Being in recruiting for over 15 years I’ve coached a lot of people on preparing for a job interview. Kind of goes with the territory. There is no specific one way on how to prepare for the job interview. What there is are some best practice ideas that you can use to maximize your chances during the meeting or meetings. I’ll share with you what I’ve learned over the last 15 years of setting people up for interviews. Let me show what I feel are some really good ideas on how to prepare for the job interview.
System Isn’t Great
I’ve mentioned this in other articles about recruiting that I’ve written but it bears repeating. The online application system of applying for jobs does not work that great. Don’t get me wrong, it is a system and it’s how most companies post for jobs and take applications. That being said there are a lot of nuances to the system that can make it easy for a well qualified candidate to be passed over for one reason or another.
I’ll share an example with you. A few years ago I posted for an Executive Assistant position I was recruiting for. I posted the position on a Friday and by Monday I had 70 applications. You’d think that was great, right? It wasn’t. It took me 2 hours to review those resumes and of the 70 applications only 2 met the job requirements. So as a recruiter I’d advise you to only apply for jobs that are actually a fit for your experience and skills. Which will lead us to our next section on how to prepare for the job interview.
If you are actively looking for a job make sure you use multiple angles and opportunities to get your resume and background in front of someone that will notice. Don’t spend 5 hours a day applying for jobs online only. It’s a lot of effort and many times not great payoff. In the spirit of that, onward.
Spend Your Time and Energy Wisely
So, if you are actively looking for a new job it can be overwhelming. It can also get to be incredibly frustrating. I advise people who are looking for jobs that it’s a lot like sales. You have to be putting a lot of potential opportunities into the wide end of the funnel. The reason is because most of those opportunities won’t become a real option for you. This is through no fault of your own, it’s just how things shake out. It’s the process.
Job hunting and interviewing can be time intensive activities. With that said it’s a good idea to spend your time and energy wisely. Some tips here include the following:
- What what type of role you are suited for and want
- Target companies that you want to work at
- Let your network know that you are on the job hunt
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help or an introduction to someone
- Use a variety of methods to get noticed by a company, not just online applications
- When you do get an interview for a role that you are highly interested in make sure you prepare extremely well for the interview
How to Prepare for the Job Interview
Understand the Position As Much As Possible
So the first thing on your list of how to prepare for the job interview is to understand the position as much as possible. In my opinion even the most well written job description will tell you about 70% of the full scope of the role. That’s mostly because most companies aren’t very good at writing job descriptions. It will probably give you a good overall flavor for the role but it’s up to you to dig out more. When I am having a phone interview with someone I strive to ensure the candidate really understands the role. I invite them to ask me questions. Now I can’t always answer all of them but I sure try. Understanding the position or role is critical to fully preparing for the job interview.
Research the Company
This really should be a no brainer but I am surprised at how many people I talk to that don’t research the company they are interviewing with. What that shows me as an interviewer is you don’t care enough about the opportunity to do 10 minutes worth of internet research. Don’t you want to know what type of company you are thinking about working for? I sure do! If I’m going to give a large portion of my waking hours to an organization I want to know a lot of about them. The history of the company, the culture, the values, what they actually do, etc. Take 10 minutes and research the company for goodness sake.
Know Who Your Interviewers Are
Another box you want to check on your how to prepare for the interview list is know who your interviewers are. Sometimes you are only meeting with one person so that’s a lot easier. Some of the interviews I facilitate have 8-10 different interviewers, that’s a whole different ballgame. In either case take the time to know who your interviewers are. I suggest looking them up on LinkedIn and ask the recruiter who they are. In my case I ensure the person coming in for an interview and I have a call to discuss who they will be meeting with.
It’s always a great idea to put your best foot forward during an interview. Know the office environment and if you don’t know, ask someone. If you are interviewing on a construction site it’s probably not required to wear a suit. On the flip side if you are going to an office location to interview you aren’t going to want to wear jeans – unless you are in IT. I have people ask me this all the time – what should I wear? I always advise to dress up a step over what you think the office environment is and most importantly, wear something that makes you feel good and confident.
Have Questions Ready
Another good idea on how to prepare for the job interview is to make sure you have some questions ready. Most of the time you will be answering questions. Any halfway decent interviewer will make sure to leave time for you to ask some questions as well. This could happen towards the end of your interview or throughout the interview process. Having questions ready to ask will show that you are prepared and probably most importantly, you care about the opportunity you are talking to the company about. Come prepared to ask questions about both the company as well as the role you are interviewing for. Do no be that person who has no questions.
Know EXACTLY Where you Are Going
If you are not absolutely sure of where the location is that you will be interviewing at go find it before the interview. Nothing looks worse than showing up 10 minutes late to an interview because you got lost. My strong suggestion to people is to arrive a few minutes early to the interview. Not 20 minutes early, not 5 minutes late. A few minutes early. You want to feel confident that you will be arriving on time, if not a few minutes early. A story that happened to me really made me aware of how important this is.
When we moved to the city we now live in I moved without a job. I did have an interview lined up the week after we moved so that was good. When I called to ask where the location was I was provided an address. Okay, fine, that should work. I drove to that address and could not find the company. Want to know why? Because the entrance was unmarked. And down a side street. And around back of another address. Yeah, thanks for giving me a heads up. Know where you are going.
Know Your Story and Strengths
When I say know your story I am referring to your career path. Be ready to share why you moved from one job to another or from one company to the next. Sometimes it’s due to an opportunity for growth, sometimes it’s because your last company went bankrupt. Could be because your family moved. Whatever the case, be able to succinctly tell the story of your career. I can tell you mine in about 2 minutes and provide more detail if needed.
It’s also best to know your strengths. I’m hoping you are interviewing for jobs that align with your strengths. Know what you like to do and what you are good at. On the other side of that coin be ready with a few examples of what you aren’t as good at but also ensure you know how to turn those into a positive. Know your story and your strengths.
Exude Confidence and Grace
Lots of little things will help you exclude confidence and grace. A firm handshake and looking someone in the eye will show confidence. So will coming prepared to the interview and feeling like you are looking sharp. Well dress, freshly groomed, smiling, you get the idea. Make sure you show grace as well. Thank the interviewer for their time. Show appreciation that they invited you in to talk to them. Smile and be comfortable in your own skin. Remember the little things that will help you excude confidence and grace.
Remember It’s a 2 Way Street
Yes, the company is interviewing you. Don’t forget you are interviewing them as well. Know the type of environment you want to work in and the people you want to work with. Ensure you know your strengths and the type of work you are good at and want to do. Too many people get caught up “getting the job”. It’s important to remember that the job market is great for talent individuals right now so keep that in mind. You have options, act like it. Like someone told me a few days ago, I am coming from a position of strength. I have a job and I know I am good at what I do. I am looking for a company that values my strengths and aligns with what I believe in and want to do. Enough said!
There you have it, 9 suggestions on how to prepare for the job interview. There are other bits and pieces of information on how to prepare for the job interview but in my opinion these are the big ones. Running through this checklist as you prepare for the interview will help you feel confident and prepared.
Looking for a new gig isn’t easy. Be strategic about your search, do your homework, and prepare each in person interview. That will help you land the new role you can be excited about.
Go get em Tiger!