Applying for a new job is a daunting experience, especially if you've settled into a safe and cozy comfort zone at your old job and have become a little lackadaisical about keeping your resume up-to-date, staying abreast of industry developments, and sprucing up your skill set through ongoing training and additional certifications.
But the real challenge in a career change or job change is to prepare for the interview; rather, the several interview stages you'll need to get through in order to be considered for the position. There are probably a million unanswered questions buzzing around your head right now.
Advice on Preparing for a Job Interview
Our first piece of advice to you is to calm down and exit panic mode. Everyone is scared of being interviewed for a new job because there's a lot riding on the outcome. Even CEOs are grilled by the board of directors and other key executives when they apply for the position in a new company or have been chosen as a possible internal candidate for a promotion.
So, if you're scared witless right now, that's normal. But you do need to start thinking clearly if you're going to cross this very important hurdle to the next level of your career. Those questions in your head probably resemble these:
What are they going to ask me about my experience and qualifications?
How do I prepare interview responses so the interviewer is convinced to move me to the next stage?
What do I wear to the interview so I look professional and fit for the job?
Should my language be formal or casual?
How can I control my nerves at the interview?
These are all important questions that you may or may not have the answer to. However, breaking everything down into the basics often helps clarify the questions, and that's what we're attempting to do with this article - give you a clear picture of what's expected of you and some valuable tips on how to prepare for an interview so you get through with flying colors.
Here's a great video showing 3 Mindset Tricks to Calm Interview Anxiety from HR expert Cass Thompson
Are you ready for interview tips to help you navigate the journey? Here we go...
13 Interview Preparation Tips You Should Know
An interview is essentially a review meeting to see if you and the company are a good fit for each other. From their perspective, the interviewer will be looking at aspects such as experience to handle the position, relevant track record of success in a similar role, your urge to contribute and grow in the role, your ability to work with teams and manage others, and several other key factors.
1. It's a Two-way Conversation
The first thing to remember is that an interview is a two-way exchange. This is also your opportunity to see if the company and job are the right fit for you. And knowing that it's a two-way street often helps you build your confidence to face the interviewer. So ask any questions you may have about their internal policies, benefits, etc. beforehand. It shows that you're fully engaged in the interaction.
2. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have
If you're serious about moving up the corporate ladder, start dressing for the job you want to be doing, not the one you're currently in. That means you should be better dressed than your peers at all times, not just for interviews. But interview attire is crucial, so be sure to wear your Sunday Best - formal, clean, sharp, well-groomed.
3. Understand the Job Description and the Role
Another critical component of preparing well for an interview is to understand the job at hand. The JD or job description is your most important clue because it clearly outlines what's they're looking for in the ideal candidate. Many JDs will have essential skills and desirable skills; although you need to meet the mandatory requirements, the desirable skills and qualities are secret clues to who they're really looking for. If you tick all the right boxes there, you have a much better chance of being shortlisted for the next round of interviews.
4. Ask yourself: “Why did they pick me to interview?”
In the context of the JD, also ask yourself why your resume or application was picked over others. You might have listed the exact kind of experience they're looking for; your performance in a previous or current role could be just the thing the new company needs; you may have qualifications that are perfect for the job; whatever the case, identify those factors and leverage them in your interview.
5. Thoroughly research your potential employer and the job at hand
When you come off as being knowledgeable about the company or the role you're applying to, the interviewer will appreciate the effort you've taken. Don't search for general information; rather, look for specific areas where your expertise can be put to use to improve the situation. For instance, if you're applying for Sales Director, try to get your hands on their latest sales report so you can speak to specific numbers rather than hypothetically.
Example: “Last year, the company did $X million in sales in the APAC region. With my strategies in place, I'm confident of growing that by Y% in the next Z years.”
This will have an immediate positive impact because it gives the interviewer the chance to delve deeper into how you're going to achieve it. In other words, it allows you to showcase your strengths and the value you'll be bringing to the role.
6. Keep stock answers ready for stock questions
Stock questions are a set of common questions that most interviewers ask so they can get a feel for your suitability for the role. Remember: they'll be looking for non-verbal responses in addition to the verbal answer you give. To be more confident, it's a good idea to rehearse your responses to such questions.
