Great news! The recruiter loved the resume and cover letter you submitted with your job application and they now want you to interview with the hiring manager. This is one of the most exciting parts of the job search. The only thing better is actually getting a job offer!
While this can definitely be an exciting time, it can also be frightening for some people. In fact, interviewing was voted as the hardest part of finding a new job in a recent survey done by Monster.com. Additionally, the competition is fierce. According to a recent study done by Zety.com, typically 4-6 candidates are brought in for in-person interviews for the average corporate job posting.
However, don’t freak out! We are going to review some key job interview tips that will help you stand out from the competition. The key is interview preparation. Muhammad Ali once said “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” The same holds true for interviewing. Without interview preparation, you will fail!
Research The Company
The first part of the interview preparation process is to research the company. I cannot emphasize how important this is. I have interviewed so many people that came in not having a clue what our business was about. A lack of knowledge on the business is an easy way to fail the interview. It makes the person whose interviewing you feel like you are wasting their time. It gives the impression that you are interested in getting a paycheck and not interested in helping the business achieve its mission. You have to demonstrate that not only do you have the skills to succeed in the role but that you are passionate about what the company is trying to achieve.
While no one is expecting you to be an expert, you most definitely should have a working knowledge of the business. This includes knowing:
- How to properly pronounce the company’s name
- How the business makes money
- Where the business is headquartered
- The company’s main customer base
- The company’s main competitors
- The company’s mission and values (if public knowledge)
- Any relevant current news
This will help you articulate during the interview why you want to work for this company. The good news is that most of the information can be found on the company’s website and by doing a quick Google search. Some people also like to do a LinkedIn search of the people that are interviewing them for the job. They feel like this gives them an advantage because they can position their answers to the interview questions based on the interviewer’s career experiences. I personally have never done this. However, I know that this method has worked for some people.
The next step of the interview preparation process is to sit down and practice answering the questions that you think you will be asked. Although it is impossible to know all of the questions they will ask you, chances are you can think of most of them if you have worked in the field for a number of years. Additionally, there are usually some basic generic questions that most interviewer’s will ask you. Glassdoor recently put together a comprehensive list of 50 common interview questions.
Most employers are moving towards behavior-based questions. This means that they will most likely be asking you questions about what you have actually done (i.e., Give me an example of a time when you had this situation arise) compared to what you would do in a hypothetical situation (i.e., What would you do if this situation arose). Behavior-based questions are typically better predictors of future job performance.
The best way to prepare for these questions is to think back to your biggest career achievements at each of your former employers. When thinking of your biggest career achievements, think about:
- How did it positively impact the organization?
- Why you are so passionate about this achievement?
- What did you learn from it and what skills did you develop?
- What obstacles did you have to overcome?
- How did you have to work with other colleagues/departments to get it done?
As hard as it might be, you are also going to want to identify 1 or 2 of your biggest career failures. Most employers will ask you to identify a time in which you failed and what you learned from it. As painful as it might be, be honest. The interviewer is looking to see if you are self-aware of your weaknesses, you are willing to be held accountable and lastly that you learn from your mistakes. Don’t be embarrassed because everyone makes mistakes. Even the person interviewing you made mistakes in their career!
Once you have brainstormed all of the answers to the questions you believe you will most likely be asked, then sit down and actually practice answering the questions. This can include talking to yourself in a private space or having someone you know pretend to be the interviewer. This allows you to hear how you sound and make tweaks to the responses so that they are concise, clear and engaging. This will also help you answer questions that you didn’t prepare for. More often than not, the material you prepared with can help you answer questions that you didn’t prepare for.
In conclusion, interview preparation is the best job interview tip anyone can give you. The more you prepare, the more likely you are to succeed!