How to prepare for a job interview

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The job interview. An event can have an impact on your future. No matter how much or how little experience you have interviewing, it’s normal to have a flurry of emotion ranging from excitement to nervous anticipation. Here are a few tips to help you prepare.

Read & Research

The company: I strongly recommend that you research the company. I wish I could tell you the number of times that I sat with a stunned hiring manager and listened to them express their disbelief when a candidate didn’t research the company. I recognize that “research the company” is advice that we have all heard several times, but just because it has been said before does not mean it’s outdated. I wrote at length about this in my article How to research a company – in less time than you think!, so feel free to check it out for more information.

The job description: Re-read the job description to ensure that you have a thorough understanding of what the position is. If you have any questions or require any clarifications about the job, write these down to ask during the interview. What often happens when a candidate does not have an understanding of the position is that they will over- or underestimate what the position entails. This makes hiring managers balk because when the candidate imagines duties that will not be part of the job, the hiring manager questions if the candidate actually wants to do the job that is available. When the candidate only focuses on only a few aspects of the position, the hiring manager develops a concern that the candidate can’t or won’t do the job in its entirety.

The interviewers: It’s a good idea to research the interviewers, most notably the hiring manager and any senior leaders you may meet. You want to know how long they have been with the company, what other companies they have worked for, what their educational background is and any other pertinent details. This will give you a sense of perspective and help you to develop questions. In addition, it can help you to create rapport with the interviewers. If a bio is not available on the company website, try Google or LinkedIn.

The news: The day before the interview, it’s a good idea to do a quick scan for any news or current events about the company. Whether the news shows the company in a positive or negative light, you will have the chance to clarify the news story in the interview and you will come across as someone who is interested and engaged.

Practice & Prepare

Interview questions: It’s hard to anticipate what questions will be asked, but rehearsing answers or approaches to questions will help you to feel more confident during the interview. Do a quick search for your job title and “interview questions” and go over some of the questions you find. Ideally, you want to practice both questions that you are familiar with and also ones that you aren’t used to answering. I would recommend practicing in front of a mirror, recording your answers or practicing with a friend. This will help to give you feedback about what the interviewers see and gives you the chance to adjust your answers or your behaviour accordingly. You can check out an article I wrote that can help you to frame your reason for leaving, as this is certainly an area you will be asked to elaborate on.

Answering using the SAR Method: SAR stands for Situation, Action, Result and this method helps you to answer interview questions thoroughly. Often times, candidates answer questions with what they “would” do, or talk about what the team did, “we”, instead of specifically highlighting their own accomplishments. When you answer questions using the SAR Method, you describe the situation to give the interviewers context, you talk about the specific action(s) you took and you speak to the result, meaning you describe what change occurred thanks to your input. This method of answering also helps to demonstrate to the interviewers that you are a doer, that you are results-oriented and that you are aware of your impact on others. All these are attractive qualities in a prospective employee.

Prepare your questions: It’s important that you arrive with your own questions for the interviewers. Remember that you are interviewing the company too. True, they have the power to offer you the job, but you have the power to accept or decline. Keep in mind that you will be spending several hours of your day at this place, with these people, so you need be informed in order to make a decision that is right for you.

Ensure that the basics are on point: When you schedule your interview, be sure to ask if you need to bring anything, like work samples for instance, and cover any other details pertaining to the interview such as the exact location as well as the correct spelling of the interviewers’ names and titles. The tried and true advice that we already know such as arriving on time, bringing hard copies of your résumé, sending thank you emails after the interview etc. is just as important as everything we have discussed thus far. You can check out my previous articles Interview Dos and Don’ts and What to wear for an interview for more information.

I hope that you have found these pointers helpful and I wish you all the best on any upcoming interviews!