I have more recent experience in job applications and interviews that I care to think about, but given my current success rate I am more than happy to get some extra advice. I think it's always important to carefully read through the job description to see what it is that employers really want. You need to tailor your skill set to what they want and this is going to be different for each and every job. I think that one of the biggest mistakes that people make in applications is turning in the same thing every time, just phrased in a different way. Almost all my experience is in cataloguing. I have applied for many, many jobs in cataloguing and got used to phrasing the same thing in a new way every time since cataloguing was so central to the roles I was applying for. It's only recently that I have started applying for jobs outside cataloguing and have had to really think about what else I need to put in my application.
I would say that one of the best pieces of advice I have been given is not to over-prepare for interviews. Some people go into interviews with answers already rehearsed to certain questions. This is great if these questions get asked but if not then you run the risk of giving you very carefully rehearsed answer when they interviewer has asked a totally different question. I'm also pretty sure that they can tell when you have rehearsed too much and one of the points of an interview is to test how you can think on you feet.
The best things to do in order to prepare for an interview, in my opinion, are:
- know the company/library/department that you are applying to. Do your research on what they do and how they do it. If it's another department in your current workplace then buy someone who works there a coffee and talk to them about what they do. Interviewers really appreciate when you have taken an interest in their workplace. It shows that you want to work there, not just anywhere
- have some examples from your working life ready. Interviewers always want real life examples of something you have done, for example how you have handled a difficult situation or what your role is in a team. Having some concrete examples to draw on helps put your skills in context and gives you something solid to talk about if you get stuck
- don't be afraid to talk about you accomplishments. This is your chance to shine so take it. I'm not saying that you should come across as arrogant but these people are there to hear about you and what you can do so it's not the time for modesty. A lot of people, myself included, are slightly uncomfortable with talking about themselves this way but if you don't do it for yourself then no one else will
Interviews are very scary things so the other bit of advice I will give is to get yourself a treat afterwards. This way you have something to look forward to even if it doesn't work out this time. And if you don't get the job, just remember that it's their loss!