First, compile a really good list.
Anticipate any likely questions that may be prompted by your resume, your LinkedIn profile or other materials the interviewer may have seen.
Expect to be asked why you left each position (especially any job that was short-term), what you were doing during any periods of employment, why you majored in paleontology, and so on. Create a document (in your computer, not handwritten) starting with these questions.
Add questions you remember from past interviews.
Then do a several online searches, including “job interview questions (your occupation)” as well as more general searches like “job interview questions,” “behavioral interview questions” and “tough interview questions.”
Copy and paste questions into your master list until you have at least 100 questions, and maybe 200 or so.
Now, here’s how to work with your list:
Highlight the toughest and the most important questions, and start with those. Hint: “Tell me about yourself” is one of the most important.
Read each question and ask yourself:
- “What is the interviewer looking for here? What are they really trying to find out?” For example, questions about the best or worst manager you’ve ever had are really questions about your own attitude and adaptability.
- “How is this question a great opportunity to direct the interviewer’s attention to my skills and strengths?” Even a question about failures, weaknesses or gaps in employment can demonstrate strengths.
- “What examples or stories could I use to illustrate my answer to this?” A story creates pictures in the interviewer’s mind, and a picture is worth a thousand words.
3. List key talking points.
Based on the steps 1-3, for each question type in a very minimal key-word outline of your answer. Use only enough words to jog your memory – maybe 5-10 words per question. Do not script your answers in full; that method usually results in a robotic presentation that sounds insincere and/or dull.
4. Practice well in advance.
Practice answering the questions aloud, with your key-word outline if necessary at first, then without it. Combine this with visualization, seeing and hearing your confident answers and the interviewer’s positive response. Do mock interviews with friends, family and/or an interview coach. Insist on feedback for improvement.
Know that in practicing with this list, you are not only developing answers to these specific questions, but also building skills you can use to field totally unexpected questions that will come up in the interview!
5. Use it for last-minute review on the big day.
You may find it helpful to skim your notes in a coffee shop or in your parked car, right before going into the interview, to focus your thoughts.
6. Be natural.
Are you “over-preparing”? This is a common concern. In my opinion, it’s unlikely that analyzing questions and planning key points to address them will have any down side. On the other hand, it is possible to over-rehearse what you will actually say.
Ask your practice partner(s) whether your answers sound natural and conversational, or stiff and rehearsed. If the answer is “It’s like you’re reciting,” it’s possible that it’s time to stop rehearsing. Or it may simply be that you need to use more “plain English” and less business jargon, or be a bit less formal.
7. Think of it as a win-win.
Remember that your preparation will not only help you get the job, but it benefits the interviewer as well by communicating your qualifications more clearly. Help them understand how you’re a great fit for that job!