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5 Must-Do Steps To Prepare For An Interview

Photo courtesy of Pexels


Written by Angela Hartleigh

Next Steps Career Services


5 Must-Do Steps to prepare for an Interview

 

Preparing for a job interview may feel daunting, but by following a few key steps, you can increase your chances of success. From doing your homework on the company and the position to practicing your answers to common interview questions, each step is important in making a good impression and landing the job you want. In this post, we will go over five key steps to preparing you for your next interview and helping you make a lasting impression on potential employers.

 

1.     Do your homework

 

Doing your homework is the foundation of successful interview preparation. Begin by thoroughly researching the company and the specific position for which you're applying. Delve into their mission, values, and culture to gain a comprehensive understanding of their identity and goals. Carefully study the job description, paying close attention to the essential qualifications and skills required for the role.

 

To gain further insights into the company's culture and employee experience, explore their social media presence and read reviews on reputable websites. If you have the opportunity, connect with someone within the company to gain firsthand knowledge about the role and the team you might be joining. This proactive approach demonstrates your genuine interest and enthusiasm for the position, setting you apart from other candidates.

 

2.     Know your resume

 

Knowing your resume inside and out is crucial for acing an interview. It serves as your personal narrative and showcases your skills, experiences, and achievements. To make the most of your resume during an interview, follow these tips:

 

·         Become thoroughly familiar with the content of your resume. This means understanding the details of your work history, educational background, skills, and accomplishments. Be prepared to discuss each item on your resume and explain how it relates to the position you're applying for.

 

·         Practice talking about your resume. Rehearse describing your experiences and accomplishments in a clear and concise manner. Highlight the most relevant information and be ready to provide specific examples of your work. Use action verbs and quantify your achievements whenever possible.

 

·         Anticipate common interview questions and prepare your answers. Many interview questions are designed to probe your resume and assess your fit for the role. Practice answering questions about your career goals, strengths, weaknesses, and why you're interested in the position. Tailor your answers to the specific job for which you are applying and ensure they align with the information on your resume.

 

·         Study the job description and identify how your skills and experiences match the requirements. Be ready to articulate how your background aligns with the role's responsibilities and qualifications. Highlight any relevant industry knowledge, technical expertise, or transferable skills that make you a strong candidate.

 

·         Use your resume as a visual aid during the interview. Bring a copy of your resume for yourself so you can refer to it as needed. This can help you stay organized and ensure that you cover all the key points you want to convey. However, avoid reading directly from your resume; instead, use it as a prompt to guide your conversation.

 

By thoroughly knowing your resume and being prepared to discuss it effectively, you can make a strong impression during your interview and increase your chances of landing the job.

 

 Photo courtesy of Pexels

 

Imagine yourself as the interviewer, because you are. You are deciding if this is where you want to work. Right now, you may think that you just need a job and your thoughts are all about impressing them. But three months from now, you want to make sure that you are happy with the choice you made so make sure they impress you, too. The interview is a two-way conversation. Understanding that will also make you less nervous. Remember that you are also there to gain information from them as much as to give them information about you.

 

·         Conduct thorough research on the company. Get a clear understanding of what the company does before the interview. Be able to have an informed conversation with them not only in answering their questions, but also in how to ask yours.

 

·         Keep an open mind when looking at online reviews from former employees, but do not disregard them. If you see that many people have said the same thing, especially if it is problems with management, take that into consideration. What is the turnover like?

 

·         Research the status of the industry. How is the overall job market for this industry? Have there been recent layoffs? If so, how has the company prepared for that?

 

·         Carefully review the job description. Frame questions related to the scope of responsibilities, opportunities for professional growth, and the dynamics within the team.

 

 

3.     Practice

 

Practicing before the interview will help prepare you for questions you may be asked. This includes conducting mock interviews, practicing your body language and verbal communication, and researching the company and the specific role for which you are applying.

 

Practicing for an interview is crucial for success. One effective method is to conduct mock interviews. This can be done with friends, family, or even a professional career counselor. During these mock interviews, you can simulate the real interview environment, allowing you to become comfortable with answering questions. You will feel more prepared and will, therefore, be more confident and less nervous.

 

Additionally, pay attention to your body language and verbal communication during the mock interviews. Make eye contact, maintain good posture, and speak clearly and concisely. How you present yourself in the interview tells them a lot about how you will handle the job. Your body language and verbal communication can convey confidence and professionalism, making a positive impression on the interviewer. While your focus is on impressing them to get the job, their focus is on how well they think you could do the job. If you are confident in your ability, they will be confident. If you appear nervous, they may perceive that you are nervous in your ability to do the job. Confidence is an important element to your success in the interview process and practice helps build that.

 

4.     Prepare questions to ask

 

Always, always, always go into the interview with at least five questions to ask at the end of the interview. You will only need to ask two, but several of your questions could be answered during the interview process, so you want to have enough well-thought-out questions to demonstrate your genuine interest in the position and the organization.

 

If you don’t already have one, go to an office supply store before the interview and get a leather portfolio, or if you have time, you can get one online for about $13 from Amazon. After you have done your greetings, handshakes, and are sitting down for the interview, ask if they mind if you take notes. They won’t mind, but that gives them the notice that you take the interview process seriously. Then do take notes.

 

Don’t wait until the end of the interview to ask all of your questions. As much as possible, try to let this be a conversation, not an inquisition. The interviewer typically leads the conversation, but there is nothing wrong with you asking questions throughout, as well.

 

Imagine yourself as the interviewer, because you are. The interview is a two-way conversation. You are deciding on them as much as they are deciding on you. Right now, you may think that you just need a job and your thoughts are all about impressing them. But three months from now, you want to make sure that you are happy with the choice you made so make sure they impress you, too. Understanding that will also make you less nervous. Remember that you are also there to gain information from them as much as to give them information about you.

