Whether for a traditional, office job or a work-at-home position, the interview can be the most stressful part of job hunting. How could you possibly relay everything you’d need to know about your past work experience in the brief time that is normally allotted for an interview? And interviews can seem like such an arbitrary thing, different from interviewer to interviewer, so, how can you really prepare yourself to be good at interviewing?
Well, there are a few simple steps you can take that will make a huge difference.
Here are five ways to ace an interview that I’ve shared with the job seekers I’ve coached over the years.
1. Conduct Research
When the Human Resource contact reaches out to you to make arrangements for the interview, most likely they will volunteer the name of the person with whom you will be interviewing. If they don’t, politely ask. Once you have this person’s name, you also obviously know where they work and most likely their job title, which should help you to find some preliminary information about them on the web easily.
You should also conduct some research on the organization you are interviewing with (if you haven’t already). Any newsworthy business deals, new divisions, layoffs, and much more can be gleaned from a little bit of research online. Search some of the larger forums, such as Indeed or Glassdoor, and you may be able to learn a lot about the organization’s interview process from other candidates who have gone through it – I’ve even seen where they detailed the interview questions they had to field. All of this legwork can be done in minutes and will go a long way in helping you to be prepared.
2. Build Rapport
Here’s where the research you compiled before could come in handy. Once you’ve done a little research online, you can often get a sense of your interviewer’s accomplishments, hobbies, etc. This will enable you to build rapport with the interviewer. For example, I remember fielding an interview once where the hiring manager’s college diploma was on the wall. It just so happened that I attended the same school. After we shook hands and she asked me to be seated, we started to get to know each other a bit. I mentioned our college’s slogan and could feel an instant rapport between us. In that instance, I was lucky that she had her diploma on her wall, but with the amount of information available now online, chances are you could learn about dozens of things that will help you to build rapport. Be careful that whatever connection you choose to incorporate in your discussion is a sincere one. For example, don’t mention that you, too, like rock climbing if you have never been.
3. Organize Your Thoughts and Practice Your Responses
Take a moment to collect your thoughts before your interview. First, review the job description. Look at the list of requirements they highlighted, and take some time to think through how you can talk about your past education or experiences in ways that will directly relate back to these requirements. Prepare 2-3 minute talking points that highlight a challenge, what you did to solve the problem, and what the tangible result was of your actions (actual statistics can be very powerful). Each of these talking points should help your interviewer see how you have what it takes to meet the requirements of the job.
You should also prepare for behavioral interview questions that might come up, like, how do you handle stress, what do you do when you’re bored, what are your strengths and weaknesses, etc. Once you have put some thought to what you want to highlight or how you want to respond, spend some time rehearsing your responses. I might have a fairly solid game plan in mind on paper, but when I sit down to talk, it might not be as smooth or organized. Practicing how your talking points out loud can be crucial. If you can find a friend or family member to role-play with you, that’s even better.
4. Prepare Follow-Up Questions
When you go in for an interview, you are not only trying to establish for the interviewer that you have the skills and experience to do the job, but you are also trying to determine for yourself if this is a role you will enjoy and a culture in which you can thrive. So, prepare some thoughtful questions for your interviewer. At the conclusion of the interview, they will usually ask if you have any questions and that is the perfect time to get some answers. Think about the aspects of the job, workplace, culture, colleagues, etc. that are most important to you and ask questions that will help you to clarify if this role or organization is a good fit for you. TheMuse.com put out a pretty comprehensive list of sample questions you can check out too.
5. Take a Minute to Concentrate on Your Power and Confidence
This last simple step may sound a bit out there, but visualization, breathing, and posture have been shown to prepare mentally and subconsciously to portray that you are confident, knowledgeable, and ready to take on the task at hand. According to a study done by two Harvard Business School students, holding your body in a “power pose” has shown to influence hormones – specifically testosterone – which helps you feel more strength and diminishes the stress hormone, cortisol. So, before heading into an in-person interview or hopping on a telephone interview, take a moment to close your eyes, visualize your interview going successfully, and adopt a posture where you’re upright, with an open, expansive position, with your arms and elbows out and your chin lifted. Feel the energy and confidence course through you and the insecurity and stress fade away, and then go forward and field that interview like a boss.
What tried and true job interview tips would you pass along? What are some of the craziest questions you were NOT prepared for? Share a time when your interview preparation really paid off.