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Job Doc

To get beyond the initial interview: prepare

Q. I have been lucky enough to land interviews in my job search, but I haven’t made it past first interviews. I asked a few friends what they thought the problem might be. They told me I ramble. Am I talking too much?

A. Landing interviews proves you are doing something right in the job search. Here are some tips to help you get to a second interview:

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Prepare. Information is easily accessible about companies, so know the challenges they face, the industry issues that affect them, and the people you are scheduled to meet. Do the research.

Anticipate. Develop a list of questions you expect to be asked. Many interview questions are standard. These would include the ever popular “Tell me about yourself,” why you left earlier jobs, what your colleagues would say about you, and what are your strengths and weaknesses.

Script. Write the answers. Practice them out loud. Stay focused and develop a crisp message that delivers the information you want interviewers to know.

Time it. Many people spend four or five minutes on one answer at the start of the meeting, only to lose the interviewer’s interest. Talking more doesn’t make the response better; good content that engages interviewers and sells your skills does.

Listen. Do you understand the question? Is your answer to the point and delivered with the right level of detail?

Click and double click. Take a lesson from the Web. Consider initial interview questions as general questions to be answered at the first click level. Answer in greater detail, or make the double click, after the interviewer probes more deeply.

Ask if you have provided enough information. Let the interviewer tell you if you have provided enough detail. Look for cues you may be rambling. Are you and the interviewer maintaining eye contact?

Have a goal. The goal of a first interview is a second interview, not an offer. Understand the process and develop a plan to achieve that next goal.

Share. Prepare questions in advance and ask them. You will have a more balanced conversation and be less apt to ramble.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
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