Whether you’re sure you’re a shoo-in or you’re wary of all the competition, when it comes to interviewing for a position, preparing and rehearsing are critical to landing your desired job.
Approach interviewing as a process, and expect to learn not only from your preparation, but also from the interview itself. While properly planning and preparing for a job interview takes time, it’s worth the investment – even if you don’t land the first job you interview for.
Here are some key steps to take as you prepare for your job interview:
1. Understand the environment.
Not only should you scour the company website to understand what it’s all about, you should also learn about the industry you’ll be working in. Technology innovations continue to transform business operations and the overall business climate, which means even if you aren’t switching industries, you’ll still want to have a current perspective. A few key things to know include:
- Who is the competition?
- What are the latest innovations? What innovations are coming next?
- Who is the industry leader?
- What are some of the biggest challenges facing the industry?
- What are customers, competitors, and press saying about the company?
- What does the company say about itself?
A real understanding of the company and industry it operates in helps you engage with your interviewers and demonstrates your passion for the position. Google, company social media pages, company blogs, press releases, and Glassdoor reviews can provide a broad perspective of culture and tone.
2. Understand the product or service.
Even if you’re interviewing for a role that won’t be involved in the company’s product or service, you need to have a working understanding of what the business is all about. This helps you answer and ask specific questions.
3. Ask around.
Networking is a valuable way to boost your chances of getting hired and to provide personal insight into the company you’re interviewing with. Use your social media accounts to research friends, former coworkers, and acquaintances who are at the organization or in the industry, and ask them to sit down with you to talk about their experiences. Ask for personal insight on these topics:
- Company culture
- Career and advancement opportunities
- Interview process
4. Polish your online presence.
In today’s social-media saturated world, expect interviewing teams and recruiters to look you up on all social media – including LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Review your privacy settings to ensure you’re maintaining a professional presence across the board. Consider establishing a new, professionally oriented Twitter account if yours tends to focus on the personal, and ensure you don’t have unprofessional photos available on Facebook. LinkedIn should be the digital version of your resume, which means you should put the same amount of effort into writing, editing, and double-checking it you would a hard copy of your resume.
5. Organize your answers and your questions.
While you don’t want to offer up a robotic response to standard interview questions, you do want to make sure you’ve given them some thought – and prepared answers that highlight you as the best fit for the role. To organize in detail, you can use our Interview Cheat Sheet. Rehearse career anecdotes that not only show who you are as a professional, but reinforce the facts on your resume.
You should also check with the recruiter or your HR contact to understand the interview format. For example, will the interview be a group interview, or a one-on-one interview? Will it be conversational, or will it include brain teasers or technical testing? Knowing what to expect in advance can cut down on nerves and help you practice and prepare correctly.
Finally, you should establish the questions you have for the organization. These questions can range from company culture to job expectations to vision for the role. Expect the interviewer to ask for your questions, and demonstrate that you’ve been thoughtful preparing for the conversation. Note that benefit or salary-specific questions aren’t appropriate in the interview – that conversation can be held when you’re in final consideration for the position.
6. Prepare a positive approach to everything on your resume.
Whether you have a gap on your resume or were fired from a job, you don’t want to disparage a boss, coworkers, company, or situation. At the same time, you should also be genuine, which is why preparing to speak to the difficult spots on your resume in advance will keep you from surprise blunders. For example, if you left because your coworker made you miserable, you can focus on how that experience helped you define what kind of work environment you want from a company, and motivated you to make a move.
7. Get feedback.
Now that you’ve rehearsed your answers, it’s time to take a different perspective: see how you come across in an interview dress rehearsal. If you have a former colleague, friend, or family member you trust to provide useful feedback, ask them to do a test run. If not, record yourself and try to observe objectively. Things to watch for include:
- Do you sound enthusiastic or monotone?
- Are you speaking too slowly or too quickly?
- Do you use any nervous physical gestures, like twirling your hair, jiggling your leg, or playing with your hands?
- Do you insert filler words such as “like” or “um”?
- How is your body language?
Keep in mind that while critiquing yourself – or asking someone else to do so – may feel awkward, you’re also getting some of the jitters out of the way before your interview, leaving you with a more polished version and boosted confidence for the actual interview.
8. Dress to make a good impression.
Regardless of whether the company you’re interviewing with allows jeans and T-shirts or requires a full business suit, attend to the details of your attire. This includes making sure your clothing is ironed, cleaned, unstained, and polished, because this sends that message that you’ll take the same care with details in your role. As for deciphering just what is appropriate, ask the recruiter or HR manager about the dress code or look on the website. While it’s acceptable to dress a little more nicely than the office norm for an interview, you also don’t want to be so over or under dressed that you look out of place.
You’ve worked hard to get to this point and to earn an interview slot. You’ll want convey your skillset and value to prospective employers, and thoughtful, detailed interview preparation is a sure way to guarantee you’re highlighting yourself as an asset to the organization in the best way possible.