Ah, job interviews. One of the most nerve-wracking experiences that just about every individual will have to go through at some point. The art of selling your talents and skills to someone who could just as easily move on to another candidate has always been tough, especially when you really need the job in question.
We understand that nothing is really going to calm your nerves completely, but at the same time, there are many tips we can offer that will help you prepare yourself for this arduous task. Remember, preparation is the key to success when it comes to your job search!
1) Be Well-Informed Regarding the Job Description
This may seem obvious, but it's quite important. The job description provided by an employer is a neat little cheat sheet that neatly lays out what kind of experience, qualifications, and background is desired. Essentially, the job description lets you know exactly what points you should be trying to sell yourself on during the interview.
It will let you know what type of stories you should tell, what types of strengths you should highlight, and will likely give you a rough idea of what type of questions the interviewer will ask you.
2) Dress the Part
Every company, from a start up to a Fortune 500, has a dress code (either written down or commonly understood by employees). Researching the dress code in advance of your interview and following it will set you up to make a great first impression. Err on the side of over-dressing rather than under-dressing. A thoughtful, polished interview outfit shows you care, are taking the interview seriously and have strong attention to detail. A comfortable black blazer paired with a black pencil skirt or well-fitting pair of pants works well for most every interview.
Pro tip – a good way to get a feeling for what the dress code is like, is to go to a company’s website or Instagram and see what employees are wearing in their headshots or on the job.
3) Lay Out Your Attire The Day Before
As with your transportation arrangements, you want to eliminate any potential need to rush on the day of the interview. Anything you can do to reduce the stress of interview day is a great idea, so lay out what you are going to wear in advance, and make sure it is all proper and ready to go. Surely you don't want to worry about ironing the morning of, right?
4) Firmly Understand Why You Want the Job and Why You Are Good for It
This is a question that is almost guaranteed to be asked by an employer in every single interview. "Why do you want this job?" Your answer should include a thorough understanding of the position and why you would be a good fit. Employers are often looking for people that are genuinely passionate about the field of work, or at least committed to what the position entails.
Of course, not everyone is looking to get a job because they love the field. Sometimes, they just need to make a living. Even so, you should have a thoughtful and detailed answer ready to go for when this question inevitably comes up. You want to sound truly invested in the job offer and make sure you are also ready with explanations as to why you are a good pick for the job.
5) Prepare Answers to Common Questions Beforehand
You can't really prepare for every question that will be asked of you during an interview, however, there are many questions out there that are very frequently asked. In order to prepare for an interview, you should make a list of these common questions and prepare answers for them. You may even wish to prepare several answers for each question. There are plenty of online resources with mock interview questions for various different fields. Make sure to take advantage of these!
The more questions you already have answers prepared for, the less there will be to catch you off-guard during the interview, which means you'll have less to be nervous about. You may as well prepare for the obvious so you can save the stress for the harder questions!
6) Practice Your Body Language and Speaking Habits
You know how you talk and act much differently with some people in life than you do with your friends? You'll want to practice proper body language and speaking for your interview. Unless you are going to a very laidback interview, you probably don't want to present yourself the same way you would to your friends.
The way you talk, smile, shake hands, walk and more all have a big effect on the impression that an interviewer will get from you. As odd as it may seem, you should practice in a mirror, with a partner or even by videotaping yourself answering mock questions.
7) Prepare Questions for the Interviewer
If you've been in an interview before, you'll know that, at the end of it, the interviewer often asks if you have any questions. It usually doesn't send a good message if your answer is simply "no." Even if you aren't genuinely curious, you should prepare three thoughtful questions to ask your interviewer just to put on airs.
When you ask questions, you come across as more invested in the process and more interested in the job and the company. Ask questions regarding the company's goals, what they are looking for in ideal employees, or how the interviewer enjoys working there.
8) Have Hard Copies of Your Resume Ready
We live in the digital age, so it may seem odd to prepare physical copies of a resume that was likely emailed to a prospective employer. But having hard copies on hand just in case shows the interviewer that you prepare for potential problems and that you have solutions to those problems.
As for how many hard copies you should have, it's best to have enough that you’re sure to not run out. You’ll want one for each interviewer if they need it, and one for you so you can have all of the information readily available to you during the interview (although be sure to not ever read off your own resume). Everything that is written down helps to add reference points for your verbal answers!
9) Conduct Mock Interviews
No matter how many times you go over something in your head, you will always become more comfortable with a situation by actually practicing it in the real world. Practicing an interview in your head helps, but it doesn't prepare you for the actual intricacies of speaking with another person.
