Job seeking can be a tiring and long process. Resumes, applications, and job searching require time and patience. Most people put a lot of time and effort into getting the interview and fail to properly prepare for the interview. By thoroughly preparing, not only will you perform better during the interview, but you can also significantly reduce your anxiety and increase your confidence during the time leading up to the interview. In this post, we will share 3 interview preparation tips for job seekers.
1. Research the Company
The very most important thing you can do, once the interview has been scheduled, is to research the company. Remember, they will be researching you. Find out as much as you can about: The company’s mission, company history, current company goals, the names of the founder and the current CEO, the company’s competitors, recent news events related to the company, and so forth. As you learn more and more about the company, you will begin to see how your strengths could benefit them, and why you would be a great addition to their team. Knowing a meaningful fact about the company’s founder is also especially effective, for example: “I love how your founder, Charles Johnson, managed to put himself through school and still send money to his family during the time he was starting the company.”
When researching the company, look for positive things that you have in common with the company—for example, perhaps you use their products, or hired the firm at some point in the past. Mentioning such things in the interview will subtly link you to the company, making it easier for the interviewer to “see” you in the position. It’s also a good idea to make note of things that you really admire about the company, so that you can mention them in the interview. You can build great rapport with your interviewer by using statements like, “Your facility is so wonderful—I love how you put a picnic area with trees for your employees, that’s so thoughtful,” or, “I love that you recycle old catalogs here, it shows great corporate responsibility,” or, “I love that you sponsor the 5K every year—it’s so great that you raise so much money for the hospital.” These types of statements show that you’ve thoroughly researched the company, as well as demonstrating to the interviewer that you have genuine interest in specific good that the company has done.
You should also do a bit of research about the specific position that you are applying for. Find out, if you can, what the average salary for the job is within the company, and within the industry. You should also research, in advance, the specific duties of an employee in the position. You may even want to do a bit of research on your interviewer, but keep it general. Saying anything more personal than, “I understand that you‘re also a Harvard graduate” might seem a bit odd to your interviewer.
2. Practice, Practice, Practice
Practicing your answers to likely questions in advance can improve your performance once you’re at the real job interview. Before you have a job interview, you can practice general answers to these questions, which is a great way to prepare some success stories from your past, as well as developing some questions to ask the interviewer.
Once a job interview is scheduled, you should practice answering all of the questions again—but this time, you’ll want to tailor your answers so they reflect upon the needs of the specific company as well as the position being filled. This is one reason that your preparation for the interview began with researching the company. Now, as you practice answering common interview questions, you can add in those specific details about the company in order to give your responses more impact. For example, let’s look at a basic question like “What is your greatest strength?” When you practice answering that question before you have an interview scheduled, you want to answer with specific traits that will make you a good employee. So you might say, “I’m highly organized—I keep track of my appointments, and I pride myself on finishing projects ahead of schedule.” Once you have an interview scheduled with, say, a local accounting firm, you might tailor your answer to, “I’m highly organized, which I know is essential during tax time. I also keep careful track of my appointments, which I imagine will be necessary for this position, since your firm handles more tax clients than anyone other firm in town; and I pride myself on finishing projects ahead of time—which I know is important around here, since there are so many different tax deadlines to keep track of.”
You cannot practice answering questions too much. Practice answering questions in different ways in order to see what sounds best. If you have a friend or family member who is willing to roll-play the interview with you, give that person a list of questions, and have him or her ask you the questions in random order, or by putting the questions into his or her own words. If you are preparing for a video interview, practice answering questions in front of a camera. The more you practice answering questions before the interview, the more relaxed and prepared you will feel once you are there.
3. Prepare for the Interview
Once the interview is scheduled, put the interview location into an internet map site, and ask yourself the following questions: Are you familiar with the location? If you will be driving to the interview, is there construction happening on your route, or are there parts of the route that tend to develop traffic jams? How long should it take to drive to the location? Once you arrive at the interview location, is there on-site parking, or will you have to find a parking lot? If the parking is metered, what is the maximum amount of time that you can stay at a meter? How much is parking likely to cost, and will you need to have coins handy in case of metered parking? If you are using mass transit to get to your job interview, how often do the trains or buses run? How much will the round-trip fare be, and will you have to pay it in cash? You should be able to find the answers to all of these questions online, or by calling the local city hall in the town where you are interviewing.
Another thing to prepare, once you’ve got an interview scheduled, is a printed list of your professional references, and a printed copy of your resume. Don’t assume that the interviewer will have your resume sitting in front of him or her. Remember, the person interviewing you will most likely be the head of the department to which you are applying—in other words, your next boss. Anything you can do to make his or her life easier during the interview is going to have a positive impact. As far as the references are concerned, print them out on their own sheet, with something like “Personal References for Mary Cessna” at the top.
Finally, check the weather forecast. Will you need an umbrella or a hat? It’s often helpful to put together a small “interview emergency pack” to take with you. Include breath mints, tissue, lip balm, a few coins, a bandage, a toothpick, and so forth. By thinking in advance about those little things that go wrong in life, you can avoid them—or at least be prepared when they happen.
Check out more great interview tips in our Interview Skills video tutorial!