3 Simple Interview Prep Techniques (with a Checklist)

Out for Australia is recruiting for two board directors.  We’re also in clerkship and graduate recruitment season.  I’ve been chatting with a lot of young people that want to know how they can maximise their chances of landing a gig, whether for a grad position or a non-profit directorship.

So today, I want to cover 3 quick tips for preparing for interviews plus a 2-Page Interview Preparation Checklist to help put them to work.

Rightly or wrongly, the interview is here to stay.  It remains the final gate between you and your dream role.  We put great faith in the power to “eye ball” candidates for everything from plumbers to paediatricians.  We’re smug in our abilities to distinguish the “good” from “good on paper”.

If extroverts have the advantage here, it’s only slight.  While introverts can fall victim to nerves, extroverts risk waffling showmanship that often misses the question.  The root cause of both nerves and waffling is poor preparation.  Specifically, I’m talking about quality, targeted preparation that doesn’t have you spending 50 hours rehearsing for each role.

So here’s my 3 tips for better interview prep:

1. Practise the obvious questions

Every interview has them.  These are questions you know they’ll ask you such as:

(a) Why do you want this role?

(b) Have you been involved in our organisation / organisations like ours?

(c) The position description says “X” is desirable.  You don’t have it.  Explain.

The easiest way to make yourself feel comfortable and fluent in interviews is to practise these questions until they roll off your tongue.  Even better, most interviews often start with 1-2 of these questions, giving you a chance to relax early where your nerves are at their worst.

For most interviews, rehearsing 5-6 obvious questions is enough.  Many more and you’ll either forget your answers, or get preparation fatigue, or just not use this tool at all.

Finally, practise, don’t script.  Memorised dialogue is stilted.  Know the substance of your answer.

Check out my Interview Preparation Checklist for a list of the 15 most obvious questions (and number 1 and 15 are the most obvious of them all.)

2. Do a 15-minute dress rehearsal

A few days out, message a friend or colleague and ask them for 15 minutes.  Say you’re preparing for an interview and want a dress rehearsal. 

Why 15 minutes?  In my experience, it’s the sweet spot.  It’s long enough to be valuable, but short enough to fit it into a busy schedule and not feel like you’re imposing.  You might find you schedule 15 minutes and actually go for 30 or more, but 15 minutes is an easy minimum to commit to.

All your fake interviewer need is (i) a sentence on the role (ii) a few example questions.  They don’t need good knowledge of the organisation or position.  They just need to ask example questions and follow up any questions that spring to mind. 

Then (most importantly) get the feedback.  You need two ways to improve on what you said and two ways to improve how you said it.  Praise is lovely, but useless.  If they’re being too polite, try “and what would have made my interview better?”  Constructive feedback is painful, but so is missing out on your dream role for a silly mistake, easily corrected.

The Interview Preparation Checklist has a template for reaching out to ask for the dress rehearsal and a template for incorporating their feedback.

3. Check logistics the night before and 1 hour before

Don’t let a late train or a dodgy internet connection stand between you and your dream role.  Spend 10 minutes the night before mapping and visualising everything from here until the interview room.  Here’s my 2 most important logistics checks:

First, always test the technology for phone or online interviews.  Nothing ruins your flow like tech issues.  Grab the same headset, use the same platform, and give your friend a call.  If she says you’re glitchy or inaudible, you’ll be glad that you did.

Second, rehearse a very simple opening.  The first part of any interview is disorientating.  Each interview room will be slightly different to what you imagined and almost always more intimidating.  The best way to get settled and feel comfortable is to prepare a confident “It’s lovely to be here.  Thanks so much for having me.” or whatever feels natural for you.  The sooner you nerves calm, the sooner all your valuable preparation kicks in and you’re well on your way.

Interview Preparation Checklist: Comment below or send me a message for a copy of my Checklist.  And yes! I’m always happy to be your 15-minute dress rehearsal if you give me plenty of notice.

Extracted from my presentation on “Practical Tips for stepping up for your dream leadership role” for Out for Australia Academy on 1 August 2021.

Hi! I’m a dispute resolution lawyer at Clayton Utz and the former CEO of Out for Australia, an Australian LGBTIQ+ student mentoring non-profit. Feel free to add me on LinkedIn with a message about who you are.

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