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Succeeding at the interview

Most interviews will begin with general questions that break the ice, or confirmation or clarification of something in your CV. From there, you can expect anything. It is also likely that an interviewer will offer a general overview of the company, or describe the challenges of the position you have applied for, at the start of the interview.

Tips for succeeding at the interview

An interviewer might prepare questions that are in line with the challenges the company is currently facing. In the interview, he or she (or they) will describe the challenge, ask you to describe how you will address the challenge, and will ask for examples of how you have handled a similar challenge in the past.

It is also a good idea to prepare a list of successes and failures you experienced during specific challenges.

An interviewer will want to make sure that you are able to perform under stress. Be prepared for a test. If you are applying for a position as an editor, for example, be prepared to edit copy on the spot. The copy might be specifically prepared to test your skills, or it might be copy that the company has struggled with and they have given it to you because they are interested in how you would have written it.

An interviewer is not usually trying to ask you to solve the company’s challenges in under 45 minutes, even though it might seem so. Most of the questions, whether you feel you answered well or not, are intended to establish whether you are a good fit for the company. Your body language, willingness to try to answer difficult questions and general honesty are also taken into consideration.

It is also not unusual for companies to change the interview process entirely. Some companies are leaning toward an open discussion of their challenges opposed to a direct “how will you solve this” set of questions. If an interviewer uses this technique, keep the discussion focused on the topic. It is easy to move off topic when the interview feels more comfortable. If the interviewer is too polite to keep you on track, you will lose the opportunity to provide your input on scenarios they no longer have time to put forward.

In the end, there is no sure way to know what an interviewer will ask. So, the best way to feel prepared is to think about your career thus far, and to consider your achievements and how you handled your responsibilities (think about specific responsibilities), especially those that are similar to the position you are applying for.

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