9 Interview Preparation Tips: How to Prepare for an Interview
By Ashford University Staff
You found a job you want. You polished your resume and applied. And now, you’ve landed an interview. For most jobs, only a handful of applicants make it to this step. Being invited to an interview is a clear sign that the company is legitimately interested in you as a candidate. Usually, the interview is the last step before a job offer is extended. It can make or break your chances of landing the job, so preparation is key.
Nine Tips for a Successful Interview
With the interview, you get to fill in all the blank spaces and let the manager know who you really are. From the second you walk into an interview, you are being assessed. Try some of the following tips and ask some of the following questions to impress your next interviewer with your poise and professionalism.
First of all, you need to do a little research. Almost every company has a website. At the very least, you need to review the site and try to understand exactly what the company does. Candidates with minimal knowledge of a company do not impress interviewers. Also pay attention to the way the company talks about itself. Does it want to be viewed as a technologically-advanced, forward-thinking organization or does it pride itself on being a traditional family business? Does it seem relaxed and casual or is it formal and conservative? These nuances could provide you with some clues on how you want to present yourself during the interview and what aspects of your experience you’ll want to highlight.
It is important to also stay relevant in your professional life, as this can translate to a better interview experience. If you are a worker re-entering the workforce or a stay-at-home mom, lack experience or are in-between careers, you must be willing to sacrifice in some way to meet your career goals. Whether that’s taking time to attend a networking event in your industry, volunteering, starting an online degree, or doing an internship, you’ll be able to sell yourself more confidently in an interview when you can talk about skills you’ve gained on your road to your new job.
While you’re busy online researching the company, stop by Glassdoor.com. The site provides anonymous feedback about companies from current and former employees. Like most anonymous online postings, it tends to skew toward harsher criticism, but it does have value to a job seeker. If you see one or two criticisms pop up repeatedly, you may want to ask some questions about it during the interview.
2. Look the part: clothing & grooming
If you’re actively looking for a job, make sure you have one or two impeccable business outfits in your closet. For men, interview wear probably means a suit. At the very least, invest in a couple of ties and dress pants. Women have more flexibility and can look appropriate in suits, dresses, sweaters, skirts, or slacks. Find something that fits well, makes you feel good, and also looks neat and professional.
It’s wise to err on the side of dressing conservatively, but don’t be afraid to add a dash of flair to show some personality. For grooming, maintaining hair and bodily hygiene is the easiest way to ensure the interviewer notices you rather than your appearance.
Hair should be pulled back away from the face and free of any excess oils or products, and your body should be fresh and clean without any overwhelming cologne or perfume odors. If you know you will get nervous at the last minute, be sure to apply an extra layer of deodorant. Some hiring managers may be allergic to certain strong odors, so be conservative with any scented products.
3. Bring your paperwork
You sent the company your resume, so everyone you interview with should already have a copy when they meet you. In reality, it doesn’t always work out that way. Be sure to bring printed copies of your resume, cover letter, and references with you. If someone interviewing you confesses that they don’t have your resume, you will look super competent if you are able to produce the missing document instantly.
4. Arrive early
Allow yourself extra time to arrive at the interview location. Showing up early demonstrates an ability to plan ahead and anticipate obstacles. Plus, you’ll be far more relaxed and focused if you aren’t rushing into the interview at the last minute. If you’re worried that arriving early will make you look a little over-eager, you can always kill some time in your car until a few minutes before the scheduled interview time.
5. Engage, engage, engage
Understand what a job interview is all about. The hiring manager is taking the top candidates and trying to figure out who is the best fit for the company. It’s more about personality than job qualifications or experience. If the manager didn’t think you were capable of doing the job, he or she wouldn’t bother interviewing you. So you want to focus on engaging with the person interviewing you. Relax and actively listen to the interviewer. The best interviews are the ones that feel like a naturally flowing conversation.
6. Look eager & happy to be there
When it comes to posture, there are two great ways to subconsciously make that great first impression. The first way is to stay on the edge of your seat at all times. This position demonstrates desire and interest to an employer as well as helps you keep your attention focused on the task at hand.
