How to Prepare for an Interview in 2020
It is one thing to be invited to an interview, but it is quite another to nail the interview itself. To simplify the task, here are all the best strategies.
It is one thing to be invited to an interview, but it is quite another to nail the interview itself. To simplify the task, here are all the best strategies.
The interview invitation proves that the candidate piqued the interest of the potential employer since his resume or online profile was selected and approved among plenty of other applicants. This fact allows many people to let their guard down and mistakenly accept the idea that the role and related career prospects are already in their pockets.
Yet, a personal conversation with the recruiter can play a dirty trick and even shut the company's doors on you in case of poor interview preparation. But do not panic! Instead, arm yourself with interview prep tips from our guide and create your successful checklist.
Research the Company Before the Interview
Gathering information about the company is one of the most important practices in preparing for job interviews. First, it raises your awareness of the industry and the activities of your desired employer. Second, it can emphasize your genuine interest in the position during the dialogue with the interviewer. To conduct a useful study, pay particular attention to the following points:
- Visit the company’s website or their official profiles on social networks. There you can find news and press releases that will show you the development thrust of the organization, its plans, and recent changes in activities. Many corporations use such platforms to familiarize the audience with their mission and values. These components are the foundation of corporate culture, so make sure that you and your potential employer are on the same page when getting ready for an interview.
- Explore the products or services that the company offers on the market, its purpose, advantages, technical properties, or positioning features. Even if the position you are applying for does not imply the development or presentation of the product directly, your responsibilities will somehow be aimed at the prosperity of the business. Therefore, you need to understand which goods or services unite all the employees of the corporation for a common purpose.
- Once you understand the scope of the company and its product, make an effort to skim its principal competitors in the market, compare their strategies, and identify key differences. This information will help you to flaunt your knowledge during the in-person interview, prove that you spent time prepping and delved into the issue, get the loyalty of a recruiter, and add points to yourself as an applicant, respectively.
- To get an aggregate picture of the employer, resort to reviews about the company. It will help identify the pitfalls, pros, and cons of collaboration. However, do not take into account all the feedback, as some of them are untruthful and biased. Instead, focus on the reasoned ones only. Remember that you have every right to evaluate the company, its proposed working conditions, and corporate culture for compliance with your expectations and requirements.
- Learn the desired role and all the requirements for the candidate far and wide, preparing for work. Remember that the job description may vary by company. For example, the role of an assistant manager can include a wide range of responsibilities, from scheduling to participating in the development of business strategies. In this regard, try to understand what you will have to work on and whether you have the appropriate qualifications.
How to Dress for an Interview
Some candidates are so focused on their effective self-presentation that they forget to choose the right clothes for passing the job interview. Meanwhile, your appearance is the first thing that catches the recruiter's eye before you begin to talk about your experience, skills, and other advantages. That's why you should keep in mind some dress code tips.
- Contrary to the stereotype, business-style clothing is no longer a universal solution for any interview. Moreover, the notorious formal suit with a tie may look ridiculous if the candidate applies for the position of, say, a retail store sales associate, an animator, or a designer. But if you still doubt the appropriateness of business attire, then feel free to clarify this issue in the response letter to the interview invitation.
- A smart-casual style is a modern alternative to a business suit and a long skirt. The advantage of this clothing is the combination of classic and fashionable components, so you do not look pretentious but also do not resemble a person who accidentally came to the office after a party. Good examples of smart casual are a white shirt, classic jeans, sole-colored keds, or a plain t-shirt, jacket, jeans, and sneakers. Such looks will help you make a good impression and feel comfortable during the interview.
- A safe choice is to study the dress code of the organization to understand what style of clothing is familiar with their corporate culture. For example, creative agencies and IT companies rarely require their employees to wear business attire with a tie. Therefore, if you come to the office in casual jeans and a sweater, you will not cause a negative response from the recruiter. To understand the appropriate style of clothing, you can visit the social networks of the company where sometimes you can find photos of the team or the daily life of the corporation. But if you could not get such information, then the smart casual style is still in force.