Moreover, some of the things you thought sounded great in your head might sound a little awkward when actually spoken, so it is a good idea to practice mock interviews with friends and family if you can.
10) Give Your Travel Schedule a Lot of Leeway
The last thing you want to worry about when you are already nervous about an interview is being late because of an accident on the road or because the bus didn't arrive on time. When planning your travel schedule to get to the interview, give yourself some breathing room so you can work around unforeseen obstacles.
Leave extra early, have the contact info readily available the day of the interview, and if you really want to be comfortable, drive out to the job location prior to the day of the interview so you know where it is, what it looks like, and how to get there, rather than worrying about all of that when you are on a schedule.
11) Research the Company Ahead of Time
It's really obvious that you are just in it for the money if you don't really know that much about the company or role that you are interviewing for. As we established earlier, employers don't like that. They want you to come across as personally invested in the company, its mission, and what the job entails.
In order to accomplish that, you need to conduct some degree of research. You need to research what it is they do or what they offer, the company culture, and the role that you are interviewing for. The more you know about all of this, the better you will do in your interview.
12) Have References Ready to Go
Usually, an employer will require references from previous jobs or individuals. In some cases, you may have to provide them prior to the interview or after it. Either way, having a list of references, who are willing and ready to field calls on your behalf, ready before you ever even begin the interviewing process will make it all much easier.
13) Be Mindful of Your Attitude Towards Everyone
Most people think that the interviewer is the only person you have to impress when it comes to an interview, but this is not always the case. Be it a secretary, staff in the hallway, or security personnel, you should aim to make a good impression on everyone who works at the company you are interviewing for.
You never know whose opinion of you the interviewer will ask for.
14) Don't Speak Badly of Previous Jobs or Employers
We understand that there are some truly terrible jobs and bosses out there, but even if they deserve to be criticized for their shortcomings, an interview is not the place to do this. You want to come across as positive, not to mention as someone who sees growth in adversity. Even if you had a bad prior employer, try to find something good to say.
15) Ask About What Comes Next
You want to strike a potential employer as being proactive, so showing signs of that in the interview is a good idea. When the interview is over, you should always ask the interviewer about the next step and what you should expect. It shows that you are already thinking ahead, and it's just good form.
16) Send a Thank You Follow Up Email
This may seem unnecessary or even a little extra, but one of the best things you can do is set yourself apart from the other applicants that have been interviewed. When it's all over, you should ask for a business card. You can use that contact info to send an email thanking the company for taking the time to consider you.
17) Stay Focused, Don't Ramble
While you want to extrapolate on your experiences and skills, you don't want to actually ramble when you are answering a question. You want to be concise and to the point, saying what needs to be said without getting sidetracked. Such answers show the interviewer that you are focused and know how to stay on task.
18) Be Honest
It can be tempting to try and play up strengths you don't really have or claim skills you don't possess. Don't. Any company that is seriously interested in hiring you is going to look into you, including your past work experience and your references. Discrepancies in what you tell them and the truth will come to light.
Needless to say, if the interviewer finds you to be misleading, chances are, they will not hire you.
19) Prepare Examples or Anecdotes
During an interview, it is very likely that you will be asked about instances in previous jobs where you were faced with particular problems or situations. In other words, an interviewer will often ask you to tell them a story about a situation you faced and how you dealt with it, as well as what you learned from it.
Don't go embellishing yourself too hard, but do be prepared to answer such questions. If you didn't have any particularly exciting past work experiences (or this is your first job interview) you may have to look to your childhood instead.
20) Sample the Company's Service or Product if Possible
While it is not a requirement in most cases to have used the service or product of a company to be hired by them, it certainly helps to do so. The more familiar you are with what the company has to offer, the more qualified you appear. After all, if someone already knows a thing or two about the company, they require less explanation.
Furthermore, doing this shows the interviewer that you have some genuine interest in the company, and that you could potentially have the perspective of both an employee and a customer.
21) Prepare for the Grueling "Tell Me About Yourself" Question
This is a very common question asked in interviews, and often one of the hardest to answer for most people. Remember, the interviewer isn't really interested in your pets or your passion for movies. You should always answer this question with the job you are applying for in mind. Try to tell the interviewer about things that will be relevant.
22) Do Salary Research
An interview will almost always involve a question regarding how much you expect to be paid. You should research the average salary of the job position you are applying for, as well as average salaries in your area and the company itself. This will allow you to avoid asking for too much or agreeing to too little.
If the interviewer does not ask you about a salary, do not ask them. The interview is not the time or place to ask about salary. Be ready to discuss it once you have the job offer!