 

·         Conduct thorough research on the company. Get a clear understanding of what the company does before the interview. Be able to have an informed conversation with them not only in answering their questions, but also in how to ask yours.

 

·         Keep an open mind when looking at online reviews from former employees, but do not disregard them. If you see that many people have said the same thing, especially if it is problems with management, take that into consideration. What is the turnover like?

 

·         Research the status of the industry. How is the overall job market for this industry? Have there been recent layoffs? If so, how has the company prepared for that?

 

·         Carefully review the job description. Frame questions related to the scope of responsibilities, opportunities for professional growth, and the dynamics within the team.

 

Here are three important questions to ask during the interview if they have not already been addressed:

 

·         Why is this position open? Is it a new position? If so, why was it created? What primary functions were not being met that are expected with the creation of this new role? Or is the previous person leaving, and if so, why? Did they get promoted? If so, what did they do so well to cause them to get the promotion? How long were they in this role? Will they be available for questions after they leave?

 

·         Aside from the technical skills needed to do the job, what soft skills are required? This helps you address personality traits and other soft skills you have that may not get asked by other candidates.

 

·         What projects are most pressing for this role right now? This helps you to know what you would need to jump in to do right away, and it also shows them that you are proactively preparing yourself to do the job, not just get the job.

 

Here are some good questions to help you gain insight into the culture. Choose one or two that resonate best with you:

 

·         What are some of the most common reasons people love working here?

·         What are new employees surprised by when they start working here?

·         Can you describe the onboarding experience that new employees have?

·         How does the company handle conflicts between employees?

·         In what ways has the company changed since you’ve been here?

·         Can you describe how collaboration typically works here?

·         How does the company support employees’ growth?

·         How does the company maintain clear and open communication?

·         What’s the typical approach to performance reviews?

·         Can you share a time when the company’s values shaped a business decision?

·         How are decisions made in the company, and who typically gets involved?

·         What opportunities for learning and development does the company offer?

·         What practices does the company have concerning diversity and inclusion?

·         In what ways does the company celebrate milestones and achievements?

 

Avoid questions about salary, benefits, or vacation policies with the hiring manager. These questions are best asked to the recruiter. There is nothing wrong with asking these questions to ensure that it is a good fit for your needs, as well. But you just want them to know that is not your sole focus. Instead, focus on questions that convey your enthusiasm for the role, your ability to add value, and your desire for personal and professional development within the organization.

 

Also avoid the question, “Do you have any concerns about my qualifications?” or anything similar. If they do, they will ask. You don’t want to end the interview leaving them thinking about their concerns about your candidacy. It is an outdated question that only puts the interviewer on the spot and irritates them. Instead, end the interview with something like this, “What was the best thing that happened for you in working here within the last week?” This will tell you a lot about the culture. If they have something right away, or if they light up when that thing crosses their mind, that’s obviously a great sign. If they hesitate, that could be a red flag. If they have trouble coming up with anything, take note of that.

 

Here are some other good questions to save for the end of the interview:

 

·         What are the things you love most about working here and what do you see that needs improvement? It is the same “strengths/weaknesses” question that you might get asked but I believe is more appropriate a question to ask of them. They will likely say that they what they love most is the people. If they don’t, take note of that. Deliberately use the plural “things” and see how they respond. If they only give you one, take note of that, too. And ask it as one question so they know when answering the positive that you are asking for both. Don’t probe further, just take notes.

 

·         How is performance measured and how is feedback given? What you’re looking to find out is if there is only an annual performance review and what that process is? Is there on-going feedback (weekly, monthly, etc.)? Are there one-on-one meetings between the manager and their reports?

 

Remember, the goal of asking questions is not only to gather information but also to highlight your alignment with the company's values and objectives, assuming you are aligned. Well-prepared questions reflect your enthusiasm, curiosity, and commitment to contributing to the organization's success.

 

Photo courtesy of Pexels

5.     Walk through the logistics

 

Before embarking on your interview journey, it's imperative to meticulously plan the logistics to ensure a seamless and stress-free experience. Begin by confirming the interview's date, time, and location. Confirm whether it is a virtual or onsite interview. Double-check these details to avoid any misunderstandings or last-minute surprises. Research the dress code for the interview. Will it be business, business casual, or something else entirely? Dress one step above the dress code for the position. If position is casual, dress business casual. If it is business casual, dress business.

 

If it is a virtual interview, ensure that you have the proper equipment, that the software is installed and updated, and that everything works as it should. Do a trial run to make sure. I have had the experience of believing everything was ready to go, only to discover that the software needed to update, making me late for a meeting. Don’t find yourself in that position. For a virtual interview, be five minutes early.

 

For an onsite interview, plan your transportation to and from the interview ahead of time. If driving, factor in potential traffic delays and allow ample time to arrive punctually. Make sure you factor in the time of day that you will be traveling. If using a GPS, put in the time of the interview to have it give you driving times according to typical traffic at that time. If your interview is at 9:00 a.m., but you look at the traffic at 9 p.m., your travel time will likely be very different. If using public transportation, study the routes and schedules in advance to avoid any unexpected hiccups. If you are unfamiliar with the location, travel to it ahead of time so you know where to go. For an onsite interview, walk in the door exactly 15 minutes early. Any earlier comes across as a disrespect of the interviewer’s schedule and time. Any later appears that you just barely made it on time and that if you get the job, you will be the one walking in the door exactly on time or late.

 

Be pleasant to everyone you encounter! Either way, it will get back to the hiring manager.

 

Carry several extra copies of your resume and references in your new portfolio, or a professional folder.  


Good luck! You've got this!

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