How to prepare for a job interview: 5 things to know before you go
Once you land a job interview, you know you’re qualified for the position.
But don’t get overly confident and assume the interview is just a formality. Having the right skills is just the first step in a long road to landing a job.
Being extra prepared can help you nail the interview.
“What makes people successful is going the extra mile,” said Barry Drexler, an interview coach. “You don’t just want to wing an interview.”
Here are five tips that can help you succeed:
Do your research on the company
“The worst thing you can do in an interview is walk in unprepared,” said Alex Twersky, co-founder of Resume Deli, a resume and career service firm.
Start by reading the company’s website and then review its most recent press coverage.
You’ll get a sense of the company’s priorities, which you can then tie in with your skill set during the interview, said Shari Santoriello, a career specialist at career and leadership coaching company Ama la Vida. Not only does it give you an opportunity to demonstrate to your interviewer that you took initiative, but you’ll get a better idea if the company is the right fit for you.
Drexler recommends learning how the business generates revenue. Every employee at a company directly or indirectly contributes to its bottom line. You need to demonstrate your potential contribution in the interview.
Study the job description
A big mistake that many people make in a job interview is having the same prepared speech no matter the company, said Drexler. Adapt what you’re going to say to the person you’re meeting with, the company and the job.
The easiest way to do that is by studying the job description, because the company is telling you exactly what it’s looking for. Take that description and match it against your credentials so you know what to emphasize in the interview. Have concrete examples to back it up.
If you don’t have experience in an area listed in the job description, research it ahead of time and find something similar that you’ve done. If it comes up in the interview you can answer honestly about your lack of experience, but quickly spin it so it’s clear that you know what it is and that you can handle it.
Rehearse your answers to common interview questions
Interview questions vary depending on the role you’re applying for, but there are certain basic questions that you can expect to be asked, such as “tell me about yourself” and “what are your strengths and weaknesses.”
Ahead of the interview, practice responding to these questions and describing your skill set out loud in front of a mirror or with someone else. This can help you avoid getting flustered and fumbling words during the actual interview.
But don’t memorize your answers, otherwise you come across as stilted and inauthentic. “The biggest thing in an interview session is you want to come off as genuine,” said Santoriello.
Come up with questions to ask at the end of the interview
Nearly every interviewer is going to give you time to ask questions about the role and the company. Use this time to show you’ve clearly done your homework on the business and you have knowledge of the space it’s operating in.
Before the interview, prepare two or three insightful questions to learn more about the job and to make sure the company is a good fit. Avoid asking questions that pertain to topics like benefits or vacation days because you’ll come across as presumptuous.
Instead, ask overarching questions related to the company and the position, such as upcoming strategic initiatives, new product launches and competitive positioning. “Demonstrate clearly you’ve done your research on the company,” said Twersky.
And don’t save all of your questions until the end. Asking questions that arise spontaneously during the interview shows you’re engaged and not just a passive listener.
Look the part
You’ll make a poor first impression if you show up to the interview late. To prevent that from happening, figure out directions ahead of time or go on a trial run to the interview location.
On the day of the interview, allow yourself plenty of time to get there. If you’re early, park yourself at a nearby coffee shop and review your notes. Plan to arrive 15 minutes early.
And don’t wait until the day of the interview to choose your outfit. Pick your clothes a few days beforehand to avoid any mishaps like ill-fitting or wrinkled suits. Always dress business professional and avoid anything distracting like large or flashy accessories, strong perfume or cologne, or unkempt facial hair.
Bring four or five clean, crisp copies of your resume and a blank pad of paper to take notes. Also have a pen with you and know where it is so you’re not rifling through your bag during the interview. “Little things give away how organized you are,” said Drexler.