So you read our job search article, submitted a killer resume and landed an interview. Woohoo! Now let’s get you ready to ace it. Preparation is key, and we’ve collected interview advice to make sure you know what you’re talking about, demonstrate your strengths and look super fresh.
Preparation is everything - don’t wing it.
When you’re about to interview for a job, the company’s website is your new best friend. Research the website, social media accounts and anything you can find to get a grasp on the company’s culture.
Check out Glassdoor for employee reviews, insight into the company’s interview process and salaries and benefits. You should check if the company you’re interviewing at is featured on The Muse, which offers an "inside the office" perspective. Even if it’s not, they have tons of helpful career advice articles that are worth reading.
You’ll want to know what the company’s mission is as a whole, and as it pertains to the job description of the position you’re applying to. Know that job description like the back of your hand, and relate all of your answers back to it. The interviewers want to know that you’re invested in the role you’re applying for, and showing them you’ve learned all you can about it beforehand will demonstrate that. In an article for Levo League, Alan Carniol says "When you walk into an interview mentally prepared, it will show in your responses, your confidence, and most importantly, your desire to nab the job."
Photo: Doug Brown
It’s okay to practice.
Once you know all you can about the company and the job, it’s time to prepare some answers. This doesn’t mean sound like a robot as you spew out pre-canned thoughts, but it will only help you to consider your answers to questions you know they’ll ask.
One question you’re very likely to be asked is the classic "tell me about yourself." This question’s broadness can be intimidating, but treat it as an opportunity to highlight your successes. In your answer you should touch on:
- Previous work experience
- Current position
- Specific accomplishments or awards
This video from The Muse suggests using a present/past/future model. Talk about where you are now and what skills you are currently using that apply to the opportunity you’re interviewing for, speak to your past successes and explain why all of these make you a great fit for the job. Relate all of your education and experience back to the job description.
Jane Cranston, a career coach, says in an article on The Ladders that many candidates take this question as a chance to give their personal life story, but that this really isn’t the time. "The interviewer wants to know that you can do the job, that you fit into the team, what you have accomplished in your prior positions and how can you help the organization."
You will probably also be asked why you are the right fit for the job. To prepare for this question, you should know your strengths. Think about your past work successes, what you enjoy working on and what you’re passionate about. Build all of these together to demonstrate to the interviewer how you can add something to the company - and be specific. Tailor your responses to the job description and provide specific examples and anecdotes. Nancy Fox of Fox Coaching Associates says here that "you want to be selling what the buyer is buying." If you want to get a better sense of your strengths, considering taking a personality test, like the Myers-Briggs Test or the Strengths Quest.
Before you interview, think of some examples of times you’ve taken initiative, worked well with a team, or any other scenario you think might apply to the job you’re applying for. With these anecdotes in your arsenal, you’ll be able to field questions more easily, instead of having to rack your brain to remember something when you’re probably already nervous.
Don’t pretend you don’t have any weaknesses.
So after you’ve talked about your strengths, you’re probably going to be asked about your weaknesses. This question is inherently awkward, but you have got to think of a way to answer it without putting yourself in a bad light. In an article for Levo League, The Prepary suggests, "The truth is (and everyone knows this) no one is going to be good at every single thing they do. Constantly identifying areas you can work on and then taking steps to actually improve them makes you a better employee, coworker, friend, family member…"
This question is asked to get a sense of your character, so be honest. Please do not say you "work too hard" or "care too much" or are a "perfectionist." These are lame. Whoever is interviewing you probably hears these answers all the time. And they are probably not true. There is definitely something you could improve upon. Melissa Llarena says on the Huffington Post Blog, "You can speak to a weakness that only arises on certain occasions, a weakness that is apparent from either your resume or after having a conversation with you or a weakness involving a non-essential skill."
Maybe you aren’t the most effortless public speaker. Maybe you talk too much when you’re nervous. Maybe you used to be a procrastinator, but then learned how to set deadlines for yourself and are now great at managing your time. Whatever it is, get real with yourself and figure out something that used to hinder you professionally that you’ve worked to fix. That being said, be sure that one of your weaknesses isn’t a requirement on the job description.
You need to ask questions.
They shouldn’t be about salary or benefits in the first interview, but you need to ask your potential employer some questions. This shows you’ve seriously thought about how you would function in the role you’re going after. Look over the job description and ask them about anything you want to know more about. Are there opportunities for advancement from this position? What does an ideal candidate for this position look like? If you’ve done thorough research of the job description, there will be plenty of material for you to ask questions about. If you feel like you might forget about specifics you want to mention, it’s okay to write them out and pull out a list at the end of the interview. Read this article for a list of example questions if you need some help brainstorming.
Use this opportunity at the end of the conversation to "interview" the company. You should leave with a good sense of whether or not this is a place where you would want to work. This is your chance to get information about the job and the company from the source, so use it!
More great tips for job seekers
Don’t forget about the finishing touches.
How you present yourself at the interview speaks just as loudly as your words. First, be confident. This applies to what you wear, what you say and how you act. Choose an outfit you know you feel like a rock star in, be sure to prepare so you’re sure of what you’re saying and remember to smile and shake hands firmly.
Just because you’re going to a job interview does not mean you need to wear a suit. Yes, it is better to be overdressed than underdressed, but dress to the company’s culture. Search through their website and social media accounts to get a feel for their attire, or ask whoever reached out to you about the interview which style of dress is appropriate. You should look like you could be working in that office. Check out Stylecaster's post on job interviews for different outfit examples for females by industry (sorry fellas, you don’t have as many options to choose from).
Bring multiple copies of your resume, and any other relevant documents, in a folder. You never know how many people you will be speaking with, and you don’t want to be without it. It’s also not a bad idea to have a few references on hand as well.
Listen to your favorite get-hyped song on the way there (may I personally recommend a little Jay-Z), and give yourself an ample amount of time. Traffic really isn’t an excuse. Get there early, and hang out in a nearby coffee shop or listen to Jay-Z in your car until about 10 minutes before your scheduled time.
Most importantly, be yourself. If you’re prepared, and you have a clear vision as to why you’re going out for this position, it’ll be easier for you to relax and express that with ease. Whoever is interviewing you has read your resume, looked you up online and read your cover letter. They know most of your accomplishments, and this is an opportunity for them to get to know you. Keep this advice in mind, and you’ll knock ‘em dead.
Photo: David Melchor Diaz