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Being prepared is the secret to making a good impression during job interview

MOST of us have had the experience of sitting across the table from one or more interviewers, trying to make an impression that will place us above any other contenders for our dream job, and some of us have been in that hot seat more often than we would like!

How can we use that experience to our best advantage and what do we need to know about how interviewers think to help us clinch that all-important job offer?

There are several elements of the interview that are outside of your control as an interviewee but what you have is considerable control over how well prepared you are for it.

This preparation will obviously include getting to know as much as possible about the company, its products or services, plans for growth and development, ethos, market position, main competitors, the sector, etc.

As an interviewee, you will also need to read the job description in minute detail to get an accurate sense of what is involved and to examine the ways in which your background has prepared you for the role.

Hard Look

Then you can take a hard look at how you might do the job, what your priorities would be in tackling the role and how you would make an impact.

You also need to have a realistic and comprehensive picture of yourself as a person, an employee and a colleague, with as many examples as you can think of to prove what you say.

As an interviewer, I am more benevolently disposed towards interviewees who make it easy for me to make the links between what they have done and what I would want them to do.

It's amazing how many candidates don't take the trouble to forensically analyse all their experiences so they have ready and convincing answers to prove that what they have done in the past has prepared them to do this job.

Unfortunately, as an interviewee, you are very much at the mercy of the interviewers and their level of skill in handling the interview process.

The questions you can be asked are so varied that you may as well be participating in a lottery.

The best interviewers ask only relevant questions and give you a chance to show who you really are, but sadly not all interviewers are so skilled.

As an interviewee, you may have to take control of the situation to make sure you get the key messages across about your suitability.

In a tough employment market, job-hunters are tempted to apply for anything that looks vaguely suitable, but in the end, interviewers will choose the applicant who is the strongest match with the job.

You may never know how close you were to getting the job, and in fact, in some situations, the interviewers will find that there is very little between some of the front-runners, so you may have lost out at a photo-finish.

If, on the other hand, the selectors believe you are definitely unsuitable, when you get that "Dear John" letter, it may be some consolation to know you are likely to have escaped the unhappy experience of having talked your way into a job that you could never do well!

While it is useful to review afterwards what you might have done wrong at interview, it is sometimes the case that you couldn't have done any better, or that the interviewers made a poor decision in choosing someone else ahead of you.

They may well have to live with the negative consequences of making that mistake in judgment, but in the meanwhile, you will have been snapped up by a wiser employer – hopefully!

Mary Hanson is a HR consultant and career coach. www.maryhansonconsulting.ie

Irish Independent