Recommended Pre-Interview Reflection and Strategy Exercise

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Our average hiring manager interviews at least 5 candidates per opening, and some interview upwards of 20-30 candidates!  Because of this, it’s imperative that you have a constant focus on improving your interviewing skills, including confidence building and communication tactics, to ensure you’re differentiating yourself amongst those other applicants. 

Don’t know where to start?  In this tip, we’d like to introduce some pre-interview reflection and strategy exercises and questions that can greatly influence your chances of interview success.  Additionally, these will help ease any nerves or an “imposter syndrome” feeling, and improve your overall interview experience!


As a follow up to our 4 Offer Roadblocks tip, here is our favorite exercise to complete prior to an interview to ease those nerves, get better acclimated with the job description, perfect your pitch, address “skills gaps” and help you get excited about the opportunity so that excitement shines through during your interview! 

At least one day prior to every interview, pull out the job description and do the following:

  1. Re-read it, preferably twice. 
    • This may seem obvious, but it’s always a good idea to internalize what the client is looking for.  Not only will this get you in the right mindset, but it’ll help jumpstart the pre-interview exercises mentioned in the following steps.
  2. Use a highlighter to highlight the key skills/technologies/responsibilities mentioned that you’ve done/used.
    • Aligning how your skills match the client’s requirements is a great way to build confidence and help build out your elevator pitch, and it will be especially useful if the Manager/Interviewer asks some version of “Why are you a fit?”
  3. Use a different color to highlight the key skills/technologies/responsibilities you have NOT done/used, or perhaps haven’t done in a while. 
    • It’s normal to have skills gaps, but visualizing them will assist you in preparing an action plan for what to say when/if the manager brings it up! (See #7)  And it may help you realize that while you don’t have that particular skill/technology/responsibility, you’ve worked with something that may be similar to it.
  4. Use a pen to physically write out a list of why you’re qualified for this role.
    • Answering questions such as the below can be a big confidence booster, and again, can help frame a very strong and relevant “professional elevator pitch:”
      • How many years of experience do you have with key technologies/requirements listed?
      • What projects have you completed that align with what is mentioned?
      • What certifications/education do you have that it requires and prefers?
      • What other experience/accomplishments do you have that make you highly qualified to contribute to this role?
  5. Do some additional research on the company and write down what interests you about them and a few questions you have for the Manager/Interviewer.
    • Taking time to prepare well thought-out questions that are relevant for the person/audience you’re interviewing with, is crucial to help ensure you have an accurate reflection of what the role will actually look like and help ensure you’re communicating your interest and relevant skills/background. 
    • Example questions to ask Manager/Interviewer:
      • What are looking for this person to accomplish in the next 30, 90, 180 days?
      • How do you evaluate performance / how do you measure success of this role?
      • Are there any big projects/initiatives that this person will assist with?
      • Will you share any details on your technology roadmap (i.e. what technologies, including new versions, are on the horizon for the next 6-18 months)?
      • Who does this position support/who are the key stakeholders?
      • What do you foresee as the largest roadblock?
  6. Verbally outline or write out a list of why you are interested in and excited about this role, identifying at least 2-3 “interest igniters” on the opportunity.
    • Demonstrating an interest in the position, company, industry, clients they support, etc. can be a major candidate differentiator, as Managers want to hire individuals who are excited about the work and will be long-term contributors!  It’s a given that you’ll be asked something along the lines of “why do you want to work here” or “why are you interested in this company/job,” so it’s important to be prepared!  The manager/interviewer is looking for items that align with their role and likely their and the company’s goals and values.  Know what appeals to you and ensure you are able to effectively communicate it!
    • Interests may include, but are not limited to:
      • Technological landscape
      • Interest in the services provided
      • Company awards and recognition – Best Places to Work, Fastest Growing, Most Innovative, etc.
      • Company reputation and overall values
      • Company initiatives such as philanthropic partnerships, training programs, etc.
  7. Identify what skills/technologies you do NOT have and determine how you’ll address, i.e. “While I do not have experience with _____ technology, I have experience with _______.”  
    • You’ve already highlighted any skills gaps in part 2, so now is the time to prepare your rebuttal when they ask about a skill/technology that you don’t have experience with.  For example, “While I don’t have experience with SQL Server 2016, I have worked with it in my home environment” OR “While I don’t have experience with SQL Server 2016, I have completed an online training course on SQL Server fundamentals.”
    • A very important note here is that most Managers will interview and hire candidates who do NOT have everything on their original “requirements wish list.”  Yet, too often job seekers/candidates get hung up and discouraged when they’re missing a technology, version of a technology, or other skill listed as a requirement.  Do not let a missing skill/technology deter you from applying or scare you off during the interview process!     

Optional best practice: 

Invest time brushing up on, or learning, any skills/technologies the position asks for that you don’t have recent, or any, experience with.  For example, if the position asks for Tableau, try and take an online training course and/or download and use in your home environment to gain some knowledge on it.  Then, make sure you communicate that during the interview (per #7 above).  This goes above and beyond to show initiative, willingness to learn, and overall competency!  We’ve had many situations where hiring managers have expressed the reason they hired a particular candidate was because of this very best practice.  And in most cases, it was a candidate that was less qualified in the core requirements than their competition!  Never underestimate the importance of taking a few minutes to research the unknown.  There are countless free tutorials available!

Next Steps

To get ahead of, and minimize major potential “candidate hiring concerns,” complete this exercise at least one day prior to every interview!

The outcome should be:

  1. Stronger understanding of how your skills/experience align with the requirements, so you can deliver a customized “why me” elevator pitch.  
  2. Able to effectively communicate your interest in the role and company, which can be a huge candidate differentiator since Managers want to hire someone who’s passionate about working in that role for their organization.
  3. Identification of any “skills gaps” with thought out rebuttals that can minimize those being a valid hiring concern.

Just remember that you got the interview for a reason!  The manager saw something they liked, so follow this exercise to ensure you are on top of your game the day of and exhibiting all you have to offer.

Want more insights?  We have published 20+ tips related to interviewing, which you can review here.

About the author
Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Cate Murray Cate Murray is responsible for managing the nationally-based talent acquisition strategies of the Apex Systems PMO and Business Analysis Practice and holds her PMP certification from PMI.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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