Preparing for a Successful Job Interview
When you finally get that coveted interview, it’s critical to prepare for success. It’s not enough to prove you have the right skills for the job - you need to demonstrate your fit with the company’s values.
Here are a few simple steps to follow to prepare. Although the steps are simple and straightforward to follow, they do take time and focus to prepare, so make sure you carve out the time to do that before the interview.
Research the company.
Research the company you are interviewing for. Get to know how they define themselves and their mission. Investigate the overall type of services/products they offer – if your interview is clearly aligned with a subset of products/services, go deep on those.
Prepare questions for things you don’t understand or would like to know more about. Check their website for answers to the following: Where are the company’s offices? Do they have a single presence or national or global? What are their key values, and how do they correlate with your own values? Do they express specific qualities they are looking for in employees? Finally, are they in the news?
Across all these subjects, take clear note of the areas which are particularly interesting and motivating for you. “What interests you in working for our company?” is a question you will get asked in most interviews!
Valuable information can be found outside the company’s website. Glassdoor has employee reviews and valuable information about the interview process. Of course, not all companies have complete information there – the smaller the company, and the more recently created, the less information you are likely to find. Still, it’s always worth checking!
Outside those two sites, you may want to dig further by looking for videos on YouTube and general information in the news about the company.
[Related: Six Key Steps to Research Company Culture]
Research your interviewer.
Do you have the name of your interviewer? Check out their profile on LinkedIn. Do a Google search on their name, along with the name of the company.
Look for commonalities (like alumni of the same university) which can help with bonding. In addition, you can get a sense of their level of expertise and experience in their current role and in the company.
Prepare for predictable interview questions.
There are a number of very common interview questions which everyone interviewing should prepare for. These are questions about you in general and your career vision. While you may want to tweak them a little for each interview, they won’t differ considerably from one interview to the next.
Answers about your motivation and interest for the role and in the company will need to be prepared individually for each interview. Here are some questions I would suggest you consistently prepare for:
Tell me about yourself. What defines you? You’ll want to talk about your personal journey, your education, your passions, your values. You can talk about your family situation or not – that’s up to you. No need to go deep on professional experience if they ask this general question – questions about specific experience will come next.
What is your greatest strength/weakness? When asked these questions, tell a story with an example that demonstrates the strength or weakness. When preparing your story about your weakness, your example should demonstrate learning and steps towards improvement.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Be ready to describe a career vision for the future. How and towards what do you want to evolve? What skills do you want to be using? Are you looking to evolve to a management or executive position?
What motivates you about working for [our company]? Per the research section above, focus on what interests you about the company’s products/services, values, approach in the market, customer segment, and overall profile.
Prepare for competency questions.
Competency questions are all about demonstrating that you have the qualifications for the job. There are two big pieces to prepare for interviews. Why you are interested in this company/role and why this company should be interested in you.
Job postings generally have an overall description or intro and also include qualifications and responsibilities. You should use the entire job description to prepare for competency questions.
The intro often highlights key facts and qualities that are desired for the job. Go through the whole job posting and identify hard and soft skills that are required. Job descriptions can talk about tools, languages, processes, and industries.
Here are some examples of different types of hard and soft skills which could come up:
- Advanced Excel user.
- Experience with GoogleAdwords.
- Strong written communication skills.
- Industry specific knowledge.
- Capable of managing multiple projects in parallel (time management and prioritization).
For questions about key skills, you should prepare a story that demonstrates how you have successfully used that skill in the past. The STAR methodology is a good way to structure that. Think about it this way:
- Situation: Where were you/when was this?
- Task: What was the task/objective?
- Action: How did you accomplish the objective? Include challenges you met along the way and how you resolved them.
- Results: Final outcome!
One thing you can do as you start to apply for jobs is to work on your STAR outline for your key competencies and skills. Soft skills are a bit harder to anticipate, but you can include key soft skills like collaboration and communication, which tend to be in a lot of job descriptions.
Now you are ready to impress your interviewer with your knowledge about the job and company, as well as to demonstrate your competencies and skills.
Angela Fresne is a career and life coach. She is dedicated to helping people find more satisfaction in their lives.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
I am dedicated to helping people find more satisfaction in their lives. That may be via their career, or that may be more from focus on work life balance, stress management or simply improving themselves. I am a career coach and a life coach. The last 30 years I have had a successful career from secretary to marketing director at IBM. In parallel, I was learning CBT techniques and how to maintain work life balance... Continue Reading
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