So the time has come to get a new job or to get a job for the first time, and you are feeling a little rusty or maybe even a little unsure of how to make it through the dreaded interview (cue impending doom music). The good news is the interview does not have to be a scary situation and can actually be a great opportunity to learn more about a job to see if it is a good fit for you, as well as give you some practice talking up your strengths. Here are a few helpful hints to make sure you knock the interview out of the park.
1. Do your research
Far too often I have seen people bomb an interview because they didn't know enough about the job or company they were applying for. A little information goes a long way so take some time to research the history of the company before sitting down in the interview seat. Be sure to know how they originated, how long they have been around, their overall mission and their goals/values. This information will not only help you answer some tricky interview questions (like "what made you apply for a job with this company?") but it will also be a great way to decide if this company is really right for you and the direction you want to take your career. Be sure to also find some information about their growth over the years to learn if you will have promotional opportunities in the future!
2. Practice answering some common interview questions
Now-a-days there is a theme when it comes in interviewing applicants and it is, for better or for worse, a focus on more scenario based questions opposed to questions that just have you spewing out some generic textbook answer. For example, on an interview you may hear your interviewer ask something like, "let's say you are here by yourself and you get a customer calling about blah blah blah; how would you handle that situation?" This is not quite a question you can prepare for, but rather hope that your general knowledge in the field in which you are applying will help you problem-solve the best answer. Many times an interviewer is actually more interested in how you think and why you came up with this answer opposed to what you actually said; it helps them to gain a better understanding of the kind of worker and team member you will be. However despite this new shift in the interview structure, there are still some tried and true interview questions you can always expect to hear and developing an answer to these questions may help calm your nerves in the interview as well as help you make a positive impression on your future employer. Some common questions are:
-Tell me about yourself?
(Talk about your professional interests, experience, knowledge and strengths that make you a great person to hire)
-What makes you the best candidate for the job?
(Share your unique perspectives, skills and motivation to demonstrate your capabilities to thrive at this job)
-What do you know about the company?
(If you followed step 1, this should be an easy answer)
-What are your greatest strengths?
(Be honest and use this as an opportunity to highlight the great things you have going for you. Speak to your communication skills, team building skills, leadership qualities, organizational skills, etc)
-What are your weaknesses?
(Here we don't want to be perfect nor do we want to be brutally honest. We want to demonstrate we have self-awareness of our flaws, so try and find a happy medium where you share some weaknesses but along with that the steps you have taken, or plan to take, to improve in these areas)
-Why did/are you leaving your previous/current job?
(This is not the time to bash your previous employer! This will unfortunately only make you look bad. Instead, stay positive and focus more on the new type of job you are hoping to land. For example, "my job as an XYZ has been great and I've gained a lot of valuable experience, however I really see myself working more at a company like this one because I feel it is a better fit with my values and career aspirations."
-Tell me about a challenge you faced at work and how you overcame this.
(Be honest here as well but choose a challenge that you have in fact overcome! Something that shows your growth and determination as well as professional versatility.)
There are no guaranteed right answers to any of these questions, but having a somewhat prepared response will definitely help you keep a calm and hopefully convey that collected and professional persona you were hoping for.
3- Give yourself plenty of time on the big day!!
Literally the last thing you want to happen on the day of your interview is to be late. The interview is the first impression this company has of you and you don't want that impression to include anything like unreliable, tardy or unprofessional. How do we prevent this? Plan ahead! If you know it will take you 30 minutes to get to your interview, give yourself an extra 30-45 minutes to prepare against traffic, unexpected delays or getting lost. If you arrive early, you should wait to go in for your interview until about 15 minutes before. You don't want to seem too overeager. Once you've arrived, use your extra time to freshen up, adjust your hair/clothes/make-up/tie and take a few deep breaths. Giving yourself these extra few minutes will help you be that much more relaxed when meeting your potential employer for the first time. Also, on a side-note, if you arrive early, do NOT sit on your phone. Put the phone in your pocket or leave it in your car, but definitely do not be the one playing Candy Crush when the CEO walks by the check-out the potential new-hires.
4- Send a hand-written thank you note to your interviewer
I know this sounds old-school, but that is actually the point. Sending a handwritten thank you note shows your interviewer that you took the time out of your day to personally thank them for meeting with you and gives a last minute positive impression before they make their choice of who to hire. It makes you stand out from a group of applicants who either didn't send a thank you note or emailed the same copy-and-pasted one they've sent to the past five companies they've interviewed with. Trust me, in a world full of fast-paced, impersonal communication, this will go a long way. You don't have to go on and on though. Address the interviewer by name, thank them for meeting with you on the date of your interview to give you the opportunity to apply for the job and end with a pleasant and professional farewell. If you do not remember the name of the person who interviewed you, feel free to call the company and ask; it is better to personalize this opposed to simply having a "Dear Interviewer" or "To Whom it May Concern."
While there are probably a whole bunch of other things we could discuss to make it through the interview, it is sometimes best to not over-think it. The best advice I can give you is to be yourself, trust your skills and if it is a good-fit, you will know it when you walk out. And if you end of bombing the interview horribly, ehh, use this as a learning experience and do better on the next one. Good luck, your dream job is out there waiting for you!