You’ve just received the good news: your resumé and cover letter impressed the hiring manager, and he or she is eager to meet you. Now that your writing skills have got your foot in the door, it’s time to demonstrate in-person why you’re the best candidate for the job. Now it’s time to prepare for a job interview.
The pressure to make a good first impression can feel overwhelming, especially if you’ve been pursuing a certain dream role or company for years. Luckily, there are steps you can take that will help calm your nerves, so you appear as articulate and polished as possible.
How To Prepare For A Job Interview
Here are eight tips that will prepare you to “wow” the hiring manager and increase your chances of walking away from an interview with an offer:
1. Research the Company
Learn as much as you can about the company—from as many sources as you can—before stepping foot in the building. Start by visiting the company website to uncover the company’s history, mission, values, product offerings, and customer base. Next, visit their social media pages, taking note of their content and how they interact with their followers, to get a better sense of the organization’s brand personality. If there are people in your professional network who work, or have worked there, set up a quick call to discuss their experience and ask for advice.
Try to gain additional perspective from people outside of the organization, too, so you’re not only seeing what a company’s PR department wants you to see. Look for recent press releases about new products, investor briefs detailing projected growth, or industry news mentioning the brand that can provide insight into the company’s place in the market.
2. Research the Product
Whether you’re applying to be a marketing lead, developer, or customer service representative, you should have at least some experience with the company’s product or service offerings. This can be as simple as exploring their website’s product pages. If possible, download a demo or sign up for a free trial to get even more familiar. As you’re exploring the product, think of the ways you’ll be interacting with it in your day-to-day role, should you land the job. This way, if someone in the interview asks, “How would you improve our product?” you’ll already be a step ahead.
3. Research Your Interviewers
Obtain a full list of people you’ll be meeting with from the hiring manager. Then, perform a Google search to learn more about them, being sure to check their LinkedIn and other social media profiles. This will help you get a sense of the type of people who work and excel within the organization. By taking note of your interviewers’ backgrounds and interests, it will also be easier to establish a rapport during your conversations.
4. Plan Your Elevator Pitch
No matter an interviewer’s communication style or question set, he or she is ultimately seeking to understand who you are, how you work, and what value you can bring to the role and organization. Don’t assume they’ll connect the dots from your resumé. Be prepared to tell them “your story”—a concise and compelling background containing two or three professional accomplishments that illustrate why you’re the perfect person for the job.
5. Practice Your Answers to Commonly Asked Questions
Once you’ve cleared the “tell me about yourself” hurdle with your elevator pitch, it’s important to anticipate and prepare for other commonly asked interview questions so you’re not caught off-guard. These might include:
- “Why are you leaving your current job?”
- “What’s your biggest weakness?”
- “Describe a challenge you faced at work, and how you handled it.”
- “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
- “What are your salary requirements?”
- “Why should we hire you?”
Even if you’re well-practiced in the art of interviewing, it’s helpful to spend time thinking carefully about what skills and experiences will resonate with the hiring manager the most, based on the responsibilities of the role.
Don’t feel like you need to write out entire answers when practicing, either. Instead, rehearse them aloud or jot down a few bullet points and keep them on hand for the interview. While you don’t want to come off as scripted, practicing your responses will ensure you sound articulate and polished.
6. Prepare Insightful Questions
Ideally, an interview should feel more like a dialogue than an interrogation. To facilitate a natural rhythm, prepare a list of questions you can pose to the interviewers throughout your conversation. Based on your research, formulate questions specific to the individual(s) you’ll be meeting with. If you’re meeting with multiple people, it’s ok to ask similar questions to gauge answers across the organization, but be sure to also prepare questions that pertain to each of their roles. By doing this, you let them know you’ve done your homework and want to understand how you might best work together.
Ask insightful questions that can’t be answered with a simple Google search. Take this as an opportunity to show the insight you can bring to the role and that you’re already thinking about how you can add value.
Some of the best questions to ask at the end of an interview include:
- “How would you describe the ideal candidate for this position?”
- “What are some of the biggest challenges currently facing the company?”
- “How would you describe the company culture?”
- “Will our roles intersect and, if so, how can I best help you achieve your upcoming goals?”
- “What will success look like in this role?”
7. Formulate a Day-of Game Plan
In the days before your interview, make a game plan for the big day. Lay out your outfit, prepare the documents you need, and factor enough time—at least 30 minutes—into your schedule to account for delays. With less to worry about the morning of the interview, you can spend your time focusing on impressing the hiring manager. Here are some items to prepare in advance:
What to Wear: Interview day is not the time to try that trendy, bright-colored ensemble you’ve been eyeing. While you might ditch the three-piece suit in a more relaxed work environment, it’s always a good idea to err on the side of formality when choosing an interview outfit. Stick to professional cuts and colors, making sure your clothing is clean and pressed. Don’t forget to pay attention to the smaller details like chipped fingernail polish, ragged hems, and a disorganized portfolio bag. Even if you don’t notice, the hiring manager likely will.
What to Bring: Print out your tailored resumé, with at least as many copies as there will be interviewers. If appropriate, bring samples of your work or your digital portfolio to help show, rather than tell, the hiring managers just how great you are. And don’t forget to come prepared with a list of professional references, which should include names, contact information, and a description of their professional relationship to you.
How to Get There: Look up directions to the office beforehand, factoring in extra travel time for wrong turns, construction roadblocks, or commuter traffic—even if you don’t think you’ll need it. If you plan to arrive early, the worst that can happen is you have extra time to collect your thoughts and rehearse your personal pitch. If you’re late, however, it’s going to be harder to gain the hiring manager’s respect right from the start. Aim to be at the reception desk about five to 10 minutes before the interview is scheduled to start.
8. Give Yourself a Confidence Boost
The prospect of an in-person interview can be nerve-wracking. But, if you’ve made it to the interview, you’ve already made the first cut. Take a step back and remind yourself why you’re a great fit for the role. Keep in mind that the employer already sees potential in you. In fact, the hiring manager is hoping to find that you’re a good fit for the position and organization.
Now it’s time to give him or her reasons to say “yes!” As you walk into your interview, don’t be afraid to smile or let your personality shine through. And remember, an interview that ends with a job offer is not the result of being lucky, but of being prepared—which thanks to the tips above, you are.
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