[Guest Post] 5 Tips to Ace Your Next Interview

The ultimate goal of interviewing is to present yourself as the most qualified candidate.  In other words, your job is to beat out the competition.  Achieving this goal takes effort and a willingness to go that extra mile when preparing for your big day.  

Here are five winning tips to help you knock out your next interview:

Do Your Research

What do you know about Firm XYZ?  Many interviewers will come right out and ask you this question.  Your answer should be well thought out and show that you’ve taken the time to research the firm.  Not only does it show sincere interest in the opportunity, but it also helps you provide answers that will show how you can add value to the organization.  With today’s technology, researching any organization is quite simple.  You can conduct your research by visiting the firm’s website and conducting a quick Google search.  You may find some interesting news and recent articles that you can bring up in your interview.  Your research will also help you formulate your own questions that you’ll ask at the end of the interview.  Researching takes minimal time but goes a long way in helping you stand above the crowd.

Bonus Tip: Find the people that you’ll be interviewing with on LinkedIn prior to your interview. The more you know about your interviewer, the better equipped you’ll be to connect with the interviewer on common points of interest.

Create a Match Between You and the Job

Interviewing success comes down to creating the perfect match between you and the job. You must be able to show that your skills and qualifications match what the employer is seeking. The job posting provides you with a summary of the job’s responsibilities and required experience and skills.  As you study the job description, match your experiences to each of the requirements that are listed.  This is your homework.  For example, if the job description states that the position requires someone with exceptional Excel skills, be prepared to articulate your experience in this area.  If no job description exists, try to gather as much information as you can about the job from the recruiter or person who originally informed you of the position.

Bonus Tip:  Oftentimes, job postings are taken off of the internet by the time interviewing takes place for the position.  Be sure to save every job posting when you apply to a job so that you have it if you’re invited to interview.  

Get Ready to Sell Yourself

Why should the firm hire you?  What makes you unique?  Take some time to explore the answers to these questions.  The company will probably be interviewing several candidates.  And, while you probably won’t know who the other candidates are, you should know what makes you unique as an individual.  What accomplishments and experiences do you have that are relevant to the position?  What makes you most proud when thinking of your professional experiences?  What are your strengths?  There’s something that stands out in everyone.  Take some time to find your personal X-factor so that you can sell it in the interview.

Assess And Be Ready To Address Your Weaknesses

The interviewer may ask you about a certain skill or requirement that you haven’t had the opportunity to develop.  If you’ve done your homework by researching the job and matching your qualifications with what the position requires, you’ll know exactly where your weaknesses and vulnerabilities lie relative to the position.  Once you identify your weaknesses and vulnerabilities, you’ll need to determine how you can compensate for that experience or skill deficiency in the interview.  For example, if the position requires someone with dispute resolution experience, but you lack on-the-job experience, think about how you can compensate for this deficiency.  Perhaps you’ve taken coursework or completed volunteer work that allowed you the opportunity to learn specific techniques.  While you don’t have the experience, you can let the employer know that you’re quite knowledgeable in this area, excited about the opportunity to apply your knowledge and discuss your proposed plan for getting up to speed. 

Proactively Address the Elephant in the Room 

There are certain red flags that recruiters and interviewers will instantly catch on your resume.  Perhaps you’ve hopped from job to job every 6 months.  This sends the message that you could be a flight risk.  Perhaps you’ve had several gaps in employment creating a spotty employment history.  These are the things that you dread explaining and sincerely hope that the interviewer doesn’t bring up.  But, instead of waiting to be asked, proactively address these issues with the interviewer.  The perfect time to address them is at the beginning of the interview when asked to tell them about yourself.  The key to dealing with these dreaded topics is planning a great explanation ahead of time.  When you proactively address your issues from the start, it can help diffuse the negative perception that the interviewer may have.  Furthermore, there’s always the chance that they won’t ask, but still assess you negatively, placing you at a disadvantage to other candidates.

Khalilah Starks is the founder of High Powered Professional, a blog that provides insider knowledge on interviewing and career development.  Khalilah is passionate about guiding people through all aspects of the employment process.   Connect with Khalilah on Facebook and Twitter.