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Interview Success Based on Product Knowledge

Christine Connors

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The interview process can be daunting but exciting at the same time. You have spent time looking for that perfect job, prepared and sent in your resume and managed to get onto a shortlist for an interview. Your first reaction is positive and you are on a high. Then, you start to think of the interview itself and sitting in front of a perfect stranger or a panel of strangers and that high quickly turns into fear and anxiety. Negative thoughts take over and you are consumed by everything that could go wrong.

What makes some people breeze through an interview without appearing nervous at all while others, like many of my clients, fumble through it and lose perspective of the situation?

There are many reasons: preparation, past failures or successes in a similar situation, self-esteem and confidence, desire or motivation, how at ease the interviewer is making the candidate feel and most importantly, ‘product knowledge’.

By ‘product knowledge', I mean how well the person being interviewed knows themselves and believes they are right for the position. Imagine the difficulty in trying to sell something you have little confidence in or limited knowledge. It diminishes any competitive edge you may have had when you were short listed. What the employer recognised in your resume as a desirable quality is replaced by a poor impression created by an inability to effectively articulate your strengths, who you are or what you represent.

The importance of getting to know yourself cannot be overstated. Assessing how you really feel about the types of jobs you are going for and gaining a better understanding about who you are and what your true aspirations are will bring career clarity and confidence.

It is time to do an inventory of your capabilities. This process, done properly, should reveal a number of things: a better understanding of the ‘product'; a higher level of self-confidence; a significant improvement in how you present and articulate yourself; a confirmation that the path you have chosen for yourself is the appropriate one; or a need to reconsider your options based on what motivates and energises you. It was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one. You cannot make any useful contribution in life unless you do this". Some very wise words to reflect upon.

Preparing an inventory of your capabilities requires honesty and focusing on both your strengths and your weaknesses. Look back at all your accomplishments and give them recognition. Think about all the challenging situations you have been in and how you managed to overcome them and achieve positive outcomes. Be proud of yourself for all your successes and try and write down what qualities you possess that made you succeed in those situations. Your weaknesses are also important because they add to your uniqueness and will help determine how successful you will be in situations or environments that require those skills. Then consider your short and long term goals and prepare a roadmap of how you think you will achieve them. What ‘vehicles’ do you need to get to your destination? Are there any gaps in your skill set that need to be addressed?

It is easier for some than others to do an inventory of their capabilities. If your self-esteem is low due to factors such as being laid off from work recently, or being a stay-at-home mum or dad for a considerable period of time or lacking exposure to the workforce, then try focusing on what you know interests you. What aspects of your previous job did you find stimulating? Which lectures/projects did you find interesting at university? Do you like interacting with people, presenting, negotiating outcomes, dealing with customers, organising projects? It will be empowering to discover things about yourself.

Then think about what you do not like. This will help you determine which jobs you are not suited for and should not be pursuing. Keep in mind there are often aspects of every job a person does not like, so be realistic. As long as it is not a major component of a position and there are many other motivating factors in the job or field of work, then it should be considered.

After performing this exercise, prepare a personal statement about yourself. This is a good test of how well you have gone through the exercise. It should be much easier to articulate who you are and there should be greater clarity around your capabilities. With greater clarity comes an increase in confidence and a more competitive and stronger candidate.

There are many more aspects to preparing for an interview but if your ‘product knowledge’ is good, you are more than half way towards personal success. Practice your interview skills with a coach or a friend who is able to give you honest and constructive feedback. Make your moment count.

© Copyright 2008, Christine Connors, Interview for Success

Christine Connors is a personal interview coach with Interview for Success. For more details on how she can help you realise your potential visit


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