• By Cheryl Hyatt, Carrie Butler

Sharper than ever. Part 3 in a Series

Got the interview? Research and prepare completely.

When preparing for an interview, it's more important to hone skills to a sharper degree than ever before. Soft skills, like carrying on a well-paced conversation with an interviewers can be the difference between landing a desired position or not.

Research is a must.

Knowing as much as possible about the college or university counts a lot. Be sure to study the website of the college or university to understand its mission and culture. Spend time navigating the site to retrieve more information, especially about the area/department of interest.

Higher education institutions distribute news releases online so check these out and learn about the announcements the college considers important. Visit groups on LinkedIn to connect with people who may have attended the school and can share their thoughts. During the interview process, talking anecdotally about what's current for the institution demonstrates knowledge and interest in them. Tie in references about the school to express why it would be desirable to work there and contribute to the organization's goals.

Rehearse to polish speaking skills and avoid common mistakes.

It's a great idea for a candidate to practice and record his or herself speaking and adjust mannerisms to avoid common pitfalls. In particular, listen for words such as “like” and “um” in a response. It's better to pause in silence while formulating a response than to fill the gaps with like and um. Never refer to the men and women of the committee as ‘you guys.' An interview isn’t a ping-pong match where the committee asks questions and the candidate answers and waits for the next one - it’s more of a conversation. Therefore, don't be the only one answering questions during an interview.

Plan thoughtful questions.

Show interest and make an impression with well-planned questions to ask the committee during an interview. It's a good practice to write out questions and rehearse in advance. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask something like, “I’ve researched your university, and I was wondering how you think someone with my background could fit in as a member of your team.” At some point, consider asking an interviewer, “Could you tell me what’s your favorite thing about working here?”

Good interviewees never forget to sell their qualifications diplomatically, trumpet their value and express enthusiastic confidence in meeting the expectations of the job.

Follow up for the next steps.

Once the interview is over, remember to send (email is appropriate) a thank you note to the persons on the committee and express appreciation and continued eagerness for the position.

The resume, cover letter, and references can take a candidate only so far. Clearly articulating positive expectations, speaking professionally and practicing make all the difference.

Remember this: People who hire are very good at weeding out candidates their college or university shouldn’t hire. Especially in a buyer’s market like this, when employers can afford to be highly selective about whom they hire, the ability to be articulate will go a long way to landing the job.