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So you’ve just landed a job interview. In today’s competitive job market, this alone is cause for a congratulatory “job well done,” and a pat on the back.
However, you’re not out of the woods yet. The interview is a crucial step in the hiring process that will determine whether you make it to the big show or your resume gets filed away under passed over candidates.
In order to nail a job interview, there are several key areas of preparation that you should take into account:
- Packing a Bag
By paying attention to these four areas of groundwork, you will be ready to ace that interview and land the job of your dreams.
After you accept an interview, your first step in the preparation process should be acquiring background information on the company and (if the name has been provided) your interviewer. It is inevitable that almost every interviewer will ask you questions like:
- What do you know about our company?
- What do you know about this position?
- (And sometimes even) What do you know about me?
While interviewers don’t expect you to be an expert on their company, they do want to see that you have an interest in it, and that you have been thinking about how you would fit into the role you’ve applied for.
Gathering intel on the company and interviewer will not only help you better answer the above questions when they come up, it will help you frame your pitch for how you would add value to the team. Making direct references to the company’s past performance, trends, and/or goals shows that you’ve not only done your homework, you’ve done the extra credit.
For your research, be sure to check any “About Us” sections on the company’s website, or other mission statement/founder related content. Also, have a look at any social media accounts, blogs, or site pages specific to the department and position you are applying for.
Then, utilizing the information you’ve acquired, formulate a couple of good questions to pose to your interviewer. He or she will ask if you have any at the end of your meeting, and you don’t want to come up empty handed.
Some people are great with thinking on their feet, others less so. Whether you are a wiz at improv or not, everyone can benefit from practice before an interview. This practice can be done in two ways—with others who provide feedback or by yourself for introspection on your own strengths and shortcomings.
If you practice with others you can really test your reactions to questions you may not control. Moreover, your pretend interviewer can provide you with valuable feedback about your:
- Listening Skills
- Resting Face
- Body Language
- Speech Pacing
- And More
If your are going to have a group interview where more than one person, possibly a whole panel, is present, practice interviews with others are particularly important because a group interview drastically changes the situational dynamic.
Meanwhile, when you conduct practice on your own, you can spend time thinking about the different types of questions an interviewer might ask and then practice the optimized answers you’d give. Although you can never know the specific questions someone will ask you ahead of time, through research and past experience you can prepare for a lot.
If you don’t have someone to practice with, you can record yourself on video and utilize that as a tool for self-improvement—seeing where you shine and where you need fine-tuning.
Be sure that you are also practicing for different types of interview questions
- Background – “What is your previous work experience?”
- Company – “How does your past work experience relate to this job?”
- Personal – “What is a past accomplishment you are really proud of?”
- Behavioral – “Tell us about a challenge you’ve faced. How did you handle it?”
- Random – “If you were a cookie, what kind of cookie would you be and why?”
Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect when it comes to interviews—your interviewer may sometimes throw a curveball you weren’t ready for—but it can get you pretty darn close. And with enough practice you will be in the best position for hitting that curveball out of the park and turning it into a homerun. At the end of the day, practice will give you confidence, sharpen your responses, and make you feel as ready as you can be when the big day arrives.
Packing a Bag
There are several things you’ll want to bring to an interview. In terms of business-related items that your interviewer may ask for, or that may benefit your standing as a potential new hire, bring your:
- List of References
- Relevant Sample Work
- Pen & Notepad to Take Notes
Now in terms of personal items, you may keep in your briefcase or handbag, it is a good idea to have:
- Breath Mints
- A Comb
- A Compact Mirror
These objects, though seemingly trivial, may come in handy when you are already at the company, but are doing a final once-over on yourself prior to checking in with your HR contact.
When it comes to how to present yourself, you can break the subject down into three categories, all of which play into your first impression.
Always decide what you will wear to your interview in advance. What you wear is a big part of your first impression. In general, you want your outfit to be professional, appropriate, and reflect a bit of you as well. You don’t necessarily need to wear dark colors, a full-on suit, or six-inch pumps. Different jobs call for different looks. Some younger start-ups, for example, might be more casual. Even so, when in doubt it is best to dress to impress and aim for that professional feel. For men, suits and ties are always a reliable go-to. And for women, in addition to suits, nice pants or appropriate-length skirts and dresses can work great.
In accordance with your outfit, limit your accessories and always make sure your clothes are clean and in good shape—free of food stains, all buttons are buttoned, no holes, not too tight fitting, etc. Be sure that you are also well groomed; that way you match your nice attire!
This is the first time your interviewer (and potential new employer/co-worker) will have a chance to see how you handle yourself in professional situations. Therefore, it is important that you nail your introduction.
To start with, arrive early. If this is your first visit to the company, you want to allot an extra window of time to find your way and get settled so when interviewers call you in, you are right there waiting for them, and not out of breath and vaguely sweaty from a hasty journey to find your way there.
In addition to being on time, make sure you have checked yourself. That includes inspecting your teeth for food particles, making sure your breath is fresh, verifying your makeup is in order, etc. Arriving with extra time allows you a moment to visit the restroom and check off all these boxes on your way to the HR point of contact. Once done, be sure to turn off your cellphone and then wait where you are instructed.
When it is time to finally meet your interviewer, remember that those next few seconds of introduction are of vital importance. You’ll want to smile, keep eye contact, offer a good handshake, and above all else retain composure.
The most important behavioral factors affecting how your interviewer views you are calm and confidence. All the prep work you’ve done thus far has given you the tools you need to ace this interview. Now you need to remind yourself to keep your cool and show it off. Remember, it is okay to ask for clarification on questions you don’t understand and take a moment before responding as you formulate your answer.
After the fact, be sure to end the interview with a thank you and then send a follow up note or email to the interviewer reiterating your thanks and interest in the position. This note is crucial, and can serve as an extra opportunity to remind the interviewer of any key aspects of your strengths/potential value.
With this preparation work, you will be primed to have a great interview and, hopefully, soon enough you will be starting a brand new job.
For more information and help getting hired at your dream job, contact The Career Strategy Group. Our job resume writing and career coaching services can help you get the job you want, faster!