How to prepare for an interview

Copied!

Job interviews are incredibly important. There are several steps that you can take before your interview to maximize your chances of impressing the employer and receiving a job offer. This article goes over everything from how to research the company, possible interview questions, to what to wear.

Review The Job Posting

Before interviewing, you need to go over the job posting. Here are three things to think about while you are reading it:

  1. Qualifications and Responsibilities: Most job postings have a section that outlines what skills, qualities, and experience you need for the open position. Go through the highlighted attributes and make a list of them. You can categorize them into three sections: qualifications, responsibilities, and personal traits. These are things you should try to incorporate into your interview. If they are looking for someone who has excellent organizational skills, use examples from your past experiences about how you are incredibly organized.

  2. Are you a good fit: At the end of the interview, your employer will likely ask you why you are right for the job. This is a great opportunity to mention how your experiences and expertise align with the skills and qualities laid out in the job posting. Show them that you are the candidate that they are looking for.

  3. Behavioral Interview Question: Use the job posting to help you prepare for behavioral interview questions. For each qualification, responsibility, and personal attribute, come up with specific examples from previous jobs and experiences that show you have the qualities that the company is looking for. For example, if an employer is looking for a self-driven motivator who takes initiative on projects, find a way to talk about a time where you embodied that trait. A great place to do this is if they ask you for a time where you succeeded.

Research The Company

After you look over the job description to determine if the open position is a good fit, you should research the company. Here are a few things that you should focus on during your search.

  • Mission statement: Be familiar with the company’s mission statement. Knowing their aims and values will give you a better understanding of the company. During the interview, you can talk about how your interests and passions align with their mission and how you want to and will help them achieve their goals.

  • Questions to ask: At the end of an interview, the employer will often ask you if you have any questions. While researching the company, come up with questions that you want to have answered. They can be about the company’s culture, things they are working on, why they chose to go in a particular direction, etc. Here are some general questions that you can ask any employer:

    1. What will my daily responsibilities include?
    2. What is the workplace environment like?
    3. What is your favorite and least favorite part of working for the company?
  • Company culture: Look at the company’s culture and see if it would be a good match for you. A good place to start is their “About Us” or “Meet The Team” page. You can also see if they have an Instagram or Facebook Page to learn more about them.

  • Be up to date: Make sure that you are caught up on what the company is doing. Learn about their clients, products, and services. Check the “News” section of google and see the negative and positive press that the company has been getting. You should also do this on the day of the interview to make sure you are not missing any significant updates. Interviewers may bring up new products and ask you for your opinion on them.

  • Competitors: Find out about the employer’s competitors. The interviewer may ask you what you know about their competition. You can discuss specific projects that the competitor is working on or particular products and services that they offer and compare them to what the company you are applying to offers. You can also compare the benefits their competitors provide to what they are offering.

According to Twin.

Know Your Resume

Before you walk into the interview, you need to review your resume. The interviewer has reviewed your resume ahead of time and will ask you several questions about its content. Make sure to be aware of the following:

  • Know your resume inside-out: Be prepared to discuss anything on your resume. There might be sections that you are not as comfortable talking about. Do not rely on those things not coming up. Practice talking about them until you are confident.

  • Do not lie on your resume: Interviewers will be able to determine your credibility. For example, do not say you speak a language that you do not because your interviewer might speak it and start conducting the interview in that language. The interviewer will ask you about anything they view as questionable. Here are a few questions an interviewer might ask you:

    1. You increased your company’s revenue by 20%, how did you achieve this?
    2. I saw that you published an article on microfinancing, where can I find this article?
    3. You say that you are very knowledgeable about public health in Central America. What do you think about El Salvador’s health care system and its future?
  • Connect your resume to the job: You need to be able to transfer the experiences on your resume to the position you are applying to. Discuss how the skills outlined in your resume will help you succeed at the job you are applying to and thus benefit the employer.

  • Recognize your weaknesses: Your resume may not include everything that the employer is looking for. After reviewing the job description, look for experiences, skills, or attributes that you are lacking and be ready to address them.

