You scored an interview for the job you want. Now what?
Leading up to your interview, you’ll need to make sure you’re prepared and informed so you can speak in a relaxed, authentic, and knowledgeable manner in the interview. While you won’t want to memorize your cheat sheet word-for-word or cross off items during your interview, you will want to keep it handy to reference.
You may be out of school, but you’ll still need to study for your interview if you want to nail it.
- Learn about the company. Understanding the company can inform your answers in the interview, and it can also help you prepare questions you’ll want to ask about the culture or organization. Visit the organization’s website and read its “About Us” page, seek out company reviews from former employees or current customers, and ask people in your network if they have any experience.
- Learn about the field or industry.
- Examine the job description. Match your own skills, experience, and knowledge to the key criteria outlined. You’ll also want to consider how this role fits within the organization, and what it needs from the professional who fills it.
- Research salaries. Understand the market rate for the position, and assess what your own salary needs are.
- Confirm your references.
- Learn about your interviewers.
Prepare your talking points
Next up, you’ll need to prepare to talk about yourself.
While you should avoid giving stilted, canned responses to interview questions, you can boost your comfort level with common interview questions and prepare to answer them adeptly. In some cases, these core questions can seem so simple candidates fail to prepare for them; however, creating a thoughtful response to these seemingly simple questions allows you to control the impression you leave with your interviewers. Common interview questions include:
- Tell me a little bit about yourself. This is your cue to give your personal elevator pitch (one that can be given in just a few minutes, about the length of an elevator ride). Instead of a full run-down of your career history, streamline this response to include some specific experience, accomplishments, and skills you want your interview to know, and conclude by highlighting how you’re prepared for the role.
- What do you know about the position? While almost anyone can conduct some quick internet research and repeat a posted description, in addition to explaining what you know about the position, you should also explain what draws you to the role and why you are passionate about it.
- Why should we hire you? Don’t be intimated by this question – while it can feel unnerving, it’s a perfect opportunity to help the interviewer see that you can perform the job, deliver great results, and become an excellent team member.
- What are your greatest strengths? Don’t exaggerate strengths you don’t have, or offer up what you think the interviewer is looking for. Instead, share your true strengths, but tailor them specifically to the position – and include examples that demonstrate how you’ve used those skills professionally in the past.
- What are your greatest weaknesses? It shouldn’t be a surprise that you’re also likely to be asked about your weaknesses. This question can be particularly tricky. You don’t want to highlight something that could preclude you from the position (for example: “I can’t show up to anything on time”), but you also don’t want to provide a glib answer like, “I never stop working!” Instead, share something that you’re striving to improve. For example, you may be striving to streamline the meetings you run, and you’ve asked your team for feedback on your meeting agendas.
For other interview questions, see Forbes’ list of 50 most common interview questions.
You’ve done your homework, and now it’s time to make sure you have everything ready for the big day.
- Practice delivering your answers. Practicing about making sure you say the same thing each time, it’s to ensure you hit all your key points and messages.
- Write down your questions. In the digital age, it’s important to make sure none of your questions can be easily answered by quickly glancing at the organization’s website.
The day before the interview, prepare yourself for the interview with these best practices:
- Visualize yourself completing a successful interview
- Get a restful sleep
- Eat wholesome meals
- Use breathing or meditation to reduce anxiety
On the day of the interview, plan to leave the best impression on your interviewer.
- Dress in a classic, conservative, and professional way. You can ask your interviewer about the dress code or environment in advance, to ensure you’re dressed appropriately. An interview is not the time to make a fashion statement – ensure that you, not your attire, leave the impression. At the same time, do pick something that makes you feel confident.
- Arrive early. Don’t let unforeseen traffic, navigation, or transportation issues get in your way. And keep in mind that larger buildings may also require security clearance and an elevator ride once you get on site.
- Bring your materials. Include extra copies of your resume, a list of references, and your list of questions.
- Eliminate distractions. To avoid unnecessary disruption, turn off your phone, decline beverages, and remove gum.
Now it’s time for all your work to pay off. During the job interview, you’ll want to:
- Offer a firm handshake
- Use good posture
- Pay attention and listen well
- Take notes
- Maintain eye contact
- Contribute to an enjoyable conversation
- Adjust your answers to respond to your interviewer
- Thank the interviewer
- Understand next steps
- Request a business card for follow up
After the interview, take some time to write down your notes form the interview. What went well? What would you do differently? Do you have follow up questions for the recruiter?
You’ll also want to continue the discussion with your interviewer, by writing them a thank you letter and reiterating why your skills are the best fit. If you met with more than one person, be sure to thank each individual, not only the hiring manager.
If you don’t receive the position, be sure to ask for feedback, and let the interviewer know you’re interested in other positions in the future.
With this checklist in hand and your interviews booked, you’re ready to get out there and start interviewing.