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Interview Paralysis? Preparation is Protection


You walk into the interview are greeted by two, four or maybe six beady eyes staring at you. Your mouth goes dry, you feel the heat coming up your neck into your cheeks, and you know they are going red, you feel cold perspiration on your forehead, and in answer to a greeting you squeak or make a strange noise that sound vaguely like ‘good morning’.  It happens to the best of us and if it’s happened to you, be assured you are not alone.

With the exception of a very young person at entry level facing their first interview this kind of situation should never happen if you are fully prepared.  Preparation means having a total knowledge as far as is possible about your own career to date and the company you are applying to.

Interview paralysis is directly related to not being sure or confident about your career.  Most people think they know their career, but really do not.  Not sufficiently for interview purposes where you must have instant and total recall of every situation or event you display on your C.V.

An example of what I mean by instant and total is just supposing you met an old school friend who you hadn’t seen in twenty years.  In conversation, supposing they said, ‘I was only thinking of you last week, do you remember the time we skipped college and went off to the movies instead and were then caught sneaking back’.

Your immediate response might be a long delay, a blank stare and then very slowly you it starts to come back to you. You might say, ‘yes, I forgot all about that’, and with some further thought you add, ‘yes we went to see Bravehart and then something to eat afterwards.  If you hadn’t made so much noise the Dean wouldn’t have heard us sneaking back and got detention.

Now what’s that got to do with knowing your career history, you ask?

Just this: Imagine and just by co-incidence the very next day you met another old college pal who said the very same thing to you.  You would reply instantly and rattled off all the other details as above, without a second thought and in all good humour.

Why?  Because when you were asked the first time the whole event slowly came back into mind as it had faded away after twenty years lost in the mists of time.  When prompted, you recalled the whole event, it came back into mind.  You refreshed your memory and that event will be instantly recalled again if asked. (For a while anyway).

Likewise you must go through every event in your career history, recall the whole event, …….. Refresh your memory.

You must examine your skills or special attributes.  How and when did you develop these skills? …….. Refresh your memory.

Only when you have done this exercise with every comment you make in your C.V. and cover letter will be you competent to answer any question asked.

Knowledge and familiarity are the best medicine for interview nerves.  Good preparation with lots of recall is the answer.  Therefore take each section of the interview process and prepare.


1 The company who has invited you to interview

Search the company on the Web. If financial information would be relevant you may be able to get enough from their results page if available.  Larger companies and plc’s usually have a download page.

2 Who will be interviewing you?

You may or may not have been given this information already.  If not, ring the HR office of the company you are applying to and in preparation you would like to know who will be interviewing you. It’s not a problem and they will probably be quite happy to tell you.

Check them out on the web; all advance information helps.  When you walk in the door you will be able to recognise them and address them by name.

3 The job specification and likely expectations of the job on offer.

Print off the job specification and lay it beside your C.V. Underline everything that is on the job spec’ and your C.V. These are the attributes that link you to the job.  Go over each and think it through.  Dare I say it, …….. Refresh your memory!

4 Your skills and experiences that directly relate to those expectations.

Exactly as in No. 3 above

5 An in-depth, total and intimate knowledge of your career history

This is covered earlier on.  Read and re-read your C.V.  Re-live every event of your career to date in detail. …. Refresh your memory!

6 Well thought-out questions you can ask about the company.

You will find lots to ask about on the company website and maybe on the job specification as well.  It will also tell you about the company expectations.

Knowledge, familiarity and preparation are the key to confidence which allows you to respond comfortable to almost anything asked.

Total recall of your past will also allow you to slide into a topic or a past event that might not be a direct answer to a question but, an example close enough to what has been asked and where you are a bit light on experience.

There is no need or excuse for paralysis at interview.  Always remember that an interview is just a conversation between a few adults about a job on offer.  Be yourself, don’t pretend and always smile a bit, here and there throughout the meeting.

Further information about the author, Colm Cavey can be seen below and also at:

Good Luck

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