Know Your Interviewer

You should know who your interviewer is. You will often be interviewed by a hiring manager, but for certain jobs, you may be interviewed by a direct supervisor, or even the CEO. Here are two things you should do when preparing:

  1. Google them: Once you find out the interviewers name, you can search for them online to determine their role in the company and find out more about them. See if you can find any interests that you share. Maybe you like the same sports team or have a similar hobby.

  2. Try to connect: The more you learn about your interviewer, the more likely you are to connect with them during your interview. Forming a connection with your interviewer is important and can be the difference in you getting a job offer.

Possible Interview Questions

Create a list of possible interview questions and practice saying your answers out loud. The more you practice, the more confident you will be. While you cannot know every question an interviewer will ask, here are ten common ones. If you want even more practice, take a look at these 25 interview questions.

Do you have any questions for me?

  • An interviewer will usually ask this question at the end of an interview. You should never reply with a simple “no.” The interviewer may think that you were not engaged or are not interested in the position. Instead, use this as an opportunity to find out more about the company. To learn the dos and don’ts about answering this question and read some sample answers, look here.

How did you hear about this position?

  • Interviewers ask this question to see which of their outreach methods is most effective. They also want to know if you were intentional in your job search and are excited about the opportunity. Do not tell them that you just saw it during your job search and applied. You can learn more about how to answer this question here.

How would other people describe you?

  • Interviewers will ask how your boss, co-workers, friends, or family describes you. The interviewer wants to examine your soft skills and see how you perceive yourself. If you provided the interviewer with references, they might look to see if what you say aligns with what they did. Quoting a performance review is a great way to make sure this happens. Another strategy is to name two to three positive traits with short examples for each. For more advice on how to answer this question, look here.

Tell me about yourself?

  • Interviewers often ask this question at the beginning of the interview. It can be challenging to answer because it is so broad. Interviewers ask this question to get to know you a little. It also helps you ease into the conversation. Your answer to this question will often influence the next question they are going to ask. You can find out how to answer this question here.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  • It can be hard to describe your strengths without sounding self-centered and your weaknesses without feeling like you are jeopardizing your chance at landing the job. Learn how to answer this question here.

What do you want your salary to be?

  • This question can be challenging and uncomfortable to answer. It is important to prepare for this question in advance because if you are not ready, you may find yourself in a position where you are considering an undesirable salary. For information about how to prepare for this question, look here.

What motivates you?

  • An interviewer asks this question to assess what drives and excites you and if those things align with the company’s mission. This question also allows the interviewer to find out what kind of a person you are. To learn more about how to answer this question and see sample responses, look here.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

  • Interviewers ask this question to see how long you are planning to stay at the company and if your long term career goals can be achieved at their company. You can learn more about how to answer this question and read through sample responses here.

Why are you thinking of leaving your current job?

  • This is a difficult question to answer. Your response should not be negative. Instead, focus on how you are moving forward towards a career goal. You do not want to seem too eager to leave your job because the interviewer might offer you less if they think you are desperate. Find out the best ways to answer this question here.

Why do you want to work for us?

  • Interviewers ask this question to determine if you would fit in with the company’s culture and find out what catalyzed you to apply for the job. You should try and focus on why you are interested in both the job and the company. You can read sample responses to this question here.

92% percent of U.S adults stress over at least one aspects of job interviews, according to a 2013 survey from Harris Interactive and Everest College.

Behavioral Interview Questions

Employers will often use this interview technique to find out more about you by looking at your past and how you react to certain real-world situations. This is a great opportunity to use your past experiences to show how you can benefit the employer and succeed in the role that you are interviewing for. Here are five things to know about behavioral interview questions.

  • Honesty: Be honest. If you are asked to talk about your biggest failure and how you moved past it, do not say that you have never failed if you have. Acknowledge it and speak to it. Do not leave out or embellish parts of your story because your interviewer might sense that you are not being genuine.

  • Keep it short: Try to keep your response around one to two minutes. You should not be answering with a 5-10 minute story. Some interviews have a time limit, and you do not want to spend a large portion of the interview answering one question.

