Think you know how to prepare for an interview? The difference between landing the job of your dreams and bombing the interview often boils down to one key element: how well you prepare.
It’s not possible to anticipate every question that will be asked. It is entirely possible (and advisable) to enter your interview with a strong sense of what to expect and how to approach each question!
In fact, that’s the entire reason we built our flagship interview preparation product Big Interview- we know there’s a proven set of steps to take.
Here are some things to do as a part of your preparation that will boost your confidence and enable you to leave the interview feeling sure you have presented your best self:
How To Prepare For An Interview: Step 1. Research the Company
Doing thorough research on the company you are applying to will put you head and shoulders above your competition. When you go in to your interview with a firm knowledge of the company and the potential role you will be filling, you’ll be able to answer questions in a much more tailored and targeted way.
A few specific things you are going to want to know before you walk into the room with your interviewer include:
1. The Product
Know the product(s) your company produces and promotes. You don’t need to understand every detail about every aspect of what the company makes, but definitely have a basic understanding of the primary things your company produces, sells, or values.
If possible, get a hold of a sample of the product to understand how it works from the consumer’s point of view. The more knowledge you have about this, the better it will serve you in your interview.
2. The Role
Read the job description carefully, being sure you understand the responsibilities that will be expected of you. Understanding the job role will help you ask thoughtful questions during the interview and will give you a good idea of what your work day will look like regarding tasks you will be expected to perform.
Be sure to ask for any clarification you need about what is expected from your job role during your interview so you can feel confident you have all the information needed in the event you are given a job offer.
3. The Personality
Most companies keep updated blogs and social media profiles that discuss their industry and company culture. Use these materials as a way to research the tone and overall personality of the company you are interviewing with to get a feel for the specific culture of the workplace. If you have questions about the workplace environment when conducting this research, jot them down to ask during your interview.
Step 2. Know Your Values and Ask Questions
Self-awareness is one of the most important and most sought-after competencies to have in the workplace. Spending some time in reflective introspection about the career choices you have made will give you a good idea of the things you value in your working like.
Make note of the questions you would like to ask about the company and workplace culture that are important to you.
These questions can range in topic from the software and tools used by the company, to the policy on taking time off. Remember, the interview is as much about you finding a good fit for your career goals as it is for the company to find a good fit for the job role. Knowing that your values align with your potential employer is essential to having a smooth and happy working life.
Step 3. Prepare Answers to Common Questions
Though many interviews contain notoriously dreaded questions like, “What is your greatest weakness?” with a little preparation, these questions are nothing to fear. It’s important to be succinct, specific, and honest in your replies, but don’t overthink it.
Jot down some bullet point responses to the most commonly asked interview questions and rehearse them so they are fresh in your mind when the day of the big interview comes.
Expect to encounter some variation of the following during your interview:
• Tell us about yourself
• What are your greatest strengths?
• Greatest weaknesses?
• Describe your work history
• Why are you interested in this position/working for this company?
• Why are you looking now? Or Why did you leave your last job?
• When is a time you failed and how did you respond?
• Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Big Interview is designed to help you anticipate what questions will be asked at your interview based on your experience and the industry you are breaking in to. Click here to read more about what’s inside our step-by-step interview preparation system.
Step 4. Know What You’re Bringing to the Table
Many people become uncomfortable at the idea of “selling themselves,” but presenting yourself in your best light does not have to feel gimmicky or disingenuous. The fact is, you do have skills and experiences that set you apart and it is completely acceptable to acknowledge that about yourself.
When preparing for your interview, know how your particular skill set will translate to your job role and how it will help contribute to the overall goals of the team or department.
Having stats on hand about how you have grown and succeeded in your previous roles will serve you well here. For instance, what percentage of overall sales were you responsible for in your last position? How much did your previous companies’ social media engagement grow when you were managing it?
Whatever accomplishments you have that are relevant to the position will be a great asset for your interviewer to know. Don’t be shy about sharing your accomplishments. Your interviewer is hoping you are a good fit as much as you are, so make sure they have all of the reasons why this job should be yours.
Step 5. Know the Location of the Interview
As if job interviews aren’t nerve-wracking enough, often interviews happen in places we have never been before. This can cause a great deal of anxiety, especially if you live in a big city or are easily made nervous by driving in unfamiliar places.
