Preparing for a job interview? Read these 6 tips first

These aren’t your typical reminders (‘arrive at least five minutes early’), but instead a half-dozen proven tips for acing an interview and landing that job.

I used to be pretty sure that the only way to get a raise working in media was to switch jobs. This led to several job changes throughout my career, which, of course, included the requisite interviews to get those jobs.

I’ve picked up a few pointers that have helped me become a relatively confident interviewer over the years.

A quick caveat though:

Last time I tried to give something resembling advice on this site, I made the mistake of presenting my methodology as something that could be universally applied. That said, these are interview methods that have helped me land jobs at a couple of large media companies (and some smaller ones, too).

So, here are six things that have helped me walk out of interviews with a healthy amount of confidence:

1. If you think you’re rambling, you are. I tend to over-answer questions, and I’ve tried to be conscious of this in interview situations. Be concise with your answers, and know where you’re going with them. (No. 3 will help you with this.) If you think you’re rambling, wrap it up. If you leave something out, No. 5 has you covered.

2. Don’t say, “That’s a good question.” OK, you can say it once if it’s actually good question. Otherwise, you run the risk of sounding like an ass-kisser—especially if it’s one of those rote what’s-your-biggest-strength questions. If you say it once, try not to say it again, or you’ll sound like you’re stalling at the beginning of your answers.

3. Over-prepare. I can’t tell you how to do this. I only know that you should learn everything you can about the job, the company, their competition, and the industry.

4. Stop thinking of it as a Q&A, and start thinking of it as a conversation. Some of my colleagues over the years have gotten very worked up about going into job interviews. I think it’s something to do with the unnatural format of the interview. When else in life are we peppered with rapid-fire questions and forced to answer them on the spot or face unsavory consequences? In my interview experience, I’ve tried to think of them as conversations about whether I’m the right person for a particular job. I should be just as curious as the interviewer about whether I’m right for the job.

5. If you don’t like how you answered something in an interview, write a thought-out answer and email it when you get home.
I know that I’m a better writer than I am an interviewer. Plus, they’re hiring me for my writing/editing skills much more than they’re hiring me for my ability to answer a few questions. There have been a few times when I’ve left an interview happy overall, but thinking, “If only I’d nailed that one question.” In those instances, I’ve gone home and written exactly what I had wished I said and sent it along with my follow-up.

6. Work in something personal about yourself that shows why you’d be good at a certain job.
I studied and performed improvisation in college and in Chicago for a number of years, and that has consistently helped me be a good team member in my work life. I’ve brought this up whenever I’ve been asked whether I’m a team player.

Kevin Allen has worked or written for a variety of media outlets, including the Chicago Sun-Times, ESPN, The Huffington Post, and Fox Sports.


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