  • Think before you speak: It is fine to take a moment to think about what you are going to say before answering the question. If the interviewer asks you about a challenging or stressful situation, they want to know what you define as challenging or stressful. If you are applying for a high-stress job and your stressful situation is that your supervisor gave you multiple assignments, they might assume you are not the right fit since they are looking for someone who can juggle multiple things.

  • Past experiences: Look at the qualifications and responsibilities outlined in the job description. For each, think of an example of when you embodied that skill or characteristic. For example, if an employer is looking for someone who works well under pressure, they might ask you to describe a time where you were under a lot of pressure and how you handled that situation. You will not be able to anticipate every question, but if you practice enough, you will be more comfortable with this style of questioning. Here are four common examples of behavioral interview questions that you can prepare for:

    1. Tell me about a challenging situation you had. How did you overcome it?
    2. Give me an example of a time you had to work with someone very different from you. How did you handle that?
    3. Talk about a time you had to work with a difficult client. How did you handle that?
    4. Tell me about a time that you failed. What did you do?
    5. Here is a list of 75 additional behavioral interview questions.
  • STAR method: This is a great strategy to help you answer behavioral interview questions. It allows you to create a narrative where you can show the employer the value that you can add to the company. You can read this guide created by The Interview Guys to learn even more about this method and when to use it.

    1. Situation: Start by describing a specific situation or task. Provide the interviewer with enough information so that they understand the context while staying around 30 seconds.
    2. Task: What were you working towards? What goal did you have?
    3. Action: How did you tackle the situation? Talk about yourself and what you did personally. Avoid saying we did this, and my team did this. Start this sentence with an action item: I designed, I created, I formed, etc.
    4. Results: What was the outcome of your actions? Be specific and take credit. Try to have a list of two or more specific positive results. Numbers can also help. Instead of saying I increased the companies revenue, say I increased it by 20%.

Practice Interviewing

Having friends and family practice interviewing with you is a great way to prepare. The more you practice, the less nervous and more confident you will become. Here are six things you should make sure to do when conducting a practice interview

  1. Know what you want to work on: Provide the person interviewing you a list of things you want them to look out for. This can include your body language, eye contact, the number of times you say “like” or “um,” and questions you are struggling to answer. Also, make sure to ask them what other things they think you can improve on.

  2. Pick the right person: Finding the right person to interview you can be challenging. Some of your friends and family may be a lot of fun to spend time with but not right to help you with this. Try to find people who are not afraid to give you honest feedback and constructive criticism. See if anyone in your circle works in a similar field and is willing to help.

  3. Practice in a similar setting: You will know ahead of time if your interview will be in person, via phone, or video, and how many people will be interviewing you. Try and mimic the setting to the best of your ability during your practice interview. If it is over the phone, have the person helping you call. If there is a panel of interviewers, have multiple people interview at once.

  4. Prepare a list of questions: Give the person interviewing you a list of questions to ask you. If the person interviewing you is willing to look at your resume, research the company and position, and come up with questions, that is even better. It is harder for you to prepare for questions you do not know ahead of time.

  5. Record your interview: You are your own worst critic. It can be beneficial to video or audio record your interview. You can then review it and see what things you can improve on.

  6. Take it seriously: Treat the interview as if it were the real thing. Try to find a person to help you who you can be serious with and who will not joke around with you the whole time.

57% of employees think that their place of work should be more diverse, according to Clear Company.

What To Bring To An Interview

If you are going to an in-person interview, make sure you bring everything that you need. It is better to be over-prepared. Do not be afraid to ask the employer if you need to bring anything specific. For example, some jobs may want you to bring your computer in to take administered tests. Remember these six things before leaving for your interview:

  1. Bag: Make sure to have all of these items in a professional bag, briefcase, or folder. Do not show up with a shopping bag or carrying your items loosely.

  2. Notepad: It is important to have a pen and paper in case you want to take notes during the interview. These notes can be helpful when writing follow up emails. You can also write down questions the interviewer asked you and use them to practice for future interviews. Finally, you can write down questions that you have for the interviewer ahead of time in case you draw a blank when asked if you have any questions.

  3. Resume: Bring several hard copies of your resume. Multiple people may be interviewing you, or your interviewer may ask you for an additional copy to give to one of their colleagues.