To avoid becoming harried and anxious due to commuting before your interview, take some of these steps during your preparation to help put your mind at ease:
• Leave in Plenty of Time
You’d rather be early than late, so be sure to build in time to account for heavy traffic, getting lost, having to park far away, trouble locating the suite number, or any other small thing that can inconveniently arise when you are least expecting it. If travel goes smoothly, you can take the extra time to calm yourself and go over everything one more time.
• Save Your Interview’s Contact Information
Sometimes, in spite of our best preparation, life still throws a curve ball at the worst possible time. If something happens and you realize you’re going to be late, call your interviewer and let them know. Most people are sympathetic and understand that life happens, but be sure to give an ETA and a reasonable explanation for your tardiness.
• Look Up the Location Beforehand
Thanks to modern technology, it’s never been easier to look up locations on your phone or home computer. Do a little research before your interview and figure out where the building you will be interviewed in is located. If it’s in a large building, be sure you have the correct suite number.
Parking can also be a big concern, so be sure you know where there is available parking near the location. Interviewers often include this information while scheduling the interview, but don’t be afraid to ask if it’s something you are anxious about.
If time and circumstances permit, it is also a good idea to go by the location before the day of your interview so you have an understanding of the lay of the land.
Step 6. Prepare with Mock Interviews
We’re speaking from years of experience coaching people on interview skills when we say that practice is THE best way to both increase your confidence and polish your presentation skills.
We have seen clients go from nervous, fidgeting ramblers to irresistible charmers. Practice may be a bit tedious, but it’s well worth it.
Also, no matter how many times you practice an answer in your head, it will sound different to you when you speak it aloud. For this reason, it’s important to speak your responses out loud as part of your interview preparation. This will allow you to fine tune anything that may have sounded great in your head, but doesn’t really flow or feels awkward and out of place once articulated verbally.
Big Interview is specifically designed to help you with the mock interview process. We have literally thousands of practice questions — separated into specific mock interviews for hundreds of different job roles. Our practice interview tool allows you to practice your answers any time, any place.
Take our advice and make your mistakes in the dress rehearsal and not the big interview itself. The more you’ve practiced and the better prepared you are, the higher your chances are of acing the interview and beginning the career of your dreams.
Step 7. Print Hard Copies of Your Resume
Though most employers ask for digital copies of your resume during the application process, they may not have one on hand when it comes time to interview you. Having a copy readily available shows that you are organized and prepared.
It is advisable to have at least 3 hard copies with you. Two in case there is more than one interviewer, and one for yourself to use to follow along as the interviewer is discussing your work history.
• Anticipate Questions About Your Resume
In your preparations, be sure to have rehearsed your explanations for any oddities or large gaps that may appear on your resume. For instance, being out of the workforce for many years to care for a child or elderly parent, or re-entering the workforce after having been self-employed, are understandable reasons why there may be large gaps on your resume. (Worth noting: we have a whole section of our blog with more in-depth content on creating a good resume.)
• Be Honest, But Diplomatic
In some cases, questions about your resume can be awkward and require diplomacy. You want to be honest in your responses, but you also don’t want the interview to jump to incorrect conclusions. For example, if you left a job after a short time because of a toxic manager, it can be difficult to explain yourself without sounding overly negative.
Planning and practice can help you find a neutral way to explain your situation. Give yourself some time to think these answers through — and practice them out loud — before your interview so you are not caught off-guard in the moment and suffer a setback in self-confidence.
Step 8. Have Concluding Questions Prepared
At the end of your interview, it is commonplace to be asked if you have any questions. You may have questions come to you in the moment, but it’s a good idea to have several prepared beforehand. Here are some examples:
• What is your favorite part of working for X Company?
• In your opinion, what is the most essential quality or skill needed to be a good fit for this role?
• What is your ultimate vision for this position/department?
• What is something you would add/change about this department/company if you could?
Preparing well is the cornerstone of knocking your interview out of the park. Give yourself the best possible chance of success by doing your research, preparing your responses, practicing aloud, and thinking thoughtfully about your values, goals, and skill set. Now that you know the right steps to take, don’t just read another post on how to prepare for an interview. Put in the prep time and put yourself on the fast track to making your dream job a reality.