How to Prepare for an Interview

How to Prepare for an Interview

by Salary.com Staff - December 26, 2018

The interview is an essential aspect of the recruiting process, but it can also be a nerve-racking experience for job applicants. After all, you want to make a good first impression in your interview in the hopes of landing the job!

Of course, you don’t have to be too nervous as an interviewee. When a company invites you into the office for an interview, it proves that they think you could be a good match for the job – and that you could also be a good fit culturally for the organization. From the organization’s perspective, the purpose of the interview is simply to compare you with other applicants to select the most suitable person.

Heading into any interview, you should do a small amount of work in advance in order to maximize your confidence and preparedness. Below are 8 ways you can jump-start your interview preparation process now so you can nail your next interview.

1) Learn More About the Company

An official company website is not only a symbol of the organization’s culture, it can also educate you on the products and services that the organization offers to their customers. Ahead of your first interview with any new company, you should familiarize yourself with the information on their website, particularly the details related to your role, in order to prepare talking points for the interview. Reviewing this information ahead of time will allow you tailor your answers to the interviewers’ questions, demonstrating your preparedness and helping you stand out during the interview.

Even if your role does not appear to be directly related the website’s content, you should still familiarize yourself with basic aspects of the company, such as the company name, the name of its subsidiaries, the location of company offices and branches, and the overall size of the company; the name of the company’s founder and current C-level executives, its history and cultural identity, and its organizational structure; the company’s target industries and customers, its products and services, and recent performance; and other relevant information that will help you establish a comprehensive profile of the company. Before the interview, you should also pay close attention to recent press releases, actively search for some news related to the company, and make sure you have a clear grasp of the latest developments in the organization’s products and services.

In the process of learning about the company, you may see challenges or opportunities the organization has for growth. As you prepare your own questions to ask the interviewers you’ll be meeting with, consider these opportunities in the context of the job you’ve applied for. It is best to come to the interview with a handful of these types of opportunity- and challenge-focused questions prepared to demonstrate that you’ve thought through the job thoroughly and have begun to dig deeper into what success will look like for the person placed in this role. This kind of detailed interview preparation illustrates your aptitude for strategic thinking and alignment with broader business initiatives.

If feasible, you may want to conduct field visits, observe the office environment, and develop a general understanding of the day-to-day work flow onsite at company offices. This type of interview preparation may not be appropriate for all positions, but for high-level managers and other staff, these visits can provide critical insights into the people and processes you’ll be managing, as well as the environment you’ll be working in.

2) Assess Your Strengths, Weaknesses, and Relevant Experience

Before the interview, you should conduct a comprehensive analysis of yourself, including academic qualifications, professional knowledge, work experience, personality, likes and dislikes, hobbies, etc., to understand your strengths and weaknesses. Once you have conducted this inward-facing analysis, you should carefully evaluate the job description of the position you’ve applied for, comparing the requirements and qualifications for the role with your own accomplishments and evaluating whether you have skills or work experience similar to the job requirements. If you do, you should emphasize these during the interview process. If you do not, don't be discouraged - your enthusiasm for the position and an active interest in the industry will go a long way, especially if you can make creative connections and analogies between your previous experiences in other roles and the requirements of the new job you’ve applied for.

During the interview, you may be asked about the circumstances under which you left your last job, especially if you were there less than a year. It helps to have professional, respectful, and confident responses to questions about past roles, and to prepare references ahead of time that accurately assess your strengths and weaknesses in past work environments. These recommendations and assessments should come from previous managers or colleagues, and can be in the form of either written letters or phone interviews and reference checks.

3) Practice in Advance

As you prepare for your interview, consider the questions you’ll be asked. In any interview, you can expect to hear an assortment of common interview questions and answers. If you are not familiar with some of these commonly asked interview questions or how to answer them, check out our Right and Wrong Answers to 8 Common Interview Question article to learn more.

Beyond these common interview questions, many questions in the interview process will pertain to your specific resume. This requires you to be fully familiar with the most recent version of your resume, especially the details of your relevant work experience. Many interviewers will ask questions about your background, in addition to the limited details presented on your resume. A genuine understanding and self-analysis of your own career progression can help you prepare succinct, confident answers for a range of questions about your background.