  4. References: Bring a hard copy of your references. This should be a list of individuals who can vouch for your professional abilities along with their title, company, company address, phone number, email, and relationship to you. The Balance Careers explains how to format a list of professional references here Tell your references that you are providing potential employers with their contact information and keep them in the loop during your job search. References do not have to be previous employers, especially if this is your first job. You can use teachers, volunteer group leaders, colleagues, etc.

  5. Hygiene: While you may be nervous, make sure that you do not forget the basics. Dress professionally, wear deodorant, and brush your teeth ahead of time.

  6. Portfolio: Some jobs, many in design-focused fields, require you to have a portfolio of your previous work and past projects. This could include writing samples or artwork that you have done in the past.

What To Wear To An Interview

It is important to dress appropriately when going to an in-person interview. Make sure to plan out your interview outfit ahead of time so that you are not scrambling at the last minute to find something. Your interview outfit depends on the type of company. Here is what you should wear to an interview:

  • Professional Attire: If the company you are interviewing with has a formal dress code, make sure to wear formal clothing. You can wear business casual or formal. If you are not sure which, it is better to be overdressed than underdressed. A suit, tailored jacket, skirt, formal dress, or pantsuit will work.

  • Business Casual Attire: If you are interviewing in a relaxed setting like a restaurant or store, you can wear business casual. This is a step up from jeans and a t-shirt. Make sure that you are still presentable. Stay away from ripped clothing or shirts with writing or graphic images on them. You can read about what business casual means here.

  • Ask If you are not sure what to wear, you can research the company or ask someone who works there.

Salary Expectations

An interviewer may ask about your salary expectations. Make sure that you know how much you want to make before going into the interview. If the job you are applying to has a set salary or minimum wage, you might not get the chance to negotiate. Here are six things you should know about salary negotiations:

  1. Ask for more: Your employer will usually negotiate down, so ask for more than what you want to make. When you are researching what people in similar positions make, ask for something towards the top of that range. Know the value that you can offer and be confident.

  2. Extra Items: Have a list of requests that will increase your salary: This includes vacation, sick days, insurance, equity, 401K contributions, gym memberships, commuting expenses, signing or relocation bonuses, commission, and more.

  3. Know what you want: Have a number in your head that you will not go below. If the employer does not meet that minimum, you can say that you are going to walk away. However, be prepared for the employer to say sorry you are not a good fit.

  4. Know your rights: You do not have to answer an employer if they ask what your old or current salary is. It is illegal to do so in several states.

  5. Know your target salary: Do not just go off of what you made at your last job. Research the average salary for the position you are going out for and what the company pays its employees. Take into consideration the state that you are going to be working in. The same job in San Francisco might pay you more than in Saint Louis.

  6. Reevaluation: If you are unable to get as much as you want, schedule a reevaluation either a few weeks or months from your start date. Your employer can go over what you have been doing and see if they want to give you a raise.

Interview tips

You were offered an interview because the employer sees your potential. Be confident and walk in knowing your worth and the value that you can add to the company. Here are a few final things to take into account before your interview.

  • Be early: Find out where the interview is and plan to arrive at least 20 minutes early. You never know what parking is going to be like, if public transportation will be late, or if you will get lost. If you have the time, try to go to the interview location before the interview date to scope things out and become familiar with the location.

  • Do not fidget: Try not to fidget. Do not tap your fingers or feet, play with your hair, or click a pen that you are holding. It might distract the interviewer.

  • Handshake: Make sure you have a strong, firm handshake. This is one of the interviewer’s first impressions of you, so make it count.

  • Illegal Interview Questions: Federal and state laws prevent interviewers from asking certain questions about criminal records, age, gender, disability, marital status, and more. This article explains what questions an interviewer cannot ask in an interview.

  • Make connections: See if you know anyone or reach out to someone who works for the company you are applying to. Ask about their interview experience and see if they have suggestions.

  • Speak Clearly: Articulate your words and make sure not to talk too quickly. Avoid saying “like” and “umm” excessively. A good way to practice is to record yourself speaking and listen to it to see if you were saying those words.

Devon Feuer
Devon Feuer
Author