6 Tips for Preparing for a Job Interview
September 27th, 2013 by
Searching for a new job can be a daunting project for most people. First, you must figure out what types of opportunities that you are qualified for interest you. Then, you need to create a resume that sells your skills and craft a cover letter that not only outlines why you would be a great fit for the position, but also why this position is the perfect fit for you and your ambitions. That in itself can be a lot of work. But many successful job searchers will tell you that the real work begins after the company has reached out to you for an interview. Below are six tips designed to help increase your chances of having a successful interview.
1. Read the job description/posting thoroughly
Most employers have taken a great amount of time to develop a job description that outlines what they are looking for. Although they do not think of it this way, they have given you some of the interview questions ahead of time. They have outlined the skills, behaviors and characteristics that the successful candidate will possess. Now its your job to deliver a story that convinces them that you have demonstrated that skill, behavior or characteristic in the past. My advice here is:
List out all of the potential questions.
Create your best STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) story for each question.
Practice delivering the story.
Get feedback if possible.
Go back and practice it more.
When you get the question, you will appear confident and comfortable as you wow your future employer. Additional tip: Write down your answers. You will be surprised how often skills, behaviors and characteristics are repeated across employers, especially for similar jobs. You may be able to recycle these stories during your next interview.
2. Know your resume
This should really go without saying. If you come across this question during an interview, you can consider it a freebie. I cringe every time I ask someone to walk me through their resume and they pull it out to read it to me. I cringe for two reasons:
You can assume that I read it.
You should know it, as it is your experience.
This is another area where a little practice can go a long way. The great thing about this is that you can recycle this for every potential employer. After you get this down for one interview, you will only need to review it briefly before your next interviews, to ensure that you are highlighting the experiences that are most relevant to the position.
3. Do some research on the company
One of the best ways to show that you are truly interested in a company is by showing that you took the time to find out what they do, who they do it for, and how long they have been doing it. Here are some places that you should look:
Their website – This is perhaps the best place to find information on your prospective employer. Here you can learn about the company history, what they do, who they do it for, and in some cases, who is on the team. Additional tip: If you cannot determine what they do from their website, do a quick Google search on their industry. Wikipedia or a competitor may have explained the industry in deeper detail.
Google the Company Name – This can be a good way to find a great deal of useful information:
Company Reviews – What are their customers saying about them? Does it tell you anything about their competitive advantage?
Company News – What have they been up to? Have they received any awards? Recruiters are generally proud of the companies they work for. If you can bring up a recent headline during the interview, you may score extra points. Additional Tip: Try working this research into a question (See Tip 4 for more on this).
4. Prepare some questions
At the end of almost every interview, you will be afforded the chance to ask some questions. Not only is this a chance to get some information about the company, but it is a chance to show off how thoughtful you are. One caveat here, know your audience. You may want to avoid asking the entry level recruiter a question about the high level strategy of the company. Although they may be aware of the company’s direction, if they are not, you run the risk of embarrassing them.
If you really want to impress the interviewer, develop a question from the research that you did on the company. If you are able to ask a question about the impact of some recent company news, it will not only remind them that you did your research, but will also show that you have done some critical thinking on the topic. It may even give them the chance to do some bragging on their own company, something most interviewers love doing.
5. Do a Google / LinkedIn search on the interviewer
See above. If they love talking about their company, imagine how much they love talking about their own background and accomplishments.
6. Follow Up
Ok, so this is not really preparation, but it can still be important. As with everything, timing is paramount, and sooner is much better than later in this instance. A well written thank you will not only show your gratitude for the meeting, but it can also reaffirm why you are a strong candidate for the position. The key here is to personalize it. You just spent upwards of 30 minutes with this person, and hopefully you connected on something. Use that to your advantage. Be sure to tie your letter back to some of the questions that they dove deeper on and sell yourself. This may be their last impression of you before they decide on the next steps.
These steps may have seemed basic as you read them, and to an extent they are. That said, you would be surprised at how many of them are often overlooked. Don’t get overconfident during your job search. Put in the time, and ensure that you are prepared. If you do, your search will be much more successful.