Interviews are often a make-or-break point in your job search. When, after weeks of sending out resumes, applications, and cover letters, you finally receive an email or call asking to schedule an interview, it may look like blue skies ahead. However, it’s important not to get ahead of yourself just yet. Use this time to prepare for anything the interview may throw your way, whether it be a phone interview, group interview, or simply a standard one-on-one interview between you and the hiring manager. Job interviews can be nerve wracking, but as long as you take the time to prepare each of the following areas, you should be able to ace it.
Preparation is Key
Although some people mistakenly think that an interview is about going into a situation that is out of your control and giving it your best shot, the truth is that hiring managers expect you to come to an interview prepared to answer their questions. You should be ready to talk about yourself, the company, and what you’ll bring to it.
However, while you can spend days preparing your statements and questions, it’s important to prepare your mind and body as well. You can have prepared for days but if you aren’t feeling well the day of your interview, you won’t be able to perform at your best, and it may even sike you out. Therefore, consider eating a brain-healthy food like salmon the night before your interview, as it is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that help with optimum brain functionality.
Be Yourself and Be Friendly
If you’re someone who gets extra nervous during interviews, it’s okay to be a little reserved. However, do your best to be friendly and to not come off as someone without a personality — nobody wants to hire a robot. Try to relax and remember that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get the job; and remember that you’re interviewing them as a potential employer as much as they’re interviewing you for the position.
You should not be late to the interview and should try to show up at least 15 minutes early, especially if you’ve never been to the interview location before and might get lost. When you get there, be nice to everyone you encounter, whether outside or inside the building. You never know who you’ll be interviewing with, who will help make the hiring decisions, or who your future colleagues will be — so be on your best behavior.
Learn About the Company Culture
As you prepare for the interview, one of the first things you should get a firm grasp on is the company culture. A company’s culture should be reflected on its website in such ways as through its mission statement, whether or not the hours are flexible, the ambiance of its office decor, the presence or absence of children and pets in the workplace, and even what people wear.
However, even if the company culture is laid back and casual, it’s a good idea to dress up. People often suggest dressing a step up from the average office attire, but it’s best to dress above that to avoid underdressing. Therefore, if you don’t already own one, invest in a nice single-breasted navy blue or dark grey suit for your job interview.
Show off Your Accomplishments
One question you should always be prepared for in an interview is some variation of the, “Tell me about yourself” question. This question is your opportunity to highlight any accomplishments you want the hiring manager to know about. However, depending on the traits the hiring manager is looking for, this question may be posed differently. Sometimes, a hiring manager will ask, “Tell me about yourself outside of your professional life” in hopes of learning more about who you are as a person and whether you’ll fit into the culture.
You should be able to answer any variation of that question thoroughly, highlighting positive qualities and traits about yourself that will reflect your work ethic. This often requires some practice in order to transition smoothly through topics within a limited amount of time, so you may need to practice. A portfolio can help illustrate your accomplishments as well if you have graphs that show progress in prior companies, press clippings, or programs from conferences where you were a speaker.
During an interview, the hiring manager will talk about the position you’re applying for and what their expectations are of you. Good listening skills are a really great quality you get to demonstrate right then and there. Listen intently while they talk, as this will probably come in handy later on in the interview; not to mention that the hiring manager will like feeling heard.
Use the interview as a time to demonstrate active listening skills by making steady eye contact, nodding and making confirming sounds to show that you’re following along. A hiring manager may take brief pauses throughout an interview to ensure you’re keeping up with them; and you can use these moments to ask any questions about anything you feel was suggested by them.
During interviews, hiring managers like to see how you handle pressure and if you can think on your feet. They may ask a surprising question; such as “what animal or flavor ice cream would you be and why?” Of course, there is no right or wrong answer to this question; however, they want to hear your explanation and the qualities you’ll point out, as well as see how well you think on your feet. They also may ask you to give an impromptu presentation. Obviously they won’t expect you to have anything prepared if it wasn’t supposed to be part of the interview; however, the test is mostly how you will carry yourself in this kind of situation.
Another curveball people don’t expect is to be brought into a group interview. If you weren’t expecting a group interview, that may mean that a lot of what you prepared won’t come in handy for this initial meeting. However, it’s even more important to make an impression during a group interview by introducing yourself politely and professionally to the interviewer. Be polite to everyone in the group to show that you’re a team play and make sure to speak your ideas confidently so that they stand out from the rest.
Prepare Thoughtful Questions
Every interview ends with the interviewer asking if you have any questions for them. You should have prepared some questions to ask the interviewer, and if possible, adjusted them based off the information you gained throughout the interview. You should always ask questions; having none makes it look like you’re not interested in them as an employer, and rather just as the source for a paycheck. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to come up with some good, thoughtful questions about the position or the company. However, it’s fine to ask standard questions such as, “What are the most important aspects of this job?” or “What are you most hoping to see in the ideal candidate?”
Interviews can be stressful, anxiety inducing, and a lot of work. However, if you take your time preparing for them by learning about the company culture, preparing a portfolio, deciding what accomplishments you want to highlight and coming up with good questions to ask the interviewer, you should do fine. Take a moment to breathe and feel confident; and remember that this interview is a good opportunity for both of you to learn something new.