by Clare Sobotka, Senior Assistant, INALJ Idaho
Practicing for the Interview
Very few people can eloquently wing an interview. For most of us, polishing our interview skills takes repeated practice, usually with a good dose of failure before we can perform well enough to impress a hiring committee. Official interviews are the best way to get experience, but practicing beforehand allows you to take full advantage of your formal interview. My first piece of advice is: don’t wait until right before your first interview to prepare. Set aside some time early in your job hunt to practice before you are ever offered a formal interview.
Selecting some questions to study is a starting point. There is quite a bit written on what questions you are likely to be asked during an interview, for both library and non-library specific positions. It is impossible to determine what exactly you will be asked, but pick ten or so questions that you see repeated often online and think about ways to answer them. As an FYI, all but one of my interviews have included a variation of the strengths question, such as “what are three of your strengths that make you uniquely suited for this position” or “tell us about two of your skills that relate to this recruitment.” You may or may not want to write out answers; I like to brainstorm by writing mine in paragraph format, then summarizing that as bullet points to review later. Keep in mind that you will want to revisit these questions before each interview, and that your answers may change over time. In addition to practicing standard questions, I recommend writing down some examples to give in case you are asked behavioral interview questions. Was there a time you expertly handled a difficult patron or provided outstanding customer service? Write down several examples for each scenario.
Mulling over interview questions in your head is only half the preparation process. My second piece of advice is that you should practice giving answers to interview questions out loud to another human being, ideally multiple times. If you are still a student or have access to a career center, go to it immediately and schedule a mock interview. If you attend professional conferences and have the opportunity to do a mock interview, grab it.
When a conference or career center is out of reach, do a mock interview with a friend or family member. It might lack the authentic edge that an interview with a stranger can give, but any practice you can get verbalizing your answers without notes in front of you will help you further organize what you want to say. If you think interviewing in front of a group of people may be the worst part of the interview process, you can have several friends act as your panel and ask you questions in turn.
Ideally, for every mock interview you do you receive feedback. What did you do well? What did you struggle with? Try to get answers for both, because sometimes the things you think you did poorly actually impressed your interviewers, and the things you think you did well or didn’t notice were a problem. For me personally, I have learned from other people that I need to expand my answers as I tend to give very short replies; while I think I’m being succinct, my interviewers are left without a good idea of what I am thinking or who I am as a person. Don’t feel bad if you can’t react to every point of Blog Post feedback you receive and prepare perfectly for your next interview. Interviewing well is a skill that must be developed through experience.
Keep in mind that how well you interview may still not help you go further in the hiring process if the hiring committee decides on someone with more experience or whose personality they feel fits the organization better. But with interview preparation and experience under your belt, when a job comes along that is the right fit, you will increase your chance of landing the position.