The Easiest Way to Prepare For a Job interview

While everybody makes mistakes, it’s important you learn from boo-boos you’ve made while interviewing.  You’ll make fewer gaffes by preparing for interviews. A smart way to get ready for a job interview is to get a job description beforehand.

Poor Lenore couldn’t get a job description

Commenting on one of my earlier posts about interview preparation, Lenore wrote this:

“Sometimes there is not time to do my homework online or to get a job description. An agency often calls in the evening telling me to show up at a company the next day for an interview. It’s happened to me twice in a four-month job search so far. How do I handle that?”

How to get a job description when you’re not given one beforehand

In the post Lenore referred to, I wrote about the importance of trying obtain a job description from the recruiter or HR representative with whom you’re setting up an interview.

A job’s specifications will inform you about the skills and abilities the hiring manager expects you to bring to the table. Armed with a job description, you can rehearse the evening before by matching your assets to what the company is looking for.

As in Lenore’s situation, you won’t always be able to get a job description over the phone or by e-mail on the eve of your interview. What then? You can get that information during the interview simply by asking for it.

The time to ask for a verbal job description is after  you meet and greet your prospective employer and have taken a seat. Then, be the first to speak by asking your interviewer this question: “Before we get down to business, Mary, would you mind describing the ideal candidate? What are you looking for?”

If Mary answers your question, she has armed you with the information you need in order to match your skills and abilities—those bullet points on your resume—to what she’s looking for in a candidate.

However, you need to keep in mind that most corporate job descriptions are written by committees. Let’s say you interview five people at the same company (uggh). Each of them will have a somewhat different take about what the job entails.

Turn yourself into a chameleon

Chameleon’s have the ability to change color in order to blend into their environment. You need to do the same by blending into your prospect’s expectations. You’ll accomplish that at each interview by opening the conversation the same way:  “before we get down to business would you mind describing the ideal candidate?” Now, you’re targeting your pitch to what each interviewer tells you about the qualities they THINK they’d like to see in a future colleague.

I recall one of my coaching clients told me that after he popped the “would you mind telling me” question at a recent interview, the hiring manager smiled and said, “nobody has asked me that question before. I’m interested in knowing why you asked.”

My client gave this honest answer: “So I can target my interview presentation to your needs.”

Job search candidates have reported fantastic results from using this technique. It elicits information on the spot that you might not otherwise obtain. This lets you target even further your interview responses to the exact needs of a prospective employer.

 The easiest way to get information

So Lenore and dear readers—while it’s always nice to have a job description to study before a job interview,  asking for it during an interview is no sweat when you keep this truism in mind: the easiest way to get information is to simply ask for it.

Many thanks to Lenore for her comments, which gave me the opportunity to write this post. I’ll also be happy to respond to your comments.

In the meantime, you can get many more tips about how to ace any interview—which includes strategic questions to ask and how to answer the toughies—in my book “Your One-Minute Job Finding Coach: how to find a job and manage your career while coping with the hassles of it all.”

CLICK HERE to learn what the book can do for you and to order from Amazon.

Copyright ©2016 by Ransom (Randy) Place

About the Author

RANDY PLACE IS A JOB-FINDING and executive coach, writer on career topics, broadcaster, and host of For twenty-three years, he helped thousands of employees who had been let go from JPMorgan Chase find jobs. And he coached executives at CBS Television, Pitney Bowes, and major outplacement firms in New York on job-finding techniques, communications skills, and selling strategies. An accomplished seminar leader and speaker, Randy has designed and presented workshops on interviewing, telephoning techniques, job-search writing, and sales training nationwide. Randy's groundbreaking nationally syndicated radio series, Your Career Service, has been heard on over two hundred radio stations across the United States. And his articles on career topics have appeared in the Wall Street Journal's National Business Employment Weekly. A former broadcast journalist in New York, he has also been a commercial spokesperson for an array of national and regional advertisers. In addition, Randy was a sales executive at NBC Radio and the New York City sales manager for syndication at Wolper Productions. He holds a Bachelor's in Sociology and Broadcasting from Syracuse University, and a Master's in Journalism from New York University.