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March 11, 2011
Autopsying the Botched Interview
 
We've all had that awful job interview where either we bobbled at a question someone tossed at us (such as: "If you could be any animal, what would you be?"), or we gave a bad answer and we later smacked our forehead (because we realized on the drive home that we could have given a much better answer).
 
I talk to a lot of people who are very stressed out about interviews because they've had bad ones. Many say they would rather have a root canal than go through the painful examination of an interview.
 
But you know what?Interviews are actually good for you. (Even for reasons other than the whole “getting-a-job” thing.)
  
If you really want to get over the jitters, you'll need to do an autopsy on your last interview to discover what you need to work on to improve your skills for next time.
 
Here are some tips on becoming more comfortable and at ease:
 
1) What was your gut instinct about the interview? Trusting your intuition is important. If you are feeling not-so-great about an interview and your performance in it, there might have been some non-verbal cues that the interviewers exuded that put you off. If you aren't walking out pumped up and energized, it may not have been the right opportunity for you.
 
2)  Interview often. Practice makes perfect. Even if you don’t think you’ll take the job, take the interview. Take the second interview, if you are offered one. Take the third, even if by that time you know you could never work for the company without killing someone. The more you do interview, the more it's like riding a bike.  And if you do happen to fall, it'll be a lot easier to get back on again.
 
3) Dig into the last interview and autopsy it. What did you do well? What did you do wrong?  What did you expect? What happened that was unexpected? Did you feel prepared or totally unready?
 
4) Write down all the questions you can remember from the last interview. By keeping a running list of real interview questions you've encountered, you can better predict what might be coming your way the next time you meet an employer. 
 
5) Do your research for the next interview. Did the employer in the last interview ask a question of you that, had you done your research, you could have answered? Confidence comes with knowledge. But sometimes, with just a little research, you can deflect those very specific questions if you say something germane.
 
If you don't take the time to truly examine how you performed in an interview, and don't dissect what you did well versus what was an #epicfail, you won't learn what you can do better for next time. In your lifetime, you'll have a lot more interviews than job offers, so understanding your strong points and weak points is incredibly important to your career. What you don't know will hurt you.

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Dawn Rasmussen, CMP, is the president of Portland, Ore.-based Pathfinder Writing and Careers, which specializes in mid- to upper-management résumés. She is an active volunteer in her community and donates her time teaching a résumé writing class at the Oregon Employment Department every week to help empower unemployed professionals and workers.
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