Job interview prep to lessen anxiety
November 11, 2019 7:30 AM   Subscribe

I have a job interview coming up at the end of this week (yaaay), but I have become filled with anxiety and almost dread about the upcoming interview. I've been avoiding preparing for it, or even thinking about it... how can I best prepare for it?

My interview skills are really rusty. This interview is for a position I previously applied for, interviewed for, and didn't get, which is making me reaaaaallly nervous. It would be such a good opportunity for my career if I got it. I actually have probably spent more time during the past 3 days fantasizing about GETTING the job, than preparing for it.

I feel really dumb because I've *forgotten* some of the questions they asked me the first time around. The interview is for a librarian position and they asked me a set amount of pre-created questions, so I feel kind of dumb for not remembering what they initially asked me. I never expected the position to be re-posted, so I'm kind of surprised that this is happening at all! When I was preparing for the initial interview, so many of the questions I prepared answers for (after looking at AskAManager, etc.) were not at all what they asked!!! I really felt caught off-guard by that, but how could I have known?

Due to that, what should I be doing, or how should I be preparing, to get ready for this interview? Obviously I can't fully predict what they'll ask me, but since I'm being re-interviewed... should I be preparing for this interview differently? If so, what should I be doing? Before my initial interview for this position, I hadn't had a job interview in 4.5 years.
posted by VirginiaPlain to Work & Money (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Trial runs are great. I suspect it is likely they will use performance-based questions. So print out these questions and have a friend pretend to interview you with them.

Sometimes it helps to flesh out a list of previous positions with quick anecdotes to address common qualities (leadership, teamwork, solving problems, difficult customers, etc )
posted by crunchy potato at 7:38 AM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Came in to also say same thing crunch potato did: practice with a friend. If your friend is someone who has experience interviewing/hiring, that will be even better. Debrief after the mock interview about anything you did or didn't do that might be changed. I'll add that the important thing here is less about trying to predict every question and more about getting in the habit of listening carefully, taking a few moments to formulate an answer, and then answering completely without rambling. I would recommend making some notes as you go, both in practice interviews and the real interview. Good luck!
posted by kovacs at 8:33 AM on November 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'd also recommend Glassdoor. I looked up my current employer and several kind people had already provided some of the standard questions (they are used universally across the position and locations) and it really helped me prepared.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 9:33 AM on November 11, 2019

Congratulations on getting an interview! The above advice is great. I'm glad you recognize that you need to practice; I can always tell who has dedicated some time to the interview process and who hasn't!

If I were you, I would spend a few hours on each of the following tasks between now and then:

-find, collect and read example interview questions, looking for themes. You say the questions you'd prepped weren't asked; were they library questions? We often use our job ad to write interview questions--so if the job ad mentions "independent work, requiring self-motivated applicants" we might ask something like "Please tell us about a time you worked independently and how you self-motivated to complete projects and assignments".

-choose about twenty of those questions and WRITE down a two or three paragraph answer that addresses it. You won't read these, of course, but the goal is to have Goldilocks answers to interview questions--not one or two sentence answers, but not a ten-minute monologue, either.

-think of and then write down about ten to fifteen professional stories/anecdotes/hooks that illustrate different behavioral characteristics and PRACTICE these; you're looking for about a paragraph or two of something like "in my last position, I demonstrated initiative by identifying unmet patron needs around A,B, C and created programming to address these needs, one example of which was Project D".

-once you have your stories and your questions written down, rehearse them out loud with a friend as many times as you can. The goal is for this information to really sink in so you can draw from it during the interview.

-research the organization and write down questions in advance that you can ask them at the end of the interview. I'm always surprised at how few candidates do this and it's an easy way to show how much you want *this* job, not just *a* job. Generic ideas: What are the library's current priorities? What long-term projects are on the horizon for the library/this position? How do you see this position contributing to the library's mission? What do each of you like about working for this library?

It's ok that you don't remember the questions. In fact, that's probably a good thing. Before the interview, re-read the job ad, skim your answers, do some deep breathing or walk around the block, and go in prepared to crush it! I look for candidates that are: positive; knowledgeable about the job they're interviewing for; honest about their limitations but frame it as an opportunity (e.g., "my area of expertise is children's literature but I am looking for an opportunity to increase my knowledge of YA literature, which I'm passionate about/am already investigating outside of work"); interested in our organization and the work we're doing.

And, I really like the advice to pretend you're interviewing on behalf of a friend. I know this interview means a lot to you but if at all possible, please try to remember that you're interviewing them, too, and do your best to release as much self-pressure as possible before your interview. I know it's easier said than done but I think if you can approach this as a mutual interview (you have a lot to offer!), you'll perform much better. Wishing you all the best!
posted by stellaluna at 12:57 PM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Look at the job ad and/or key selection criteria. That should give you an idea of the key skills required for the job, eg customer service, attention to detail, teamwork, problem solving/analysis, leading a team, whatever. Then use the STAR interview technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result; google for more info) to come up with some examples from your past experience to show how you have done this kind of thing before. Ideally they would be examples from the library setting, but if you don't have them, focus on what is similar to the same work in libraries.

For example, customer service. It is not uncommon for people to ask about how you handle difficult customers or juggle customers with competing demands. So think of a time in your work history that you did this, describe the situation and specify what task (or goal) you wanted to achieve, what you did and what the result was.

It is also good to think of examples of things that didn't turn out so well and what you learned from the experience, especially if you can then demonstrate a change that you made as a result.

Then yes, practice with a friend.

Also, did you get any feedback as to why you were unsuccessful the last time you applied for the job? Do you have a sense of what you could have done better that might have gotten you the job? Work on those things.

And finally, do your research on the organisation, especially if it is part of a larger one (eg university library, local library linked with local government area). Look for things like policies, mission statements, organisational values, that kind of thing. Often they will ask questions to make sure you "fit in" with the organisational culture.
posted by Athanassiel at 1:00 PM on November 11, 2019

I've had a bunch of interviews lately and the most effective thing for me was printing out a list of potential library-focused questions (I started here; in my interviews I did have mostly "behavioral" questions but YMMV), taking long drives, and practicing answering them out loud over and over and over again.

For me the most difficult question is always the first one - the variation on "tell us about yourself" or "tell us why you want the job" because it's meant to break the ice and when it goes wrong (I tend to ramble, or lose my train of thought) it sets the tone for the rest of the interview (in my head, anyway). So I make sure I have that answer basically memorized.

Good luck!
posted by codhavereturned at 2:14 PM on November 11, 2019

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