Examples of Standard or Stock Interview Questions
|Why do you want to work at our company?|
|What do you find interesting about this role?|
|What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?|
|Where do you see yourself in 5 years?|
|Why should we hire you over someone else?|
These questions are not intended to throw you off your track. Their purpose is to see how well you communicate your intentions and if your responses are aligned with the type of person they see as the ideal candidate for the job. Be ready with quick and concise answers to these. It should be second nature. They need to know that you've done everything in your power to prepare well for the interview.
7. Watch your body language at the interview
Speaking of non-verbal cues, your body language, posture, facial expressions, etc. are critical to the interview process because they tell the interviewer a lot more than you're willing to reveal with your words. Slouching or looking disinterested is the best way to ensure that you DON'T get selected for the job, so watch how you enter the room and sit on the chair, what you're doing with your hands, whether you're distracted by something else during the interview, and so on.
8. Think before you respond
It's okay to respond quickly to stock answers, but you need to give them the impression that your responses are well-thought-out. Don't mechanically deliver your lines. One great tip is to give a short pause before you answer. This gives them the impression that your responses are measured and well-considered. And if you're stuck for an answer, the pause gives you enough time to regroup your thoughts and respond in a calm manner.
9. Sell them on you!
If there's ever an appropriate time to be self-promotional, this is it! Always keep in mind that this is a negotiation between two or more people; however, also remember that they're the buyer and you're the seller. If you owned a store, would you simply answer the shopper's questions or would you go above and beyond to praise the quality of your wares? Apply the same rule here. This is probably your only chance to show them that you're the right person for the job - your CV or resume did that in part but it's time for you to close that loop in a strong and confident way. At the end of the interview, it should be amply clear to the interviewer that YOU feel you're perfect for the job and that you're ready to jump right in if required.
10. Practice mock interviews with a friend
Mock interviews are like dry runs of the actual meeting. These practice runs allow you to identify your mistakes and other weak areas and fix them ahead of the interview. Familiarity, in this case, breeds confidence. Practicing your interview responses in a low-stress environment will help you stay confident when you finally attend the real session. It'll also help you make tweaks to your delivery so you sound more sure of yourself in front of the interviewer.
11. Carry a few copies of your resume
You've already sent in a hard copy or digital resume, but the interviewer may not have it handy at the meeting. It always helps if you have a couple of extra copies for them. It shows that you're well prepared and puts you on a strong footing because it shows proactive thinking - always a desirable quality in any candidate. Who knows, that might be the thing that tips the scales in your favor.
A great idea here would be to save your resume on the cloud using a service such as Wondershare Document Cloud. This is a dedicated PDF file storage service with an electronic signature feature included. There are several benefits to using such a platform:
PDFs are easy to share
Having your resume on the cloud lets you access or share it from any device to any other device
You get up to 100GB of storage space so all your resume versions, certificates, publications, papers, recommendation letters, etc. can be stored in one location
Wondershare Document Cloud allows you to quickly download a copy of your resume to send to the recruiter electronically or send it to a network printer on their premises
Add a professional electronic or handwritten signature to your resume and other communications with your prospective employer
Collaborative annotations so mentors and other wellwishers can help you craft a professional-looking resume for this and future job applications
Access to free templates at the Template Mall for Windows users of PDFelement
PDFelement Pro DC is integrated with Wondershare Document Cloud - upload, download, and send for signing
12. Make appropriate travel and food arrangements
Traveling to another city for an interview requires additional preparation, such as booking tickets, reserving a room at a hotel, and so on. Although most companies will take care of your travel and other expenses, it helps to be prepared:
Know the location - Consult a map to make sure you have the right office
Save important numbers - If something suddenly comes up and you need to contact HR or the interviewer, make sure you're not hunting around for a number at the last minute
Get there early - There's no such thing as being too early for an interview. Whatever extra time you have can be used in mentally preparing yourself for the meeting. It also gives allowance for things like traffic, parking trouble, finding the right floor for the office, etc.
13. Don't forget to follow up
Sending a short follow-up message or email after attending an interview is considered a courtesy. It shows that you are genuinely interested in the position and that you care enough to follow up. The tone of your message or email should be polite and gracious, but the content is important:
Thank the interviewer for the opportunity
Allude to a section of your interview that you felt went over well with the interviewer
Offer additional information by inviting them to ask further questions
Make it clear that you appreciate a response either way
Answers to Key Interview Questions
Interview prep questions are available for the asking with a simple Internet search, but in all honesty, there are only a few that are critically important. Don't ignore the other ones, obviously, but pay close attention to how you plan on responding to these key interview questions.
Why Do You Want This Position?
