Want to make a good impression on the hiring manager at your next job interview? Preparation is the key. Do your homework, and you’ll be more persuasive, less nervous and more likely to achieve your ultimate goal of getting hired.
Here’s how to prepare for an interview:
Do Your Research
You know the expression, “There are no stupid questions?” Well, when it comes to job interviews, that’s definitely not the case. For example, if you’re hoping to set a world record for the shortest job interview, asking “What does this company do?” is a good way to do it.
Before you set foot in corporate HQ, you should know:
- Everything that internet research can tell you about the company, its history and its products and services. That means looking at the employer’s website, social media accounts and most recent news stories.
- What you’re interviewing for. Review the job description, and compare the requirements to your skills, work history and accomplishments. Then, match your skills to the description, looking for opportunities to show that you’re the best candidate for the job.
- Anything you can find out about the interviewer. If you have their name and title, you can learn a lot just from looking at their LinkedIn page and/or doing a quick Google search. (But not too quick. If your interviewer has a common name, like John Smith or Latoya Johnson, you’ll want to be sure that you have the right one before you start name-dropping common connections.)
When it comes to job interviews, there's definitely such a thing as a stupid question.
Put Yourself in the Interviewer’s Shoes
If you were interviewing candidates for this job, what would you want to hear from candidates during the meeting?
Thinking about the conversation from the interviewer’s perspective helps you keep the focus on the key issue: how you can solve the company’s problems, using your skills, knowledge and experience. It may also stop you from committing major interview blunders like saying something inappropriate.
Do a Practice Interview
It’s a good idea to review common interview questions before meeting with the hiring manager for the first time. An even better idea: asking a friend to conduct a practice interview, so that you can get the experience of answering these questions in real life.
To get the most out of the experience, dress as you would for the actual interview, and run through the practice interview from beginning to end. You’ll discover where your weak spots are, as well as when you’re most uncomfortable, and get used to letting a silence hang for a moment instead of nervously trying to fill it. (Those pauses might feel awkward, but they allow you to think of better answers — and they don’t seem as uncomfortable to the interviewer as they do to the interviewee.)
Be Ready to Tell a Story
Want to take your interviewing skills to the next level? Learn to tell a story about your accomplishments. Storytelling is more persuasive than a litany of achievement and shows that you’re a good communicator as well as a skilled worker.
“Be ready to answer typical interview questions with a story about yourself. To prepare, write down and memorize three achievement stories. Talk about times you’ve really felt proud of an achievement at work or school,” writes Doug Hardy at Monster.com. “These stories demonstrate all those hard-to-measure qualities like judgment, initiative, teamwork or leadership.”
Hardy recommends quantifying your achievements wherever possible, e.g. “increased sales by 20 percent.”
In the olden days, dressing for job interviews was easy: you wore a suit, and that was it. Now, there’s a lot more room for variation in appropriate interview dress — and that’s not always good news for interviewees who are desperately trying to figure out what to wear.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to dress at least as well as the person interviewing you, even if that’s slightly fancier than the dress code for an average day at the office. That usually means business casual. Make sure your outfit is clean, pressed and free of any holes, lose threads or missing buttons.
Simple is often better: you want the hiring manager to remember you, not your clothes.
Prepare to Get There Early
Find out where the business is located, and do a dry run of your commute to make sure that you’ve got the correct address. This will also help you prepare for any delays due to construction, blocked building entrances or other factors that you can’t predict by looking at directions online.
Finally, make sure that you have everything you need ready to go, including copies of your resume, portfolio, references, etc., so that you can grab it all as you walk out the door.
Tell Us What You Think
What tips would you add to this list? We want to hear from you. Share your advice in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.