So you’ve gone through the initial job application funnel and gotten to the interview stage, congratulations! Now the real work begins.
This is your time to prove why you’re the right person for the job and not just that, it's also an opportunity to assess whether this is actually a company you want to work for, yes job interviews are a two-way assessment and adopting this mindset is important.
Job interviews can be hard and quite scary sometimes, believe me, I’ve messed up quite a few myself. But after numerous interviews and copious amount of research, I have come away with a few key lessons which I have outlined as required steps to effectively prepare for a job interview:
The research you conduct for a job interview should reach a granular level because preparation breeds confidence. The research stage of your preparation involves researching the company, the role, the interviewer and possible interview questions.
Research the Company and Industry
Researching the company can be done in a variety of ways but the easiest way to start is through the company’s website. I would advise literally going through every page of the company website but at the very least, make sure you read the about us page, products/services page, FAQ and blog (news/press release) pages.
You can also research companies via Glassdoor , two of the best company review websites. They provide information about companies through reviews from their employees.
It is important to learn about industry trends relating to the company; this will give you insight into the trajectory of the company and help you come across as up-to-date and well informed.
Research the Role
Knowing the key skills required in a role will help you emphasise on your strengths and experiences that are related to the role during the interview. The amazing part is you don’t need a direct relationship between your skills and the role, you just need to find connections between them in an intelligent manner.
For instance if you’ve only ever worked as a bartender and you’re going for a data analyst role, you can highlight the meticulous preparation you went through each morning to ensure the bar was well stocked and rationed. This is a necessary trait for a data analyst specifically for the data cleaning aspect of the job.
Understanding the role is also important to your career path, and for two main reasons:
- Growth opportunities within the company.This is so vital because I know you’re an ambitious person and being stuck in the same role for years without significant salary rise or increased job responsibilities can be frustrating.
- Transferable skill acquisition.Contrary to popular beliefs, jumping between jobs in your 20’s improves the chances you’ll find a more satisfying and higher paying job in your 30s and 40s. This is why it’s important that in any job you start, you are able acquire skills that can be transferred across industries.
Research the Interviewer
While preparing for an interview, it will be helpful to ask the company’s HR department for the name of the interviewer because one of your main goals during an interview is to build rapport with the interviewer.
You may not get the information you want but if you do, this could really give you an edge during the interview. Thanks to the advent of social media (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter), learning about any individual has never been easier.
Note down the interviewer’s professional background, education history and their hobbies & interests; then during the interview, you can ask interesting questions like “I noticed you worked at ‘X’ company before this current company, why did you leave?”.
Research Interview Questions
There are a common set of behavioural questions you are likely to be asked at an interview; your aim should be to narrow down the scope of possible interview questions, note them down and prepare answers for every single one of them. To find company specific interview questions try:
- Searching for the company on glassdoor.
- Googling “Company Name + role + interview questions”
- Reaching out to a current employee via social media.You can search for companies on LinkedIn and contact some of their employees for insight into the interview process, you may be surprised that some people are willing to help.
A helpful technique for answering questions is the STAR technique. The STAR technique provides a structured way to answer interview questions by starting with the Situation (set the context for your answer), stating the Task you were required to do, highlighting the Action you took and sharing the Result of it (how it played out).
But remember that an interview is a two-way assessment, you should also prepare questions to ask the interviewer. For inspiration you can find a list of questions here. The questions you ask the interviewer should be relevant to the following:
- The company (regarding its direction or biggest challenges)
- The role (your day to day responsibilities or how to measure success in the role)
- The interviewer (why they chose to join the company or why they chose that career).
Two of my favourite questions to ask at interviews are:
“What is one thing about the company you dislike?” — This question stumps interviewers, if they claim there’s nothing to dislike then proceed with caution.
“How do I measure against your ideal candidate?” — Ask this if you think you’ve built up a good rapport. The question provides insight into your suitability for the role and your interview performance.
Rehearsing is a very important part of interview preparation, especially for video, group and presentation-style interviews because it helps you identify and correct any presentation problems you have.
To get a better picture of how you will come across to the interviewer, go through the interview questions in front of your laptop (any device with a camera) or with a close friend; this will help you build confidence and polish your presentations skill ahead of time. It is important to go through all your material in the exact format of the interview and continue practising until you feel comfortable with the process.
There’s one caveat though, after this rehearsal process there’s a chance you could come across like you’re reading from a script. You want to avoid this because you may be perceived as a robot, regurgitating information. It’s key to have a conversational tone when answering questions, the best way to do this is to highlight keywords in your answers and memorise those instead of attempting to cram the whole answer.
After you’ve completed your preparation and all the hard work is done, it’s officially time to relax. The day before and of your interview should be a completely relaxed day, whatever hobby you have that keeps you calm should be done at this point (I personally go for a jog or to the gym).
The last thing you want at the 11th hour of preparation is panic, so plan the logistics for the interview (how you’re getting there) a day before and make sure you arrive at least 15mins early.
Remember to lay out your best formal attire a day before the interview as well, to help you feel as relaxed and confident as possible; when you look good, you feel good.
Finally, it is absolutely imperative that you have a good night of rest before your big day; ensure you sleep for about 8 hours so you feel completely refreshed and ready to go!
Well that’s it folks, these steps have worked extremely well for me at job interviews and I guarantee that if you follow them, they will work for you as well. Preparation is key but remember to relax, stay calm and believe in yourself. I wish you all the best.
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