I’ve interviewed thousands of candidates. One candidate sent a left shoe that said “one foot in the door” and another sent a hand written thank you card. Here’s what really stands out: a candidate that shows they’ve prepared. While this article isn’t the holy grail of all things interview prep, these 6 simple tips will put you on the right path to nailing down the job of your dreams.
Read and reread the job posting. Then, think through all your relevant experience, one job and one responsibility at a time.
So you’ve applied to a job and have an interview lined up. Now, you’ll want to go back and read the job posting again.
Review each responsibility carefully and ask yourself if you understand what it means. If you’re not sure, make a note of it to ask as a question during the interview.
Once you feel comfortable, it’s time to think about your own experience. Take an hour to think through all your jobs and what you did at each. If an interviewer asks about them, this will help you articulate your answer well.
Spend time reflecting on your professional strengths and development areas.
Strengths usually come quickly. Ask yourself what you truly think you excel at in your current or last job. Then, ask yourself what your coworkers would say you excel at. If those match up, then you are golden.
We all have areas we need to develop further (aka weaknesses). If an interviewer asks about them and you say, “I can’t think of any,” it shows you either 1) haven’t prepared enough or 2) do not take time to reflect on your own development. Having thoughtful development areas shows you care about your development and are coachable.
Come up 2-3 of each and be prepared to discuss them in detail if the interviewer inquires further.
Research the company.
An easy way to impress your interviewer is by knowing the company’s values and stance on company culture.
To do this, I like to go to the company webpage and click on the “Careers” section which is usually at the bottom. Once there, spend some time reading through the company vision, mission, and values.
Remember, you are not just reading so you can memorize a line or two to impress the company, you are reading because this is the environment in which you could be in soon! So, pick out 2-3 points that resonate with you and talk about why they are important during the interview.
Think about what your 1 month, 3 month, and 6 month plan would be if you got the job.
Many people go into an interview ready to only answer questions about themselves and learn more about the job. And while that is definitely a big part of it, thinking about what their plan would be if they got it is sometimes forgotten.
Spending time envisioning what your 1 month, 3 month, and 6 month goals are, whether completely correct or not, shows the interviewer you have the capacity to be a strategic visionary and will set you apart from others interviewing.
Get ready to discuss past situations.
Nancy Branton, a career and leadership coach and CEO of the Workplace Coach Institute, states, “Behavioral questions are important to include in interviews because past behaviors are most predictive about future behaviors.”
This means that in order to find out more about you, more and more interviewers are using behavioral-based interview questions. These questions ask for specific situations when you were able to show a competency that is being asked about.
For example, if I wanted to learn about a candidate’s time management and prioritization skills, I could ask “Tell me about a time when you had multiple tasks at work and couldn’t get them all done by the end of the day. How did you manage the situation?”
Whenever an interviewer asks for a “time when you…” be sure to come up with a specific situation without falling into the generalization trap of “Well, I always try to do….”
Talk to yourself. For a long time.
Once you have thought about the first 5 tips, it’s time to practice. And practice. And practice some more.
The most common pitfall I hear is that candidates sit down and merely think about their answers as their main interview practice. When this happens, your brain tends to take shortcuts. Soon, you feel a false sense of confidence that you know everything and can easily talk about it if called upon.
While thinking about answers is great to do, it is not the same as practicing out loud.
I recommend going to a quiet, secluded place and practicing each answer as if you are being asked it and simply start talking. At first you may not like how it sounds, and that is normal! Take a few hours and practice each question until your answer sounds smooth and conversational, but not too rehearsed that each time sounds exactly the same.
These tips, while not particularly difficult, do take time. If you invest the initial hours of thinking, researching, envisioning, and practicing your interview answers, you will feel comfortable, calm, and most importantly confident when it comes time to interview.
Ready? Now go in there and show that interview who’s boss. Well…you know what I mean.