In a sense, this is a trick question. What they're really asking is if you're passionate enough about the role to make a difference. Your response should be a two-part answer. First, tell them how the role can benefit from your skills, and be as specific as possible. One or two relevant skills can be mentioned here. Second, tell them why you love their company. They want to know that you're passionate not only about the job but also the part you'll be playing overall as an employee - will you be a good fit for their culture, and so on.
Why Should We Offer You the Job?
This is a flipped version of the previous question. Here's what the interviewer wants to know when asking this question:
What skills can you bring that will make a difference?
Can you deliver results better than others?
Are you willing to work as a team and imbibe the company culture?
Your response should cover all three of these important questions.
Tell me about a conflict or challenge in your current/previous role that you successfully resolved
Most interviewers will ask this question if the role is a managerial one. Your response should indicate the following:
You were prepared to face the challenge or conflict
You had a plan of action to resolve the issue
You artfully applied the solution to the satisfaction of all parties involved
You never shy away from delicate or confrontational situations
Have you ever disagreed with your boss, and how did you deal with the situation?
The interviewer wants to know how you handle taking orders and whether you're willing to stand up and speak as long as you have valid data to back up your claim. Use this as your opening line, as an example: “I've always found that disagreements arise from goals not being aligned with each other.” And then go on to describe how you put your case to your boss and finally convinced them that it was a better way to go. This shows the interviewer that you have a deep understanding of how decisions are made, and that you are willing to go the extra mile to prove a point if it benefits the company. People who can clearly articulate their differences and arrive at an amicable resolution are very valuable assets for any company.
Outline for me your biggest failure and how you dealt with it
The interviewer is not looking to trip you up here. They simply want to know if you're open to making mistakes and whether or not you learn from them and grow to be a more mature employee. Don't linger on the mistake you made; rather, spend more time explaining what you did to rectify it and what you learned from it. That's what they really want to know.
Why did you resign or why were you let go?
This can come in many forms such as “why are you leaving your current job?”, “why were you fired?”, etc. This is not meant to be a deal-breaker. It is an honest question about why you or your previous employer decided to part ways. If you were fired, be honest, but shine a light on how you've changed since then or what you've done to ensure that such a situation won't arise again. If you were laid off as part of a downsizing exercise, just tell them that. Don't try to sugar-coat your reason for leaving or being let go.
Why is there a gap in your employment timeline?
Ah, the dreaded “gap” question! Don't be fazed by such a question. If you had a genuine reason for taking time off from work, tell them about it. It could be that you wanted some time to raise a family or you had to take care of an elderly parent or grandparent. These reveal your human side. However, make it a point to highlight the skills you learned during that time that will help you in the current position you're applying for. For instance, you can talk about how dealing with kids made you better at conflict resolution, or how caring for a bedridden person gave you a new perspective on taking on difficult challenges and powering through them. These are valuable traits to have, and they may help turn the tables in your favor at the interview.
How much do you currently make?
This is not a question you want to answer directly because it may prompt the interviewer to give you a lowball offer. You're obviously looking for a step up, not down or sideways. So, rather than giving a direct answer, redirect their attention to the job you're applying for and how your expectations on the salary front will be adequately balanced by the value you'll be bringing to the company. You can't really tell them that it's confidential or that you're not willing to share that information, so start your response with something like: “Before we get to that, I'm keen on learning more about the role you've specified…” and take them down the path you want to go, which is to arrive at a reasonable salary expectation that is commensurate with the role.
Bonus Tip: Preparing for a Phone Interview
Telephonic or video interviews are commonplace in the new post-pandemic normal, so if you're being interviewed on Zoom or over the phone, you can have a cheat sheet handy to help you through the answers. GlassDoor has an awesome template you can use:
Final Thoughts on Preparing for a Job Interview
Even if you prepare interview responses that are relevant, concise, and to the point and you impress the interviewer, always keep in mind that the job is not yours until an official offer letter is sent to you. A lot of the nervousness before an interview tends to go away if you're neutral about the outcome. Obviously, that's hard to do because your professional life, your earnings, your social status, etc. are directly dependent on whether or not you get the job. On the other hand, constantly worrying about not getting the job will put unwanted hurdles in the path of you actually getting it. Do your best and leave the rest to fate, God, chance, the Universe, or whatever else you want to call it. But be sure to do your very best. That's the most anyone can ask of you.
And last but not least - good luck with that interview! We got your back!`