Getting an interview scheduled-it’s both exciting and nerve-wracking! If you’re anything like me, upcoming interviews can induce a bit of anxiety. However, I’ve found that there’s a way to alleviate some of this stress, and it’s through preparation. The more prepared I feel for an interview, the more I end up actually enjoying it.
Today I’ll be sharing with you the five most impactful ways I’ve found to prepare for an interview, so you can transform your impending interview from a dreadful and stressful experience into a fun (or at the very least, much less intimidating) one.
- Do your research
The first way to feel prepared is to know what you’re getting yourself into and with whom, so that means doing your research in a variety of areas.
All applications come with a job description-make sure you read and re-read this description thoroughly and with care. You’ll want to save the job description into your own files as well; once the company closes its applications, these descriptions will often no longer be available to find online.
You can also do more research into the role beyond the blurb that the company provides; look for information online about the role in general, or roles that are similar to it. For example, sales interns across multiple companies will have similar responsibilities, so you can familiarize yourself with a certain type of role from sources outside of the company you’re applying to.
You can also try to find people you know that may be in similar roles, or strangers that are currently filling the role as well. LinkedIn is a great source for this information, and looking at your school’s alumni is always a great place to start. It’s worthwhile to reach out to these individuals and find out if they are willing to tell you about their daily responsibilities and other aspects that make up their roles.
Having a grasp on the purpose and functions of the job position will show your interviewer you are qualified and ready to fulfill the role.
Making sure the candidate and the company are a good match to each other is a key goal of the interview process. In order to demonstrate that you’ll fit in, you’ll need to know a decent amount about the company. This includes having a solid understanding of what the company actually does, who it serves (its customer base), and the company’s overall mission and values.
Most of this information can be found right on the company’s website. Comb through the different sections of the website, paying close attention to the company’s “Purpose,” “Mission,” and “Values.” Read about any special initiatives the company is working on, such as improvements to its sustainability or community outreach efforts.
Going into an interview, you’ll want to have a decent background about what the company does and what its values are. Most companies will include all of this information on their website. This way, you’ll get a feel for the company’s culture and be able to see if its values align with your own.
If you have access to the name of your interviewer, it’s helpful to see if you can find information about them on the company website or LinkedIn. You don’t need to know your interviewer’s life story and what they ate for breakfast that day, but finding out their role, management level, seniority level, and any previous roles they’ve held at the company or outside of it, can serve you well.
If you have some background as to what your interviewer does at the company, you can use this information to develop better-informed questions. If you find out how long the interviewer has worked at the company, you can also use this to alter your questions to be more appropriate. And while you should treat everyone at a company with the utmost respect no matter their position, you should definitely be aware when you’re speaking to an upper level manager so you can adjust your questions to reflect that.
- Have a plan
Most people fear interviews because they are afraid of being blind-sided by a question, getting stumped, or feeling unprepared. While you shouldn’t worry about taking a few seconds of silence to collect your thoughts, a way to prevent these moments of panic is to have a plan.
Go through the job description, and for each responsibility or skill the role requires, think about an experience you’ve had that has prepared you for that responsibility or equipped you with that skill. You can plan on talking about these experiences in your interview to show that you understand the nature of the role and are qualified to take it on.
These experiences could come from jobs you’ve held, organizations you’ve been a part of, classes you’ve taken, or volunteering. You can get creative about what experiences you talk about and how they connect to the role you’re going for-don’t worry if you haven’t held the exact position before, or even one similar to it, because oftentimes the jobs and other experiences you’ve already had have given you transferable skills that you can use in a wide variety of positions. Examples of transferable skills include communication, writing, problem solving, analytical reasoning, project management, and teamwork.
One of the most important parts of the interview is the time that you are given to ask questions of your interviewer. It’s an opportunity to stand out, show you’ve done your research on the company and the role, and take the conversation in a direction you want to go in.
Brainstorm a list of 5-6 questions that you would like to ask, so that you can easily pick out a few of them to use during the interview. Questions about the company’s culture, values, and current projects, in-depth questions about the role, and questions about the interviewer’s experience at the company are all good places to start, but it really depends on what else YOU want to know about the job.
- Make notes
Sometimes when I get nervous or overwhelmed, I blank. All my hard work and preparation is nowhere to be found in my brain. That’s why I create thorough notes throughout the entirety of my interview prep, so I can refresh my brain right before the interview begins with everything I’ve learned and planned for.
If you’re participating in an online interview, have a document with your research, experiences you want to touch on, and questions you have for your employer handy on your computer. You may be able to have the document pulled up during your interview, but be sure to not let it take your attention away from the interviewer and make it seem like you are not fully engaged in the interview! It is best to keep notes away during the interview to prevent this, but if you are very concerned with touching on everything in your notes, it’s an option.
If your interview is in person, print your notes out and keep them in a folder along with your resume, and blank paper to take notes on as well. You can look at your notes before your interview begins, but it is best to keep them away while you are in person as well.
Actors performing in a play aren’t reading their lines for the first time on opening night-they’ve rehearsed for weeks beforehand. In a similar fashion, you can conduct practice interviews for yourself to make sure that the real thing goes smoothly. Whether it’s with a willing friend, using Big Interview (which all Isenberg students have access to), or doing it by yourself, practice interviews can go a long way to make your actual interview a breeze.
Answering the question “Who are you? Tell me about yourself” is sneaky-it sounds a lot easier than it actually is! Take the time to formulate and practice a set elevator pitch, a brief 30-second-or-less introduction to yourself that includes your personal brand, your relevant skills, and your goals. Having this statement down will give your interviewer a solid and quality introduction to you as a candidate, and it will save you from stumbling at the very beginning of the interview.
Most interviews contain behavioral questions, beginning with the phrase “Tell me about a time when you…” There are hundreds of possibilities for behavioral questions, so you may not be able to practice the exact ones your interviewer will ask you. However, it’s still important to practice answering this type of question and make sure that you have the STAR interview method down. Remember to describe the situation, identify the task you worked on, explain the action you took, and include the results of your action. It takes time to learn how to deliver concise and impactful answers in this format, but once you’re familiar with the method, your interviewing skills will be that much stronger.
Even though you can never predict exactly what’s going to be asked and said during an interview, playing out a few different scenarios will only make you more ready to take on surprises.
- Above all else-Be yourself!
I firmly believe that research, planning, and practice are key to making you ready for an interview, but you must remember that the most important thing to do during your interview is to show who YOU are!
Chances are, if you made it to an interview round, the recruiter has already seen your resume and they have a good idea if your technical skills and experiences are right for the role. That’s why you need to talk about you during an interview, not just your qualifications. Interviewing is the chance to show your personality, and humanize your job application.
Try to treat the interview as a conversation. This way, you’ll automatically be a bit more relaxed and authentic to who you really are in everyday life. Of course, you’ll want to show the best version of yourself, but it’s important to not put up a front during your interview. Don’t try to portray yourself as what you think the interviewer wants to see, just show them who you are. Authenticity will help the interviewer ensure that you’re right for the role.
It’s no doubt that interviewing can be tough-no one likes to be evaluated and scrutinized for fun! However, there are ways to make the process easier for yourself. Remember, too, that recruiters want a qualified candidate to fit the role just as much as you want the position. So take these tips and empower yourself to make the next interview a great one-and it’ll make both sides of the interview table very happy.
Haley Carroll is a Chase Career Peer – click HERE to access her bio.