You passed the first tests: Your resumé and cover letter impressed the hiring manager and you aced the initial phone screening. Now you’ve been invited for an in-person interview and are trying to prepare.
But what do you need to know? How do you make the right impression? Here are the steps you should take as you prepare for your next job interview.
Tips to Prepare for an Interview
#1: Research the Company
Learn as much as you can about the company. What is its mission, and how do those values differentiate the organization from its competitors? Who are the company’s competitors? The more you know, the more confident you will feel walking into the interview.
Take your research one step further by engaging with the business. If you can, use its product, or subscribe to the company’s newsletter. By going through that onboarding process, you will develop a better understanding of how the company is selling itself and the strengths and weaknesses of its product or content. The experience might even inspire questions of your own that you can later address during the interview.
You also want to explore the company’s website from the perspective of whatever role you are applying for. Rather, if it is a marketing position, pay close attention to the company’s messaging. If you are a user experience designer, click around to see how the site functions. By going through this activity, you will be prepared during the interview to answer, “How would you improve our product?”
#2: Research Your Interviewers
You want to research more than just the company—you also want to research those scheduled to interview you. Leverage LinkedIn to learn more about their professional background and try to glean any shared experiences or interests. Perhaps you went to the same alma mater or have a connection in common; those are facts you can bring up during the interview to make it feel more conversational.
#3: Tap into Your Network
If you do realize you have a connection in common with someone who works at the company, ask if he or she can introduce you. Take the opportunity to learn more about what the organization looks for in a new hire. The employee might even be willing to share tips that can help you stand out during the interview process, or at least offer a better sense of what it is like to work for the company.
#4: Prepare for Common Interview Questions
Although there is no way to determine what you will be asked, there are some common interview questions you can prepare for. Examples include:
- What Are Your Weaknesses? No, “I work too hard” is not an option. Share an actual negative instead. Perhaps you work best under pressure, so tend to procrastinate. Tell the employer that, but also describe how you have turned that weakness into a strength and focused on boosting your workplace productivity. Perhaps you now use a project management app, such as Trello, to organize your to-dos or started coordinating deadlines differently. By describing that evolution, you can showcase your problem-solving abilities.
- Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years? Employers want to learn more about your desired career path and goals. While it is hard to predict where you will be in five years, highlight your ambition. What skills do you want to gain that could take your career to the next level? How do you see your role evolving at the company if you continue to hit your performance metrics? Just avoid saying, “I want your job.” Stay humble and be realistic.
- What Are Your Salary Requirements? Negotiating your salary can be nerve-wracking, but not if you come to the interview prepared. Use sites like Glassdoor, PayScale, and Salary.com to discover the average wage for your desired position, and then match that number against your education, experience, and location to determine a salary range you feel comfortable with. When asked, respond with the highest number—because it is always easier to negotiate down—just do not forget to factor in the benefits, such as healthcare, professional development opportunities, or vacation time.
- Why Are You Leaving Your Job? This is not where you criticize your former employer. Instead, take this opportunity to reemphasize where you want to go in your career and the responsibilities you are looking for in a new role—particularly ones that align with what was listed in the job description.
As you start thinking through how you would answer these questions, jot down notes—not verbatim responses. You do not want the conversation to feel forced or the responses rehearsed.
#5: Come Prepared with Questions
Another likely inquiry is, “Do you have any questions for me?” Come to the interview armed with questions for the hiring manager. Examples include:
- How would you describe the company culture?
- What are some of the biggest challenges currently facing the company?
- What would you say has been the company’s biggest success so far this year?
- What opportunities are there for professional development?
- What is your favorite part about working here?
#6: Follow the Company on Social Media
One effective way to learn more about a company’s culture is by following the organization on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram. Through that process, you can see not only how the company is talking about itself, but how others are talking about the company.
If the company has posted photos of its team, you might also be able to gain a better sense of what employees wear, so you know how formal to dress for the interview. It is best to err on the side of formal, but you might be able to ditch the suit jacket depending on the company’s perceived culture.
#7: Give Yourself Enough Time
Build in extra time—at least 30 minutes—to commute to the interview. Plan for traffic jams, public transportation delays, or the building being harder to find than you initially anticipated. After all, if you show up late for your first meeting, how will the hiring manager know you will not be late for future meetings?
#8: Bring All Necessary Documents
Arrive at the interview with all the necessary documents in hand. That includes copies of your resumé, samples of your work if applicable, and a list of references. The reference sheet should include a contact’s title, company name, email address, phone number, and your affiliation to him or her.
The more prepared you are, the more confident you will feel walking into the interview and the higher your chances of landing the job. From there, all that will be left is effectively handling the follow-up. Good luck!
Are you looking for more careers-related content? Explore other articles from our career advice archives, including “How to Write a Cover Letter That Doesn’t Sound Like Your Resumé” and “6 Words to Avoid When Writing Your Resumé.”