3 Steps in Preparing for a Job Interview

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The job search and application process is anything but easy, and getting an interview is a huge step, so congratulations to you! When you have such a big, potentially life-changing event looming, it’s hard to think about anything else. You’re probably crossing the days on your calendar, getting more and more nervous with every passing moment. 

Instead of letting your anxiety overwhelm you while you wait for the big day, check out some tips that will help you transform that nervous energy into an engine for good. If you use your time before the interview to prepare, you can dramatically enhance your chances of success.

Job interviews are all about highlighting your skills, your best personality traits, and your qualifications for the job, but “just be yourself” isn’t always the most practical advice. Even though you obviously should represent yourself in a genuine way, it’s key to remember this is still a professional setting, and you want to impress. Besides, who “yourself” is will change depending on the social situation—you act differently around your parents, partner, friends, and acquaintances, and the same is true for a potential employer. The answer is to cultivate the professional side of your personality and bring it to the forefront. That said, how do you strike a balance between letting your true personality shine and proving you’re the most qualified person for the job? 

We’ll go over the key steps you need to take to prepare for an upcoming job interview, but if you feel you need to practice, our team can conduct a mock interview and give you constructive feedback. With tailored expert advice, not only can you focus your interview strategy but also boost your confidence, which is key to impressing a hiring manager. Learn all about our services for job seekers and take the next step in your professional journey!  

So, how do you start preparing for a job interview? 

1. Research the company and reread the job description

Having a clear understanding of a company’s culture, financial state, executive team, and competitors is essential when preparing for a job interview because it gives you the chance to determine whether your values are compatible and whether you will be a good fit for the team. It’s also a chance for you to double-check details such as location, healthcare benefits, and job autonomy, as well as to learn about the company’s mission and plans, which can help you decide if your long-term goals are aligned. 

It’s much better to discover that the company isn’t right for you before the interview than after you’ve already signed an employment contract, so make sure to research carefully. If you’re not feeling sure about it, and even if you’re leaning toward ditching it, it’s still worth showing up for the interview as you’ll get a closer look at the company’s inner workings. At the very least, it’s an opportunity to practice your interview skills.

It’s also crucial to be well-versed in the job market and the field, so make sure you learn everything you can about them before your interview. Find out what new skills you’re expected to possess or what new tools you should be familiar with, and consider what challenges the industry might be facing in the near future to impress your interviewer even more. The more knowledgeable you are about the industry and the specific company, the better.

Whether you applied yesterday or a month ago, you should go back to the job description and reread it carefully. Take a close look at what the employer says about the job title and department, the duties and tasks you’ll be expected to handle, and the skills required. This will not only help you prepare for questions on how your past experience makes you perfect for the position, but it will also give you an idea of what your place would be within the organization. Conversely, if you show up for the interview without knowing details readily available in the job description, that will not reflect well on your candidacy.

2. Pick your outfit for the job interview 

We all wish our skill sets and merits were all that mattered when applying for a job, but the truth is that appearances are important, and you want to present yourself in the best possible light. The way you dress for an interview can tell the employer a lot about you, so use the opportunity to project a confident and professional demeanor. 

Some preliminary research on the company and its culture will help you determine how formally you should dress, but when in doubt, err on the side of more formal attire. Although the right clothes can’t guarantee you’ll get the job, the wrong outfit can have a significant impact on how the interviewer sees you, which is why you want to avoid anything that might be considered inappropriate or downright outrageous. 

The general rule of thumb is to dress professionally but comfortably, allowing the interviewer to focus on your personality and skills rather than your wardrobe choices. This usually means wearing business attire in neutral colors although that might not always be appropriate for the role, so make sure you know how you’re expected to present yourself. Your outfit should complement your overall presentation, not take center stage, meaning you shouldn’t wear anything too loud or unusual. 

3. Aim to arrive early for the job interview

It’s better to be early to a job interview than to be late—in fact, you should be early since this speaks well of your organization and punctuality. Also, if you’re rushing to get to the interview on time, it’ll be much harder to maintain a cool, composed, and confident exterior. 

That’s why it’s important to plan your journey and make sure you leave yourself enough time for unexpected delays. Have a clear idea of what transportation you will use and plan accordingly.

For example, if you’re driving, make sure you know the easiest and quickest route, fill your tank the day before, keep an eye on the weather forecast, check the traffic on the day of the interview, and know where you can park. If you’re walking or taking public transport, keep an eye out for delays, check the weather (do you need to take an umbrella or an extra shirt?), and, if possible, buy any tickets in advance. 

However you plan to get to the interview site, it’s a good idea to travel the route before the big day to familiarize yourself with the commute and prepare for any potential challenges. Always leave earlier than you think you should, and aim to be there about 10 or 15 minutes before the appointed time. If a truly unforeseeable obstacle forces you to be late, make sure to call and inform the interviewer.

With the exception of planning your journey to the site, these tips all apply to phone and video interviews as well, which you should take just as seriously as in-person meetings. In both cases, make sure you have a quiet space where you can hear the interviewer and be heard. For video calls, find a simple background that’s organized and not too distracting, and test your camera and sound well in advance in case you need to do any last-minute troubleshooting. You’ll also want to ensure that your internet connection is stable and strong enough to handle a video call smoothly—if it leaves something to be desired, see if a friend or a relative will let you have the interview at their place.

Preparation is key when it comes to job interviews, so don’t leave anything you can plan and control to chance. Regardless of your experience and qualifications, interview preparation can make the difference between getting hired and getting passed over. Be ready to talk about your strengths and weaknesses (and give original, genuine answers), have some questions for the interviewer (because they will ask if you have any), and practice your interview with a friend or a colleague, if possible. 

Even better than practicing with a friend is doing a mock interview with a job search professional. If you would like to do a mock interview with a member of our expert team or need any help sprucing up your resume, polishing your LinkedIn profile, or writing a custom cover letter, check out our services for job success.

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