Interview Prep; Tips to Keep in Mind

September 22, 2020


Dress the part: Confidence also comes from sorting out well in advance what you will wear to the interview. You needn’t break the bank to buy a new outfit; make sure everything is clean and pressed, and that your attire is appropriate for the position you hope to land. If uncertain, scope out the office; how do the people you hope to join present themselves?

Less is more: While I love perfumes, scents can distract from the process – and many workplaces now have scent-free policies. Keep this in mind, and also apply makeup with discretion; remember, less really can be more.

Come prepared, and listen carefully: Bring a pen and professional looking notebook to the interview; ask if you may jot down thoughts during the interview. If allowed, this may help you focus your responses on the question at hand. Then, listen to the questions being asked. If you’re not certain about something, ask the interviewer if s/he can repeat the question.

Empathy: Acknowledge that, while you may be excited, nervous and hopeful, it’s not all about you. Have some empathy for the busy people who are investing time in their search for the right assistant. They didn’t invite you to the interview to intimidate you, or make you break out in a cold sweat; these people have a need they’re seeking to fill, and the sheer time involved in interviewing likely means they’re sacrificing other needs in order to get this right. That’s their focus.

Don’t rely on your resume/CV to speak for you: Having served on a number of interview panels, I can tell you that this is not only one of the most frequent errors on the part of candidates, it’s also one of the easiest to resolve. Remember that the interviewer or panel needs to hear you articulate why you’re the right person for the role; in some environments, they can not assign you points/scores for your education or PD if you don’t touch on it during the interview. Keeping this single point in mind can dramatically improve interview success.

Rambling on: Focus on the question, and answer it. Don’t think that you have to provide your life story in response to each question, but balance that with refraining from providing terse, “yes” or “no” responses to questions. If in doubt, ask the interviewer if you’ve captured what s/he was seeking, or if s/he would like you to expand on your answer.

Grammar tells a story: It tells a story about you. While some workplaces are less formal than others, consider your use of language; there’s no place for slang in an interview and you want to display good grammar. Practice your responses, and check yourself for the use of “um”, “like”, “me and … “, “you guys”, or “you know”. Then sort out a way to eliminate such language from your interview vocabulary.

  • About the Author:Shelagh Donnelly educates and inspire assistants on topics ranging from meetings and minutes to business acumen, cybersecurity and working with boards. She helps assistants nurture their adaptability, productivity and resilience in order to enjoy the career and continue to add value even as roles evolve. An international speaker, Shelagh worked with C-level executives for more than 25 years and is recognized for her governance expertise. Shelagh founded her globally read Exceptional EA website in 2013, and is the author of the upcoming book, The Resilient Assistant.   

This article first appeared in Exceptional EA, a globally respected professional development resource for administrative professionals. Visit to find out more and tell her we sent you



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