Whether we like it or not, we also all have a tendency to wear our hearts on our sleeves at one time or another, and for many that time is during an interview. Be sure to take deep breaths and think positive thoughts throughout your interaction so that any unnecessary stress does not show up on your face.
Lastly, if you’re an introvert, this bit of advice can feel like torture but force yourself to look the interviewer in the eye as much as possible. An inability to make eye contact can often be interpreted as weak, secretive, or untrustworthy.
7. It’s not about the money
When you’re interviewing with the hiring manager, resist the urge to ask about compensation. Many managers don’t mind discussing pay, but there are others who find it crass and off-putting. Remember, you want to impress the manager with how much you want the job not how much you want the paycheck. Yes, you need to know how much the job pays, but this question is for the recruiter or human resources representative. Benefits, paid time off, and similar topics should also be directed toward human resources.
8. Other taboo topics
There are many other subjects you shouldn’t bring up during job interviews. As a general rule, politics, religion, and other potentially controversial topics should be left at home. It will be a very brief interview if you offend the interviewer. Also, be careful about bringing up personal details that could run afoul of human resources. Due to equal employment opportunity guidelines, interviewers are not allowed to ask questions about your age, ethnicity, marital status, medical history, sexual orientation, etc. While some of these topics may naturally come up during the conversation, try to avoid them if possible.
9. End on a positive note
Always end the interview by reiterating your interest in the job. Explain that, after learning more about the position, you are more convinced than ever that you would be an excellent fit. Leave no doubt in the interviewer’s mind that you would welcome a job offer.
The final handshake is something that also deserves attention. Contrary to popular belief, the most powerful part of your handshake is not in your grip; it is in your eyes. A firm, confident handshake is a delicate balance somewhere between a wet noodle and an arm wrestling match but making eye contact is what will really seal the deal. The moment you know your hand is in the right position for the greeting, look up at your interviewer and demonstrate just how certain you are that this is the job for you. That fraction of a second of eye contact could be the trigger that leaves an employer wanting to know more about you.
Finally, it’s also a good idea to ask for a business card at the end of the interview so you can send a thank you note or email to the interviewer. The thank you note is another excellent opportunity to restate your qualifications and reiterate your interest in the job.
Interview Question Preparation
Now that you have read over the above tips, it is also imperative that you have a few questions stashed away for the interview. Almost any job interview will end with the interviewer asking, “So, do you have any questions for me?” The answer should always be “Yes.” You look like you’re disengaged if you don’t have a single question to ask.
Think about topics that might not ordinarily come up during the interview: the company’s culture, room for advancement, the supervisor’s management style, team dynamics, the company’s future, etc. Consider what is truly important to you and your possible future with the company.
Spend some time revisiting the job description and your resume. Try to think about these documents from the interviewer’s perspective and be critical. You’re looking for any weaknesses that the interviewer might pick up on. Maybe you’re missing one of the preferred qualifications or you’ve never performed one of the job duties. A weakness like that is not a deal breaker – after all, the company agreed to interview you despite the weakness – but you need to recognize that you will probably have to defend the deficiency.
Try to think of other tasks you have done that might be similar. If all else fails, express your enthusiasm for learning the new skill and come up with some examples that demonstrate how you have learned other new skills on previous jobs.
It might also be worthwhile to start prepping answers to some of the standard interview questions. Don’t give generic cookie cutter answers though, as recruiters want to see and hear more than a recitation of your resume. If you know the job description and understand the qualifications you have that address the employer’s needs, you have the tools to give answers that are memorable and unique to your work experience. And that’s what any hiring manager would appreciate during the hiring process. You never know what an interviewer could throw at you, but some of the old standbys include:
• What attracted you to this position?
• What can you bring to the position that others can’t?
• What’s your greatest strength? Your greatest weakness?
• Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
If you can master these nine tips, and best prepare for anticipated interview questions, you will feel confident about the interview process. And nothing conveys professionalism and competence quite like a healthy dose of self-assurance. Spend some time preparing for your interview, and lay the foundation for success.
Compiled by Ashford University staff