’re applying for, and you need to do adequate research to answer them. Even with the more generic questions such as “tell me about yourself”, you have to strategize in advance about what you want to say. Which is why you need to give yourself enough time to thoroughly prepare for the interview.
Leave absolutely nothing to chance! Research the program, company, or school you’re interviewing at. What is their mission statement? What kind of curriculum or company profile do they have? What are they looking for in applicants? Next, research the specific interview format so you know exactly how, when, and where the interview will happen and how much time you need to prepare for it. Is it an online interview? Are there multiple interviews? Who will conduct the interview? Don’t wait until the day before your interview to start researching these things! That’s a surefire recipe for failure.
Leverage your existing resources in your interview prep
Once you know exactly what the format and requirements of the interview are, you can start practicing your answers. This part can be very overwhelming. Typical interview questions are designed to make you think deeply about who you are as a person, what you value, what you wish to accomplish, and what your goals are. It’s easy at this stage to slip into a cycle of negative thinking and despair or to start questioning yourself and your achievements. Just remember – if you made it this far, it was on the basis of your skills and experiences. Now, all that’s left is to identify the best qualities in yourself and communicate them effectively in the interview. Leverage all the existing materials you have to help you identify your best qualities. That includes your old SOPs, personal statements, school and college essays, etc. Did you ever have to create a portfolio for a previous job? Take it out and go over it. Did you ever apply to a medical school in Texas? Then review your TMDSAS personal characteristics essay and your TMDSAS personal statement. You’ll find that you’ve already recorded a lot of your key interview talking points in these kinds of documents. They provide a great base to start brainstorming answers to common interview questions. Your resume also serves as an excellent guide to help structure your interview answers and recall key achievements.
Practice with mock interviews
Even after thoroughly prepping your interview answers, you may still find that you can’t shake the nerves. Butterflies in your stomach, sweat on your palms, and that panicked, blank feeling – sounds familiar? Don’t worry, this is just your anxiety playing tricks on you. Doing lots of mock interviews, ideally in the same format as the final interview, should help you find your confidence and overcome some of these nerves.
Ask for help
You should never be afraid to ask for help if needed. If you think you need additional guidance about the interview format, or help to improve your communication skills, there’s qualified consultants who can provide expert feedback and personalized tips. This kind of custom feedback from professionals can help you gain that confidence and reassurance you need to ace your interview.
Though your interview can seem like a daunting obstacle between you and your dreams, it’s really just another step in your ladder to success. Just remember that an interview isn’t about grilling the applicant – it’s ultimately an opportunity for the applicant to show their best side to the interviewers.