When it comes to acing your next interview, preparation is key. By doing some research beforehand and putting in some time to practice, you can show up on the big day ready to demonstrate that you are a strong candidate for the job.
Hiring managers are looking for evidence that you have prepared well for the interview because it shows you are a serious candidate who is enthusiastic about the role. Here are tips for making the most of your pre-interview prep:
1) Research Prior to the Interview
Hopefully you did some preliminary research on the company before you applied for the job. However, now that you have landed an interview, it is important to go back and get a more detailed picture of the lay of the land.
Sources of Information
Many company websites have an “About Us” section. It is usually the best place to start your pre-interview research. Here you will likely find the company mission statement which can help you get a sense of the company’s culture and values.
By digging deeper into the About Us section, or looking around on the site a little more, you may even find bios for the people you may come into contact with during the interview process. Information you learn here can help you establish a meaningful connection with members of the hiring team. For example, a common professional interest or shared alma mater make great conversation starters.
Next, do some basic internet research on the company looking for news or press releases (which may also be found on the company website in some cases). These sources can tell you more about recent changes in the company leadership, products and services, corporate mergers, stock performance and other key information that may become relevant during the interview.
Here are some things to look for while researching before the interview:
Start by visiting the company website to get a sense for where the department you will be working in fits within the larger company structure. Try to imagine how the work you will be doing fits into the processes that are implied by the company’s structure.
Who does your future boss answer to? What opportunities for growth are available to you down the road? Which departments handle which types of tasks? If you can’t answer these questions from your research, they are potentially good questions to ask during the interview itself.
Try to find information on the CEO or owner of the company. If it is a small company, the odds are good that you may even get a chance to meet the owner before you are hired. Other key players to research include the managers of departments that are directly above or work side by side with the department you are applying to. These are people with whom you may be working. In some cases, they may even participate in the hiring decision.
Department Managers and Staff
Take the time to research the manager of your department, as well as important staff members. If you are only able to find their names listed on the company website, you can do additional research on LinkedIn to find out more.
Do not, however, spend time on personal social media such as Facebook. You don’t want to come off as a stalker by mentioning personal information you have learned there.
Additional research that is worth doing prior to your interview includes looking at the economic sector that you will be working in. While this is probably over the top for entry level positions, any position that is management or above will benefit from a candidate that shows awareness of larger trends in the industry.
Good sources of information for this important level of research include trade publications, convention proceedings, and market news. In addition, following your industry’s movers and shakers on social media can also help keep your thumb on the pulse of your business sector.
2) Prepare Questions and Examples of Past Performance
While you are doing your research to learn more about the position and the company, be sure to jot down a few meaningful questions to take with you to the interview. Generally speaking, you will likely be given a chance to ask questions near the end of the interview. Don’t miss this opportunity to demonstrate that you have already done a fair bit of research.
In addition, ask questions that show you have a sincere interest in learning more about the job or the company because you are a serious candidate. Most career experts suggest that it is best to avoid asking questions about salary during the interview itself. There will be time to discuss salary once the hiring team has decided to make an offer.
Here is an example of how to demonstrate your preparation, showcase your special expertise, and express a sincere interest in learning more about the company you hope to work for:
Consumer spending trends have been heading down over the last three quarters. In my previous role, I developed branding strategies that effectively boosted customer engagement on our social media by 27%, keeping sales strong that year despite a soft holiday cycle. What strategies has the marketing team put in place to remain competitive as this holiday season approaches?
Prepare Outstanding Examples of Past Performance
Most interviews are likely to include questions that ask you to share an example of a past work experience. Known as behavioral questions, the hiring manager is trying to find out how you handled certain kinds of situations in the past as a predictor for how you will handle a similar situation likely to come up in your new role.
Spend some time before your interview thinking about different moments in your career that showcase your talents, abilities, and character. Often behavioral questions are looking for you to demonstrate the following qualities:
- Ability to work well in a team environment.
- Ethical and sound decision making under pressure.
- Strong communication and conflict resolution skills.
- Skill in handling difficult clients or customers.
- Ability to respond and grow from constructive criticism.
- Ability to acknowledge a mistake and learn from it.
- Effective leadership and motivation.
3) Practice Makes Perfect
One of the best tips to increasing your performance at job interviews is to take advantage of opportunities to practice your interviewing skills. Practice helps to take the anxiety out of the process as well as allowing you to get feedback from colleagues, friends, or family prior to the big day so that you can improve.
Common Interview Questions
Do some research on common interview questions, and practice answering them with the specific role you are interviewing for in mind. Remember that your goal is to fully answer the questions while also demonstrating a strong fit for what you sense are the most important qualifications for the job itself.
If you are a recent graduate, you may be able to take part in mock interviews at your college career center. Or, ask some professional friends or family members to participate in a practice interview prior to the big day.
A mock interview should include as many aspects of the big day as possible. Get dressed in your interview attire and prepare just as you would for the real thing.
Videotaping your interview is another way to take a look at your performance to look for areas of improvement. Just be sure to focus on what you are doing right as well so that you can build confidence from your practice sessions.
Another way to get ready for the big day is to prepare and practice a 30 second elevator pitch. Although you may not end up using this pitch at your interview, it is still a great way to get a clear picture on your career story, your personal brand, and your strongest attributes as a candidate. And, if you are asked the common question “Tell us more about yourself” then you will have something ready to go.
In addition to giving you clarity on the most relevant aspects of your fit for the job, practicing an elevator pitch can help you get more comfortable with selling yourself to other people, a key skill when it comes to performing well at the interview.
4) Interview Preparation: Logistics
Finally, preparation for your interview includes getting ready for the simple logistics on the big day. Try on your interview attire and make sure everything fits and is clean. Drive to the location of the interview to make sure you know where it is, where you will be able to park, and how long it takes to get there. Ready extra copies of your resume, paper, pen, and business cards in advance.
You don’t want any of these minor issues to create extra stress on the day of your interview. A little logistical prep work will pave the way to a smooth day when it counts.