When interviewing, don’t ignore the resources around that you can potentially leverage in your interview preparation. Maybe a friend has already gone through the interview process or is employed at the company where you’re interviewing already and can shed some light on common interview questions used by the firm. Or maybe you have a friend or family member who works as a recruiter or hiring manager and can help you simulate the interview to practice.

4) Confirm Day-Of Details

Be sure to confirm the interview time and location with your contact when you accept the invitation for the interview. Once you have the day and time confirmed, make sure to set reminders for yourself and plan your travel route in advance. If you have enough time, you may want to simulate the trip in real life to understand how traffic or time of day will impact your travel time. Most importantly, you should try to arrive 10-15 minutes before your set time.

On the day before and of the interview, make sure you get enough sleep, wake up with a positive and confident attitude, and eat a healthy breakfast before departing for your interview. A lack of adequate sleep and sustenance can diminish your energy, make it harder to concentrate, and even prevent you from putting your best foot forward.

5) Dress for Success

Consider how you will dress and present yourself on the day of your interview. This is an important part of your interview preparation: appropriate clothes and general neatness will help you make the right first impression on your interviewers.

For most interviews, you should expect to wear business or business casual attire. Generally speaking, neutral dress clothes with limited accessories are the safest option for both men and women, as they will fit in almost any environment. But before choosing what to wear, make sure you have an understanding of the company's corporate culture and make the most appropriate choice based on that knowledge. If you aren’t sure, you can always ask the recruiter or your HR contact what the dress code is for the interview.

6) Bring a Few Key Items with You

While you will not need a lot of items onsite with you for a standard interview, you may want to bring a neat backpack or file bag with you to hold a few essential items.

Although you have already delivered your resume to the company along with your job application, the individual interviewers you’re scheduled to meet with may not have a copy of it handy at the interview. Bring 3-5 printed resumes with you on the day of your interview so that you have the most recent version available for yourself and all the interviewers you’ll be meeting with.

Additionally, you may have the opportunity to discuss past projects you’ve worked on during the course of your interview in order to help your interviewer understand your abilities directly and objectively. If you have writing samples, consider printing them out and bringing them along with your resume copies. If you have a portfolio of video and web-based files, consider loading them on your mobile device just in case these discussions arise.

You should also come to the interview with a pen and a notepad in case you’d like to take notes during your discussions. As you prepare questions ahead of your interview, write them down - bringing these notes with you will help you remember what you’d like to ask your interviewers.

7) Calm Your Nerves

During the interview process, you should be prepared to meet multiple interviewers who sit in different departments or at different levels of the organization. When meeting these key stakeholders, it is normal to feel a bit nervous. But remember, ultimately the interview process is a two-way street – they are looking to see if you’re a fit for their open role, while you are looking to see if their open role is a fit for you. If ever feel overwhelmed by interview questions or by the entire process, take a deep breath. Chances are, if you pause to steady yourself and think for an extra couple of seconds, you’ll be able to find the right words to answer their questions and continue with the interview.

8) Ace the Interview

The easiest and most effective way to show confidence is to smile, which is a positive signal to the interviewer that says “I am confident and enthusiastic about the interview.”

From the moment you step into the office, remember to be mindful of your behavior. Your conversations and etiquette throughout could be judged by the interviewer and other team members. Treating people with courtesy is the most basic way to make a good impression. Additionally, making eye contact with the interviewer or person who is speaking is a good indication that you are listening and thinking about what they are saying, so make sure to look people in the eye when interacting with them. Finally, when answering questions, remember to be concise, straightforward, and logical. Focus on highlighting your strengths, and use plenty of examples that demonstrate your expertise and experience.

Most typical interviews will end with an opportunity for you to ask questions of your interviewer. Not preparing yourself for this portion of the process is one of the most common mistakes in a job interview. This is your time to ask the questions you’ve prepared, as well as to ask new questions that may have arisen during your previous discussions about the role.

Interviewing for your dream job or thinking about switching roles? Regardless of where you are in your career, our salary wizard will arm you with accurate salary data to help ensure you are paid fairly.

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