- If you are applying for a position in the fashion industry or want to represent a brand as a sales clerk, then your attire matters at the first meeting with the company. Try to take into account the style of the brand or store you want to join, consider the combination of colors and textures in your look. You should prove your aesthetic sense and good taste to become a link between the company and its customers.
What to Bring to a Job Interview
Interviews are a pivotal moment in your job search. And it would be a shame to spoil it with one ridiculous oversight. Therefore, arm yourself with a short checklist of necessary things that will come in handy during a decisive conversation with a recruiter:
- Printed resume and cover letter. These papers are your professional identification that describes your background, skills, and motivation to join a particular team. Even if you sent them to the recruiter’s mail earlier, take the trouble to play it safe and make additional copies for the first interview to remind of your advantages and have a talking point.
- Photo ID and the invitation to an interview, if any. These documents are often required for the pass/entry system because they confirm your identity and demonstrate the purpose of the visit to the office.
- Pen and notebook. Communication with a company representative is a source of valuable information about the corporation, position, responsibilities, and culture for each candidate. To keep in mind all the critical points, you should take notes during the interview.
- Gum or breath freshener. No one is immune from the desire to have a bite or dine before the interview, especially if it is scheduled in the afternoon. The universal rule of such a snack is a taboo for spicy and greasy dishes that can lead to both stomach pain and fetid breath. But given that any food can leave a specific smell, chewing gum or a breath freshener will help mask or eliminate it. However, make sure you spit out the gum before entering the office since chewing during the conversation is contrary to business etiquette.
How to Prepare for Different Formats of Interviews
Modern employers use different formats of interaction with applicants. Even though the list of questions and the gist of the conversation can often remain identical, each type requires an individual approach and preparation. To give a good account of yourself, take note of the guidelines for personal, online, telephone, and group interviews.
This format is often used at the initial stage of the selection process to identify worthy candidates for personal interviews. For nailing a job interview by phone, follow these prompts:
- If the call time is agreed in advance, then choose a private or quiet place where background noise and extraneous sounds will not interfere with your dialogue.
- If the call took you by surprise in transport, a store, coworking, and so on, then do not hesitate to ask for another interview time when external conditions will be conducive to a business conversation.
- Make sure that you have the necessary quality of connection for the call to ensure a clear and uninterrupted conversation.
Interviewing via Skype or Google Hangouts is an excellent opportunity to evaluate candidates for remote employment and save time spent by the applicant on a trip to the office. To make this format as efficient as possible, follow these steps:
- Check the equipment health and software functionality to avoid technical obstacles during the dialogue. Try to make a preliminary and verification call with someone you know to make sure that the camera, microphone, and application are in good working order.
- Take care of the picture that the recruiter will observe throughout the dialogue. Choose a formal or neutral background without mess, your possessions, and family photos. It distracts the interlocutor and discredits your responsible approach to the interview.
- The clothing style requirements for online interviews and office meetings are identical. You should not neglect your nether garments, believing that the recruiter sees only your face and shoulders. Remember that any rotation of the camera or inappropriate movements can put you in an awkward position and damage your professional image.
A face-to-face conversation is still a popular candidate selection method, as the recruiter can evaluate your eye contact, body language, reactions, and mental acuity. To make a favorable impression, you should:
- Check the exact office address. It will help you choose the best route to get to your interview and avoid late arrivals. Remember that a delay of more than 15 minutes is not just a violation of business etiquette but also a reason to withdraw your candidacy for some employers.
- A personal interview is constant communication where the speed and quality of responses play a critical role. However, some questions may still puzzle you and require a more extended reflection period. To avoid dead air, prepare in advance a few go-to phrases that will fill the pauses. For example: “this is a good question,” “I thought about this issue,” and so on.
- Rehearse your interview independently or with your friends. It improves your speaking voice, body language, and will increase the confidence of your answers and behavior in general.
This method helps the employer compare the knowledge, skills, and preparation level of several candidates at the same time, which shortens the selection process and speeds up decision making. To gain a competitive advantage over your rivals, use the following tips:
- Relate your skills and qualifications with the requirements of the company to prove that you are worthy of taking up this position.
- Think over your additional strengths that were not requested in the job description, but can serve the benefit of common goals.
