Resume Help/Interview Mistakes


Dear Ralph,

I have talked to some of my friends who have recently interviewed for jobs.  Their experiences seem to be all over the place, so I'm not sure what the best way is to prepare for an interview.  Do you have any ideas about common mistakes made in interviews or best ways to prepare for them?  Thanks.

Hi John,

Congratulations! It sounds like you must have done some good things in that respect or you wouldn't have been given an interview.  The other good news is that you must have done your application package properly so part of the interview work is already done.  

If your resume and cover letter were properly done, you have probably already noted the institution's needs for this particular job and have described to them how your qualifications, skills, and education meet those needs.  If so, good work!  What you should now do in preparation is to think a bit about the institution's job description and put yourself in the position of the interviewer (or the interview committee if that is the situation).  What questions would you ask an applicant?  How would you determine if that person fits the needs you have to fill?  How can you determine (by your questions) the suitability of the candidate to be the best fit?

Once you have given the job description a serious, in-depth look, devise questions that you think you could be asked.  If you get stuck, write me at the email address below and I'll give you some suggestions.  Write each question on an index card and then list a few of your "talking points" (the things you want to be sure to convey to the interviewer about yourself) on the back of the card.  Come up with at least 20 of those.  Give the packet of cards to a person you can trust to give you an honest opinion and have them ask you the questions.  They should be sure you hit your talking points that you have on the back of each card.

Do this as many times as it takes you to get comfortable with your responses.  You do NOT have to make this canned, just planned.  You want to eliminate the conversational "fillers" that we all use sometimes ("uh" and "you know") and instead be confident with your responses.  The interviewer or committee actually want you to have planned your responses.  Again, they should not be learned word-for-word but rather they need to be planned so you come across as professionally prepared.

Don't forget to research the institution and the people who run it.  If you can find out who will be doing the interviewing before hand, so much the better.  It doesn't mean you're going to use every bit of info you find, but you should certainly be prepared if a question such as "How do you see your role in our XYZ program?" comes up.  If you are not aware of "program XYZ" they will likely conclude you haven't done the research you should have done and are, therefore, not adequately prepared.  You might be amazed at the number of people I have interviewed over the years who had little to no idea of what we actually did.  Not a good sign.

If you do your research and rehearsal, you will be ahead of 90% of the rest of the applicants.  No kidding.  So, get to it and let me know if I can help further.  Good luck!

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Ralph D. Converse, Ph.D.


I can answer questions about general job searches, resume construction, crafting an effective cover letter, and how to prepare for, and conduct, a winning interview. My speciality is the field of education, but I also have extensive background in business and administration. I know what works and what doesn't work and I can make your application package stand out from the rest ... because that is what you have to do.


I have interviewed for, and held, dozens of jobs in a career going back more than 42 years. I have taught at all educational levels including middle school, high school, community college, and university. In more than 42 years of experience on both sides of the job-search process, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants and have reviewed literally tens of thousands of job application packages. I am the author of 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them! I conduct workshops for job seekers in a variety of locations every year.

Music Educator's Journal, Teaching Music, Music and American Culture (forthcoming, 2013), Last Teacher Standing: The Job is Yours Now! and 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them!

B.A. New Mexico State University; M.Mus. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D. University of California and University of North Texas

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