How to rock your job interview

From research to practice, here's how to prepare.

woman on meeting at computer

You've worked hard on refining your job search toolkit, learned how to effectively market yourself and, after some focused networking and follow-up, you've landed yourself an interview! Glassdoor reports that the average corporate job opening attracts 250 resumes, and only four to six candidates get interviews. So when you're one of them, you want to make sure you are bringing your A-game.

If you haven't interviewed in a while this can be anxiety-inducing. You may even encounter a bout of imposter syndrome. This is normal. Most people feel at least some nervousness during the interview process. But preparation and practice can channel your nervous energy into a controlled and confident interview.

Let's go over how to do the right kind of research and get prepared to have a phenomenal interview.


What to research before an interview

Regardless of the interview type (informational, recruiter screen, one on one or panel), you will want to prepare for the interview process by researching as much as possible about the company and the people you will be interviewing with. You also want to use this research to become curious and start forming thoughtful questions.

Doing your research will help you stand out and better equip you to confidently talk about how you would fit into the organization or role.

Here are some key areas you want to focus on:

  • Employee fit and culture
  • Current job postings
  • Company website
  • Social media
  • Leadership
  • Interviewers
  • Company and industry news
  • Compensation
  • Customer feedback

These are readily available on the company's website, on third-party career and compensation websites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn and Payscale, and on news feeds about the company and industry.

How to prepare for an interview

It is absolutely necessary to prepare for the modern-day interview—you can't wing it and be successful. If you do put time and effort into preparation you will be able to answer questions in a confident and thoughtful manner, and showcase who you are as a person and employee. You will probably still be nervous, but it won't be at a detriment to your interview.

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Following the simple steps below will help you make sure you're organized and as prepared as possible:

Job description: This is a great place to find possible interview questions that could be asked. It's also good to go over the skill sets and experience needed to make sure you're in alignment when discussing the role.

Qualifications: Make sure you understand how you are qualified for the role and why you want the job. Be clear about your interest and why you would be a good fit. You should be able to connect the dots between what you've done and how it would be put to use in this new role.

Interview questions: Most interviews start with variations of "Can you tell me about yourself?" or "How would you describe yourself?" Structure your answer in a way that is meaningful to the interviewer as it will set the tone for the rest of the interview. You also want to make sure it's concise. Your answer should take no more than three minutes. Plan your answer to this type of question you using this framework:

  • Skillset: You've reviewed the job description and may have even talked with some people who currently work there. Now brainstorm your skills and qualities that align.
  • Role: How does this role fit into the larger picture of your career?
  • Company: After you've researched the company you can start showing how your personal career goals match where the company is going.
  • Superpowers: How do people usually describe you? Think of examples of when these positive traits have helped you.

Common interview questions

After you get through the initial interview questions and your background, the majority of the interview will entail behavioral questions that usually start with some variation of:

"Tell me about a time…"

"What do you do when…"

Behavioral interviews help the interviewer gauge how you performed in the past in certain job-related situations. The theory behind it is that a person's behavior doesn't fundamentally change throughout their adult life. So the way you have performed and reacted to situations in the past in certain areas is a good indicator of future performance.

Instead of relying on a spur-of-the-moment response, you want to prep by thinking about past examples that would fit into each of these main categories. 70% of interview questions fall into the following categories—make sure you have multiple examples of successes and failures for each:

  • Navigating crisis
  • Time management
  • How you communicate internally and externally
  • Teamwork
  • Motivation
  • Strengths and weaknesses

Practice not just your proudest moments and accomplishments but also the ones that didn't go well. The "failures'' can be even more compelling to prospective employers because they know failure is a given. They're more interested in how you responded to those situations.

Follow-up within one day; and stay in touch

Follow up is essential to staying top of mind. This includes the recruiters and anyone else you talked with along the way. Your goal is to remind them who you are and that you are genuinely interested in the position. Plus, if you forgot anything during the interview, this is a great time to mention it.

Send a simple email message the day after your interview. You want to make it brief but put something in you may have talked about that's different from what others would have talked about—for example, something you talked about that was non-business related could make more of an impact than interview topics (don't derail the meeting with randomness but if they bring something up or you saw something in common on social media, then absolutely mention it).

Now, if you don't receive a callback don't be discouraged! Reportedly, 77 percent of recruiters go back and hire someone who didn't appear to be a fit initially.

Keep up the communication every month or so and make sure you're connected and engaging on LinkedIn. Not all paths to a great job look the same. Keep vigilant for unexpected future opportunities.

Remember, interview prep works best when you research and practice. Remember that it's part of a larger approach to the modern job search. You can also find more about resumes and how to play the job search game at BacktoBusinessBook.com, and follow us on social @theswingshiftco for news and events on job search-related topics.

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