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Can you be over-prepared for an interview? The answer is NO. Being carefully and thoroughly prepared is an important key to successfully giving an outstanding interview. Being well prepared includes: (1) building self-confidence; (2) demonstrating to the interviewers that you’ve done your homework; (3) and providing well-constructed evidence that you have mastered the knowledge, attitudes and skills that they are seeking in a top candidate. What can you do so that you do not come off as sounding rehearsed? How can you prepare yourself? How do you know if you’re well prepared?
• Practice how not to come off as sounding rehearsed—Your tone should be conversational. Slow down your speaking pace. Speak directly to the question; do not go off on tangents. Eliminate using excessive verbiage and jargon. Listen to the entire question and do not start answering before the questioner has stopped talking. Briefly pause before you speak. Thoughtful people think before they speak. If you manage to do all of these things, you will come off sounding more natural.
• Be prepared-- Preparation has to do with taking a deep dive into all of the information you can gather about the town, district, school, school leadership, and school priorities and issues from a wide variety of sources. Try to anticipate areas or themes of questioning derived from the job posting and your research. Craft thoughtful answers and rehearse your responses. Time the length of your responses; keep your answers down to two minutes. Get high quality feedback from knowledgeable and a trusted mentor and coach. Based on feedback, carefully fine tuning your answers.
• Am I fully prepared—Do you remember the saying, “The proof is in the pudding”? If you have a pattern of getting interviews but are failing to move more deeply into the process, then you probably are not adequately prepared. You can waste years in your job search trying to figure out what went wrong and attempting to make adjustments by self-diagnosing and “self-modifying” your answers based on shreds of incomplete feedback, and well -intended advice. In other words, using “trial and error”. Be careful about getting too many opinions. Opinions are often contradictory, and it will be confusing. The answer is to find yourself an experienced coach. A good coach can evaluate your answers, help give you clarity, and remediate your approach to interviewing.
An interviewer once challenged me during an interview that I had anticipated his questions and that my answers appeared to be well rehearsed. Somehow I found the presence of mind to respond this way: “Assuming that you’re right, I would think you’d conclude that my ability to anticipate your questions were impressive pieces of research and thinking, and I assume you want well-prepared and smart leaders working for you.” The result was that I was moved on to the next stage of the process. There is no downside in being “over-prepared”.
Dr. Larry Aronstein coaches school leaders and aspiring leaders in preparing for interviews and in the preparation of resumes. Learn more about him by visiting www.larryaronstein.com