You’ve secured an interview, congratulations, all your hard work has paid off. But you are not out of the woods yet! It is time to prepare for the interview!
I’ve worked with numerous job seekers who have made assumptions about the interview process which ended up biting them. The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll appear. This checklist will ensure you’re prepared to ace your upcoming interview.
10 Steps to Prepare for the Interview
Know the Format and the Players
Be sure you find out how long the interview will last and what the format will be. In other words, will you meet with interviewers one-on-one or on a panel? Also find out the names and job titles of the people you’ll meet. It’s really OK to ask these questions, and it shows you know how to prepare for new situations. It’s possible that the company may not be able or willing to answer, and it’s also possible the company hasn’t yet determined who will be interviewing you yet. Or, the company may want to assess how well you respond and react to the element of surprise. Still, the more details you gather, the better you can anticipate preparing for the interview.
Know the Job
Get a copy of the most current and/or in-depth job description. If you know someone inside the company, ask if they can forward you a copy of the internal job posting. Sometimes the internal job description has more detail than what was posted online. Talk to people who currently work in the company or who used to work for the company to learn about how the company operates. You may uncover some interesting information. Read and re-read the job description. If you don’t have some of the experience required, know how you will respond to that question during the interview.
Know the Company
Research the company website, LinkedIn account, social media streams and searching for the company name in recent news. If you have difficulty, don’t hesitate to visit your local library and speak to a reference librarian who has access to tools and resources you may not know about. Researching the company will allow you to formulate a solid answer to the question, “what do you know about our company?” Your answer helps set you apart from job seekers who do not research. You can also formulate questions you want answered about culture, changes or other news you learned.
Know the Interviewers
Know something about the people who will interview you. Research them via LinkedIn and Google. You can decrease some of the stress associated with meeting people you don’t know by learning about their backgrounds, such as schools they attended, previous jobs held or maybe even outside interests. And if you have anything in common with them, it makes it easier to build rapport.
Prepare your Answers
Prepare a STAR story for every requirement listed in the job posting. For example, if the job requires you have the ability to communicate across divisions, recall a time when you had to interact with a cross-functional team and document the STAR story associated with that.
Know exactly what you will say when asked, “tell me about yourself.” While reviewing the job description, you should have noticed what skills and experience seem to be most important to the company. You may also have conducted informational meetings with company insiders to uncover the skills and experience necessary for the role. Remember, your answer should take less than a minute, so you won’t have time to tell the interviewer everything. Highlight your three to five most relevant qualifications. Then, practice stringing them together cohesively. You can learn more about how to answer this question here.
Prepare answers to typical questions about your greatest strength and greatest weakness, and why you left your past positions. There are hundreds of potential questions you could be asked. Here are some to help get you started. While there is no way for you to prepare for all of them, preparing STAR stories and thinking about your answer in advance will help.
Practice Out Loud
Writing your answers out on paper will help. Answering questions aloud, either in front of a mirror or video camera, also helps. Sometimes the answer you’ve written doesn’t sound genuine or make sense when spoken. When you take time to rehearse your answers, you have the opportunity to assess how they sound.
Craft Your Questions
Prepare questions that you want answered. (Check out these 30 questions you can ask). You should have 10 or so prepared, and you don’t have to wait until the end of the interview to ask them. Insert your questions DURING the interview to make it more conversational. Your questions can be about the job, your future team or the company. Don’t wait until the end of the interview. And please, don’t ask about money, vacation or benefits during your first interview. Wait for the company to bring up those topics.
What to Bring
Bring copies of your resume for each person you’ll interview with, just in case. Never assume they all have copies. And if you haven’t completed an application yet, be sure you have the exact dates and information to complete the application.
Before You Leave
Always ask what the next steps in the process are and when you should follow-up before you exit the interview. This is your one shot to get these important questions answered.
Do You Want This Job?
The one and only question you need to walk away from the interview knowing the answer to is … Do you want this job? Have you gathered enough information about the position to answer this question?