Preparing for a job interview is critical to making a good first impression, calming your nerves and coming across as a viable candidate for the role. You need to be ready to evaluate this opportunity and to be evaluated for it. So you can go in with confidence, I’ve compiled my top ten tips for interview preparation.
1. Research the Company
As a hiring manager I’m so disappointed when asking a prospective candidate if they researched our company, or specific questions around topics related closely to the job itself within the company, only to discover they haven’t done any research and have no idea what we do.
How is this possible?
It only takes a few minutes to review the company website, recent press releases, and social media posts, including the LinkedIn company page, to get a fairly well rounded overview of the company. Without this research you are flying blind in the interview. How will you know how your skill set aligns with the company goals? How will you know their values, their voice, and their culture? How will you know if you want to work there? Remember that an interview is not only them interviewing you for the job, but also you learning about them to see if you’ll thrive and grow in the position. Don’t waste their time or yours by not being prepared with this basic information.
Also, ask for a list of the people with whom you’ll be interviewing and research them in advance. LinkedIn can be a great resource for this. Be prepared to bring up any common interests you might share. You’ll impress for sure.
2. Prepare Ahead for Common Interview Questions
Almost every career site lists common interview questions you’ll be asked during a typical interview, such as these outlined by Glassdoor. In addition to most of those, the interviewer will ask specific questions about your particular job skill set, philosophies around the position, and questions designed to assess your culture fit and your passion for the job. For specific examples, I’ve outlined 21 Social Media Marketing Interview Questions for those looking to hire a freelance or in-house social media specialist. You’ll see they are very detailed questions designed to assess the skillset of a social media marketer. Be prepared to answer a similar set of questions around the position for which you are interviewing. Use the job description as a springboard along with what you know about the company from your research.
When I’m interviewing a prospective candidate, I also look for:
Culture fit – will they fit well within the team and the corporate culture?
Communication skills – both spoken and written.
Passion – are they looking for more than a paycheck?
Experience – internships and volunteer work count too.
3. Dress Appropriately
Research says that people judge you 7 percent by what you say, 38 percent by how you sound, and 55 percent by how you look. Don’t overestimate the importance of dress and appearance, especially when you want to make a positive first impression. Not all job interviews require a formal business suit; however, make sure your clothes are clean, pressed, fit properly, and just a bit nicer than those worn by the people working there. Pay attention to your shoes – nothing ruins a nice outfit more than scuffed or dirty shoes. Make sure your bag, whatever type, is organized and neat and that your fingernails are clean and manicured.
4. Pay Attention to Body Language – Yours and Theirs
Again, people read more into how you look than what you say or how you say it. For this reason, body language is critical in communicating your openness, interest and confidence. Sit up straight, make eye contact, lean into the conversation. This is important whether you’re on a video call or in an in-person interview.
Mirror their body language, as they will feel aligned and understood when you do. If they take the stance below, it may be a hint that you aren’t presenting yourself well, or that you’re talking too much. See tip 6.
See me here? What message am I sending? I look closed off, disinterested and unapproachable.
I look disinterested, closed off and unapproachable here.
Here I’m doing the confidence stance. See my hands? They’re placed that way deliberately to make me look confident.
Note that I am looking directly at you too. Eye contact is critical, but only for a couple seconds. A trick is to note the color of their eyes, then you can look away so you aren’t staring them down.
The Confidence Stance
5. Listen Carefully
You’re going to get a lot of information about the company and the position during an interview, so listen carefully. If you aren’t paying attention you are missing an important opportunity to ask good questions at the end, and to really decide if this position is a good fit for you. Mirror back what you are hearing to make sure you understand, and ask clarifying questions if you don’t. If you listen carefully, you may get some of the answers to those questions you’ve prepared in advance. You did prepare questions in advance right?
6. Avoid Talking Too Much
I’ve sat through interviews where the candidate droned on and on, possibly out of nervousness, and it was uncomfortable as heck. Telling the interviewer too much information could also hurt you, especially if you are revealing personal details. Being prepared in advance will help keep you from running off the rails or at the mouth.
7. Come Prepared to Discuss Salary Expectations
You may not be negotiating salary during the interview itself, but still be prepared to discuss it. Go in knowing your desired range, and use a tool like salary.com to research the median incomes in similar positions in your desired area. Be ready to say something like “based on my skill set and the value I can bring to this position, I was looking for something in the range of x$. Is that something you can work within?”
8. Study the Job Description
There is a wealth of information in that posted job description, so review it several times before interviewing. Take note how your skill set matches the description. Use that specific language during the interview to illustrate how you are aligned with the job requirements and a good fit for the company.
9. Come Prepared
Come prepared not only to discuss verbally your skills and experience, but also bring at least five copies of your resume, references, and examples of your work if you have them. If you have an online portfolio, be prepared to share the URL with them so they can review it. Include the URL in your follow up communication too. Bring a notebook and a pen, so you can take notes on the information you learn and on the answers to your questions. You did come prepared with questions right? Didn’t I already ask that?
10. Follow Up
After the interview send a follow up thank you email to everyone who participated in the interview. Share your portfolio of work and reiterate why you are excited about the opportunity and why you believe you are a good fit for the position. Let them know you enjoyed meeting them, appreciate the time they took to discuss the position, and that you look forward to hearing from them.
11. Bonus Tip: Be On Time (Which Means Early)
Be on time for the interview, which means plan ahead to know the route and the expected amount of time it will take you to get there. Plan to be at least 5 minutes early, 10 preferably. Coming through the main corporate door at the time your interview is starting means you are late.
Despite being well prepared for an interview, you may still be nervous, which is understandable. Know that most interviewers will account for this and cut you some slack. If you prepare in advance using these ten tips, you won’t be as nervous and you’ll feel ready to show them what you’ve got.