When you get a job interview, the worst mistake you can make is just trying to “wing it,” no matter your level of experience or the skills you possess. Interviewing requires preparation and practice, and those that put in the effort are much more likely to get the job they desire.
While there is no “best” way to handle interview preparation, there are steps that need to be taken to boost your chances of success. For example, you need to make an honest assessment of your skills, experience, and accomplishments while also doing your homework to learn everything you can about the employer. This may take time, but remember that every interview is a learning experience, and your interview preparation work lays an important base for all interviews yet to come.
Here’s a checklist of interview preparation items to consider:
Clean up your online presence
Check your privacy settings on all social media pages to ensure your online presence is professional. Your Twitter account should be focused on professional issues – start a new one if your old Twitter account is too personal. Your LinkedIn profile should be as polished as your resume, free of errors and highlighting your accomplishments. Also make sure that any photos on these sites are professional. Conduct a Google search on yourself, and see what gets pulled up. If you come across anything that could even remotely be viewed as objectionable, get rid of it!
PS: If you're still applying for other jobs and need help retooling your resume to the particulars of job ads, consider putting LiveCareer's free resume builder to use.
Do your homework
All industries are undergoing major upheaval. They are faced with worldwide competition and a drive to innovate faster (and faster, and faster) than ever before. As part of your interview preparation, you need to not only thoroughly comb through the company’s website, but also look for news stories or industry think pieces focused on the company and the industry it’s in.
Who are the company's competitors? What innovations are on the industry horizon? Who are the key leaders in the field? You need to be able to talk about these topics.
The interviewee who displays a genuine interest in the company (and deep knowledge of the industry) will get noticed. Here’s a tip: Add a Google alert to your phone to notify you of the latest developments regarding a particular company or industry.
Tap your network
Part of your interview preparation should be to discover who you might know who works for the employer, or who has connections at the business. Search through LinkedIn and check out Facebook and Twitter to see if the company name pops up in your contacts. Reach out to those you know at the company. Ask them if they’d be willing to answer some questions about the interview and hiring process, the workplace culture, and career paths at the company. It’s estimated that 70 to 85 percent of people in their current jobs got them because of networking.
Have you ever seen yourself on video? Heard your voice on tape? As part of your interview preparation, now is the time to take a clear-eyed look at how you look and sound to others. It’s easier to do this with a family member or friend (since you’ll get feedback from them), but you can still get important information just by recording yourself. For example, does your voice sound dull and unenthusiastic? Or, do you talk too fast? Do you play with your hair or jiggle your leg when speaking? Do you say “like” or “uh” too much? Becoming more confident in the way you present yourself will help quiet your nerves and let you focus on a positive interaction with the employer.
As part of your interview preparation, you should be able to answer questions such as why you’re interested in the job, the field, or the company. Make sure your understanding of the job ad (so, the job description, and listed responsibilities) is down pat. If it isn’t, enter the interview with questions for the employer (additional info on this front soon).
Editor's note: LiveCareer provides assistance with interview questions that are both common and not-so-common.
It used to be that you wore your best suit to a job interview and made sure you were well groomed. Then, startup executives changed all that by regularly wearing flip-flops and hoodies in to the office. If you’re not sure about proper dress for a particular interview, check out the company’s profile online: Many will have photos of executives in casual clothes, which gives you some indications that nice jeans and a fitted shirt is okay.
Whatever you decide to wear, make sure a few days beforehand that it’s clean, ironed, and ready to be worn (missing buttons and a broken zipper can be stress inducing the morning of your interview).
Also, make sure you're not overdressed for your interview--you could damage your chances of landing the job.
Be prepared to discuss anything on your resume
This includes the stuff that can be difficult to discuss. For example, perhaps there was a period where you were unemployed. You don’t have to say, “My boss fired me because we were fighting all the time.” Instead, you can say something like, “It was time for me to reconsider whether I wanted to go into another field, and I used that time to reassess my career path and take some online classes. Now I know that this is something I really want to do and I’m very excited about the possibilities.” Don’t ever badmouth a former job, company, or boss – that will turn off an employer very quickly.
Employers want to see interest from the job candidate, so as part of your interview preparation, write down questions to ask. For example, you can ask, “How does this position help your department achieve its goals?” or “What do you see as the major goals for the person in this role over the next year?” You absolutely must come to an interview with at least a few questions for the employer. Do NOT ask about salary or benefits until you are in final consideration for a position.
Try to get the names (and business cards) of those you meet. After the interview, send LinkedIn invitations to each person you met, and inform them how much you enjoyed learning about both the position and the company. For the key people you meet with, such as the hiring manager, your potential boss, or the company CEO, send thank you notes post-interview, via email.
A couple of days before a scheduled interview, make sure – as part of your interview preparation – to know the best route to the company’s office. You should also establish a couple of alternative routes in case there is road construction or other traffic issues. Get to the interview about 10 to 15 minutes early, and have several copies of your resume or portfolio on hand. Also bring a small notebook and pen for taking notes.
Do a final check on your appearance in a rest room before entering the company’s reception area. Once you check in and sit down, allow yourself some quiet time before the interview process begins. Review, in your head, your responses to some of the interview questions you’re pretty certain you’ll be asked. Or if you added some questions/answers to a note on your smart phone, do one final review. Then, relax. And remember to breathe. Best of luck!