Going into an interview dressed in a pair of wrinkled dress pants? They have irons for that. Showing up unprepared to answer some common interview questions? That’s what your friendly neighborhood Google is for. Failing to research the company, its products, services, and mission? That won't impress the hiring manager.
Bringing your A-game to an interview is a necessity. We’re living in a highly competitive marketplace and in order to sell yourself as the perfect fit for a new role, you’ll need to be confident and prepared when you step into your interview. To become fully prepared to crush your next interview, here are some must-read interview preparation tips designed to set you up for success.
Take the Time to Learn About Your Audience
Before an interview, you should invest a few hours of your time getting familiar with the company and absorbing as much valuable intel as you can. Browse current news stories, reach out to any professional connections you may have that work or have worked for the company, scan social media feeds, and read through the employer’s website and blog. By doing so, you’ll gain a sense of the company’s values, culture, and overall personality, allowing you to tailor your interview responses to align with what they’re looking for.
How an employer positions their brand and the way its' staff communicates and interacts on social media can speak volumes about a company. Are employees flocking to the Twitterverse to build hype around an upcoming product launch? Do they contribute personal posts to the company’s blog? All of these tidbits of information can be used as ammo during your interview – not only as conversation starters, but to showcase a genuine interest in the company.
Prior to your interview, make sure you have a clear picture of who you’ll be meeting with. Visit their LinkedIn and social media pages to get a feel for their interests, what groups they’re affiliated with, conversations they’re engaged in, and, of course, their title and role with the company. When you’re armed with personal details about each interviewer, you can prepare questions specific to their area of expertise and even create a connection through a shared interest you both have.
Interview Question Prep
Even if you’ve been interviewing for years, it’s extremely important to focus your time on what types of achievements, skills, and responses you can deliver that will best resonate with each company you’re interviewing with. Your answers should vary slightly from interview to interview depending on the needs and requirement of the specific role you’re applying for. Maybe one interviewer will want to hear you showcase examples of your creativity while another is looking for a candidate with strong management skills.
Be prepared to answer and impress the hiring manager when they ask common interview questions like “Tell me about yourself” and “Why should we hire you?” If you can’t answer questions surrounding why you’re interested in the role or company, you might want to reevaluate why you’ve agreed to interview for the position in the first place. Maybe you thrive in a customer service oriented environment because of the satisfaction you get from helping clients resolve problems or your love for human interaction. Whatever the case may be, think about what aspects of the company and position align with your values, working style, and preferences as an employee.
One of the classic questions that tend to catch candidates off guard is, “What’s your biggest weakness?” People will often try and circumvent this question by giving cliché, unauthentic responses, like you’re a perfectionist or you work too hard. Employers are looking to hire candidates who have the ability to self-reflect and own up to their shortcomings. Instead, choose a specific example of a time you experienced failure or an area of work you’ve struggled with and what steps you’re taking to improve upon your weakness.
Here’s an example of something you could say:
“When I was a junior graphic designer at XYZ Company, my art director asked me to create visual elements with a fun, unique twist for a new campaign for a client. Because I became so consumed with using the perfect font, I completely missed the project deadline.”
“Since then, I have been organizing each new project into smaller tasks, giving each their own completion deadline. If I find myself fixated on one element too long, I will place that task to the side and start working on the next. This way, when I come back to the piece I was struggling with, I am approaching it with a fresh perspective and I’m able to be more objective when discerning whether or not it requires changes or additional work.”
Highlight Achievements and Ask Questions
During your interview, you’ll also want to spend time quantifying your successes and using numbers to demonstrate the measurable impact you’ve made in previous roles. You can do this by highlighting quotas, percentages, and specific numbers that underscore the value you’ve created over the course of your career. Here are three examples:
#1. I introduced a new warehouse procedure [provide insight into the procedure you implemented] that reduced order production time by 10 minutes.
#2. By exercising negotiation skills, I was able to save my previous employer $50,000 on purchase agreements over an 18-month period.
#3. For the 2017 and 2018 year, I exceeded my annual sales quota, achieving 110% of the target.
The examples and stories you share should speak directly to the role requirements and needs of the company you’re interviewing with.
As a best practice, you should always enlist the help of a friend or family member to help role play a few mock interviews before the big day arrives. By rehearsing your responses ahead of time, you’ll have the confidence you need to walk into that interview room prepared to present yourself in the best light. Just make sure you don’t sound like you’re reading off of a script.
To communicate that you’re truly invested in the company and position you’re interviewing for, you should be prepared to ask the hiring manager questions as well. After all, this is a two-way conversation. Your questions should be insightful, forward-thinking, and demonstrate that you’re genuinely envisioning yourself in this role.
Get Your Head in the Game
When you take the time to thoroughly reflect on your work experience and development over the course of your career, you’ll be able to tell your story and thoroughly answer any interview question thrown your way. Some other things to consider prior to your interview is your body language, how you carry yourself, and removing filler words like ‘um’ or ‘uh’ from your vocabulary. The night before your interview, be sure to have your attire picked out (and wrinkle-free), printed copies of your resume, and get a good nights sleep, so you wake up refreshed and ready to go. It’s also good to map out your journey ahead of time to avoid getting lost. As a general rule of thumb, you should arrive 10-15 minutes early to your interview to make a good first impression.
If you partner with a staffing firm, you'll be able to gain direct insight into the employer's corporate culture, what they're looking for in an ideal candidate, and receive a raving recommendation directly from your recruiter.