Interviews are one of those times in life when you have to convince someone that you’re actually a productive member of society. That can be surprisingly difficult if you don’t know how to prepare, but once you know what to do it’s not too hard. Just run through this checklist and you’ll have the interviewer feeling unqualified to interview you because you’re just that good.
Study the Job Listing
The job listing is great because it’s like a cheat sheet of things they want to see in a candidate. The interviewer can (and most likely will) bring up skills and experiences listed on there, so study it like you’re going to be tested on it. Oh you want to know about my experience using this specific type of software? Well, let me tell you this previously prepared story that I came up with after studying the listing! Having talking points prepared will make you seem more polished and will help to minimize any stumbling over words while you try to string together a coherent answer.
You’re most likely not going to have a background with every single skill/experience they have listed, and realistically, they don’t expect you to. Don’t stress about areas you don’t have experience; just try to leverage the experience you do have and tie it into the aspects they ask about. Even being able to show that you’re a quick learner can be beneficial if you don’t have any relevant experience. Companies love employees that are quick to pick things up and have a thirst for knowledge because it shows you’re adaptable and trainable.
Investigate the Company/Interviewer
The company you’re interviewing with is likely doing a background check on you, so you should return the favor. Interviewers might dig into your knowledge of the company history, recent news, and the industry the company operates in. Even if none of that information comes up during the interview it should give you a better idea of what the company culture is or how they fit in their industry. That should allow you to tailor your answers to better fit the company’s views.
The research doesn’t have to stop at just the company. In the age of the internet I think we’ve all picked up some skills that can be described as… a bit stalker-ish. Now you’ll get to put those to use in professional way! It’s pretty easy to find information on people, so if you know who will be interviewing you this could be a good opportunity to let your inner creeper shine. A little good-natured cyber stalking should give you some insight on who they are and mitigate some of the nerves by humanizing them. Just don’t take it too far and mention some of the things you dug up. In other words don’t ask how their Aunt Karen is doing after her latest hip replacement.
Know Your Resume
You would think that people would know their own resume pretty well, but that’s not always the case. The interviewer will likely have a copy of your resume in front of them and will be asking about different items you have listed. Make sure you’re able to talk about everything on there (e.g. what you learned, biggest accomplishments, things you could’ve done better, biggest challenge, etc).
Also be prepared to answer questions about anything on your resume that might raise a red flag. This includes employment gaps, short tenures at companies, or a lack of experience.
Prepare for questions
It would sure be nice if you knew what questions they were going to ask, right? Well, it turns out you don’t need to be a mind reader to get an idea of what types of questions you’ll be dealing with. If it’s a medium or large company then you will likely be able to find sample questions online. Glassdoor is a good starting point. They have user submitted questions that were actually asked during interviews for various positions. They also have salary data, so you might be able to get an idea of the salary for the position and use that as a basis when negotiating the pay.
Judgments based on appearance might peak in high school, but as Bowling For Soup once said “High School Never Ends“. Humans are vain by nature, so we never truly stop judging people based on how they look. This is especially true in interviews, and doubly so if you’re interviewing for a position where you’ll be representing the company outside of the workplace.
It’s usually a good idea to dress one level above what you would wear at the job. For example, if you would normally wear business casual attire at the job then you would wear business professional to the interview. I’d recommend not going below business casual regardless of the job type. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed, so when in doubt go all out.
Just keep in mind that you should be using your accomplishments and personality to stand out, not your attire. Keep it professional and don’t get too carried away with loud colors or blingy jewelry.
You’ll also feel much more confident when you roll up to the interview if you’re looking good. Speaking of which…
If you don’t believe in yourself then why should they? I’m not saying you have to stroll in there and act like you own the place, but breaking out a little swagger never hurt anyone. Subtle things like eye contact, body position, how fast you speak, and fidgeting can all convey your confidence level, so make sure your physical confidence is up to par with your mental confidence.
One of my tricks is listening to a song in the car that gets me pumped up before I go into the interview. It’s pretty hard not to be confident when you have so much adrenaline flowing through your body that you’re ready to run through a brick wall.
Be Professional but Show Personality
Don’t forget that the person conducting the interview is actually going to have to work with you if you get the job. Don’t be afraid to show some personality to let the them know you’d be enjoyable to work with. Obviously keep it professional but a few light-hearted comments can be enough to make you stand out from the rest of the potential candidates.
They’ve had their time to ask questions, but now it’s your turn. Asking questions allows you to show your interest in the company and get a better feel for the position/company. At least 5 questions should be prepared ahead of time, but they don’t all need to be asked. Just go with the flow of the conversation. You don’t have to wait until the end to get them all answered either, so if you see opportunities during the interview don’t be afraid to ask.
Close the Deal
All right, you’ve made it this far; now you just need to make one last good impression and you can call it a day. Just exchange pleasantries (nice to meet you, look forward to hearing from you, etc.) and shake their hand one final time. Quick note about the handshake. Some people put a lot of importance behind it, so be sure you give the interviewer a good one. Something in between a Trump handshake and a limp fish should do. Firm and confident but not trying to prove you can crush rocks with your bare hands.
Finally, get their contact info if you don’t have it (business card makes this easy if they have one). Then send them an email within 48 hours of the interview that thanks them, quickly rehashes why you’re a good fit, and mentions that you look forward to hearing from them. Feel free to bring up any memorable moments from the interview that might jog their memory of who you are or favorably shows your personality. Keep it short and sweet though. No more than a few paragraphs. Then pat yourself on the back for a job well done and wait for that congratulatory call/email to come in.