- Always appeal to the accumulated knowledge about the company and the studied background. Focus on how you can help solve real problems and achieve existing goals.
How to Prepare for Different Types of Interviews
Recruiters often resort to non-standard methods of testing and evaluating candidates because of high competition for the position. These techniques are more effective than the standard set of questions, which simplifies the selection process. Keep in mind the advice for each type of interview so as not to be caught in a weak moment:
- Job simulation. The recruiter either gives you a task from the list of your future duties or offers to participate in a real brainstorm or meeting. The purpose of such a test is to see the candidates' skills in practice and evaluate how they cope with the proposed work environment. To prepare for this challenge, you should carefully study your future responsibilities from the job description, explore popular exercises to simulate your position and keep calm. You have nothing to fear if your declared skills correspond to the facts.
- Casual interview. For this type of interview, the recruiter makes an appointment outside the office, often in a restaurant. It helps to evaluate your behavior, reactions, and manners in an informal setting and draw conclusions about your personality. To succeed in this test, monitor your communication with the staff, table manners, accuracy, and tidiness while eating. These details are essential characteristics of a person as they demonstrate his level of social skills.
- Check for honesty. Usually, HR managers have advanced research skills, which allows them to collect all the necessary information about the candidate from professional and social networks, and even previous employers. This information may also include adverse facts. The essence of such a trick is to ask you provocative questions knowing the answer in advance. In order not to fail this test, you should remember only one rule: be honest with your potential employer. If your bad experience can be explained or discussed, then your lie does not have a leg to stand on.
How to Prepare for Interview Questions
The company regards the interview not only as an opportunity to test the working skills of candidates but also as an excellent occasion to discuss their personal qualities that are no less important for fruitful and long-term cooperation in a business environment. To identify these qualities, the recruiter offers seemingly simple but sometimes provocative questions for a comprehensive assessment of the applicant. The best way to prepare for an interview is to think about response templates in advance.
- Tell us about yourself. This question is intended to reveal your personality. A common mistake of candidates is to repeat information from their resume. Instead, focus on education, hobbies, and non-working activities, but choose facts that can add you points as a candidate. For instance: If you are keen on swimming for years, then emphasize how this sport taught you to stay the course in a competitive environment and helped you develop your perseverance and endurance. This trick allows you to demonstrate skills that will come in handy for your desired position.
- What are your strengths? It is a great chance to demonstrate your value to the company. However, avoid unreasonable listings. Reinforce your every advantage with a practical example.
- What are your weaknesses? Hardly anybody likes to talk about their shortcomings. But your main task is to present them competently. For this purpose, use the “yes, but ...” technique, where you do not just indicate the weakness but tell what moves you make to overcome it. Also, talk about one or more of the false weaknesses that actually play into the hands of the corporation. For example, “I often delve into the task and therefore linger in the office far into the night.”
- Why did you leave your previous job? Whatever the reasons for your dismissal, never blame former employers or report badly on your colleagues. It demonstrates low business ethics and an inability to take responsibility. Choose neutral statements like, for example, “I could not reach my full potential in tasks that were entrusted to me.”
Tips for Acing a Job Interview
Regardless of the position you are applying for, several essential tips will arm you for one of the defining days on your career path:
- Always prepare questions for the recruiter, ranging from the working conditions to the portrait of the most successful employees in the company. Feel free to clarify all the critical details as not only the company chooses the right person but also the candidate evaluates the offer far and wide.
- Take notes about the company, outline your answers to common questions, and list facts that you want to share. Feel free to use these cheat sheets as they help steer the dialogue and get comprehensive information about the corporation, its values, expectations, plans. Due to these facts, you could make a balanced decision on cooperation.
- To simplify the process of self-presentation, rely on your cover letter, where you focus on your skills and qualifications for a specific role, your unique advantages, and motivation to become part of the company. This document will help you conduct fundamental introspection and understand why you are a worthy candidate.
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The next time you ask yourself how to be successful in an interview, remember that your professional skills are only half the battle. Other critical components are the ability to research the company and its needs, to select the appropriate attire, to take into account all the details at the preparatory stage, and to give a good account of yourself. Your responsible approach to each of these steps increases the chances of getting the dream position.