“Emily, I need some advice. I have an interview next Thursday. What should I do?”
As a career coach/recruiter, I get these calls quite often. Even my most seasoned professional friends often ask for a refresher as they dust off their interview suits they haven’t touched in years. Interviewing is undoubtedly nerve-racking as you have, on average, an hour to make a good impression (or hope you do not make a bad one!). For those that are shy, carrying on a conversation with a complete stranger can be the most terrifying thought next to public speaking. While I cannot promise to eliminate your pre-interview jitters, I can promise to deliver five helpful interview prep tips to calm them.
Preparation is key and can be achieved once you understand what the interview is all about.
Interview Prep Starts with Understanding The Interviewer’s Goal
The goal of an interviewer is to find the best candidate for the open position. As an interviewer, recruiter, or hiring manager, we want to know: Is this candidate passionate or excited about the position and company? Does this candidate understand the position and will they be able to hit the ground running or be able to learn quickly? Is this candidate reliable? Will this candidate fit in with the organization and work well with the team? What is this candidate’s career goal? Will this candidate stay long or will I have to hire and train again?
These questions can be broken down into five top interview preparation tips. Once you master them, you’ll be able to make your best impression!
#1: Understand the Company
After conducting your research, you should be able to answer questions beyond what is written on the company’s website. In your own words, you should be able to explain what the company sells or offers, who their competitors are, and what the mission of the company is. Be sure to read any news articles or press releases – the more recent the better.
#2: Understand the Role
If a job description was provided, I suggest reading line by line and highlighting the main responsibilities. Where in the past have you completed similar tasks? Come up with examples where you can explain the STAR: situation, the task, how you accomplished it, and the final results. Recalling the past and reciting it in advance can lead to a smoother interview so you are not sitting there trying to recall facts.
#3: Understand the Culture
With sites these days like Quora and Glassdoor, information about company culture is easier to access. However, it is always good to ask questions during your interview as you may get a more accurate picture. Some questions to ask are: “How would you describe the management style?” or “What are the most common complaints employees make about your company culture?” or “What is the best trait about this office’s work culture that I may not be able to easily observe just by walking around?” Make sure the company’s culture is aligned with your values as culture can often make or break employees’ tenures.
#4: Ask Questions
Which leads me to the next tip … ask questions! When I open the conversation up at the end for questions, it shocks me when the response is, “I don’t have any at the moment, but can I email you if I think of any?” As much as the interviewer is interviewing you, you should also interview him/her. By asking me questions, I sense that you are engaged, you are really thinking about the opportunity in a serious way, and you are trying to navigate the best opportunity for you. One great question is, “If hired, what do you expect me to accomplish in the first 30 days, 6 months, to a year?” This will provide clarity of the role and will also give you a chance to affirm you can accomplish the task at hand! If nothing else, go in for the close:“I’m very interested in the opportunity, are there any questions or gaps I can clarify for you?”
Before the digital age, a mailed thank you letter was the standard. Today, email is completely acceptable – so there is no excuse to not fire up your email account and send off a thank you letter within 24 hours of interviewing! Make sure your email is formal, to the point, and free of errors. Take this opportunity to thank the interviewer for their time and consideration, clarify or expand on anything you wish you had said during the interview, and reiterate your interest and passion for the role and company.
Remember, smile… you got this!