The Secret Weapon That Job Seekers Always Ignore When Prepping for an Interview
If you’ve ever been invited for an interview—and my hunch is that you have—you’re familiar with the rush of excitement that accompanies that email. And, of course, the distinct feeling of being thrown to the wolves that immediately follows.
No need to panic. You actually have more resources at your disposal than you might think. There’s plenty of information out there to help you learn more about a particular company before the interview, and there is, of course, the job description.
Seriously—don’t discount this little blurb. While the primary purpose is to detail the position and, ideally, entice you to apply, there’s so much more you can do with it to help you prepare for the next step of the process.
1. Create Mock Interview Questions to Practice
The most obvious way to use it during your interview prep is to create practice questions. If, for example, the position requires “the ability to work in a team and independently,” you can turn that into, “Tell me about a time you worked in a team,” “Tell me about a project you completed independently,” or even, “Do you prefer working on a team or independently?” Go through the entire job description and turn everything in it into a question. Then, practice answering them aloud.
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2. Come Up With Relevant Examples and Stories
It’s always smart to have a few good stories ready to go in case your interview gets into behavioral questions (and it usually does). And guess what? The job description’s the best place to start when you’re trying to figure out what kind of stories would be most appropriate to share. Use it like a checklist. Go through and come up with an anecdote for each trait or skill the position outlines.
The trick here is to come up with stories that can check off multiple boxes. Think about times you showcased, for instance, your project management skills alongside your ability to communicate to a nontechnical audience. That way you’re not walking into your interview trying to remember 25 stories, instead your bases are covered with just a few.
3. Generate Questions to Ask at the End of the Interview
Finally, the job description is simply not going to cover every single aspect of the job. This, surprisingly, can actually help you. If there’s anything in there that’s a bit ambiguous, unclear, or conspicuously missing, that’s great fodder for questions to ask at the end of the interview. These questions show that you were thoughtful in reviewing the requirements when you applied for the position. And showing that you’re invested in the position can only help you come across more positively in the interview.
So, the next time you get an interview lined up, don’t forget about the job description. It’s a more powerful tool for preparation than you might initially think.
Photo of taking notes courtesy of Shutterstock.
Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she's not indulging in a new book or video game, she's thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author