29 Feb, 2020
To ace your next interview, start here! Our guide to interviewing for a job can help you showcase your strengths and feel confident throughout the entire process.
Preparing for an interview
When you're a job seeker preparing for a job interview, it's crucial to research the company. Find out all you can about the company's ethos and mission, and supplement this with research on some of the corporation's most recent and high-profile projects. Consider the role you’re applying for and how this role might fit in with the overall structure of the company. If you can, create a list of examples of relevant projects you've completed, and be ready to explain how this company fits in with your values.
Whenever it’s possible, make sure to research the person who will be interviewing you. Start by checking for information about the interviewer on the company website and look at their profile on LinkedIn. Doing a basic Google search could uncover even more information. Find out how long the interviewer has been in their current position and look up any previous jobs they have had. Study recent work your interviewer has completed; you may be able to integrate this knowledge into your interview responses at some point.
Before the interview itself, ensure that you practice your answers to frequently asked interview questions . For example, you'll want to be able to explain why you'd like to work at this company and how your experience would make you a suitable fit for the role. Practice answering questions about how you might handle possible work conflicts or disagreements between colleagues, and think about the skills you have that could be an asset to the company's existing team.
If you are an employer who is conducting interviews, you should read cover letters and resumes from candidates first, and you may also wish to look them up online, including on LinkedIn and other social media sites. These steps will give you a picture of who the candidate is and help you understand more about the quality of their past work.
If you decide that the candidate merits an interview, aim to familiarize yourself with the job position that they’d potentially fill. Know the necessary tasks and personal characteristics that are essential to the situation. Understand why the company is looking to hire a new employee for this position and be able to explain the starting salary, work schedule, duties, and job expectations to the candidate. Prepare interview questions that help you understand how the candidate would fit in with your existing team, and that will reveal their level of expertise. As part of your preparation, be aware of any questions that are illegal to ask in interviews.
Common interview questions
Some companies conduct phone interviews before selecting candidates for in-person interviews. As the job seeker on a phone interview, you will be asked for general information about yourself and your experience, and the interviewer will also check that you understand the open position. For example, they might start with, "Tell me about yourself." To respond to that well, you could list your credentials and discuss your current and previous employment. Focus on conveying your strengths and putting everything in a positive light.
They could also ask, "Why do you want to work at our company?" A high-quality answer to this question will include details about the company that show you have researched it and understand the position you're interviewing for. A potential answer is that working at the new company is an extension of your current work, or you could say that you're looking for a new start or challenge, explaining how the fresh start at this company would stimulate you in your work. Answer this question in a warm, enthusiastic tone that conveys your passion for the target position.
For entry-level positions, candidates often have limited work experience, and the interview gauges the level of responsibility the candidate could handle and whether they are open to learning from others. When applying for entry-level jobs, you might be asked, "What do you aim to learn as an employee here?" This question gives you an opportunity to explain both your strengths and your weaknesses. To answer it fully, highlight any credentials or previous work experience that you feel prepared you for this position, and ensure that you mention that you intend to increase your current skill level by learning from your prospective co-workers. To show your enthusiasm, you could mention that you'd like to take part in any on-the-job training activities that the company has available or that you're looking to improve your expertise in a particular software program through using it daily at this company.
Interview questions for mid-level positions often include specific technical questions related to your field. Your answers to these questions can demonstrate your competence level. Interviewers for mid-level posts like to see that candidates have long-term career plans, and they also want to learn more about the applicant's working style. To start, the interviewer might ask, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" To answer thoughtfully, you could share your career goals for five years from now. For example, you hope to move up within the company or you see yourself transitioning into a slightly different role than the one to which you're applying.
For C-level positions, interviewers want to make sure that you are an ideal fit with their existing team. In addition to questions about your experience, they might ask, "How would you describe your leadership style?" Be as specific as possible when answering this question. You could incorporate examples of how you led previous projects or supervised team members at your current or former company, and you can explain how you helped with mediation between staff members. You could include examples of ways that you mentored junior colleagues or effectively steered group projects to a successful finish.
Tips for interviews
Arriving prepared for your interview makes a positive first impression. Bring at least three copies of your current resume. Both the employer and job seeker should practice interview questions in advance. You'll want to rehearse general questions and technical questions that are specific to your field. It can help to do mock interviews with people you trust, and alternating roles between candidate and interviewer could enhance your creativity and critical thinking, enabling you to come up with additional questions and answers to practice. If you know people who have interviewed at the company where you're applying, consider asking them about the types of questions asked in their interview.
When you’re choosing what to wear to an interview, opt for something conservative and polished. Even if the dress code at your potential new workplace is business casual, you should choose a formal business look for the interview to make the best first impression. Although you might feel nervous during the interview, take time to space your words out and enunciate well. People often speak much faster in interviews than they realize, so aim to speak at a rate that feels a bit slow at the moment, and you'll probably achieve an ideal pace. Attending a few professional coaching sessions could help you optimize your speaking skills before the interview.
Anticipating interview curveballs can help you avoid potential stumbling blocks and perform at your best under pressure. To identify possible curveballs, take an honest look at your resume. If there are gaps in your employment history or you've changed jobs frequently, prepare an explanation for questions about that. For example, you could say that you took time off to care for an ill relative. SimplyHired and similar websites have lists of scenarios that you can use for your mock interviews so you're not caught off guard during the real thing.
In addition to preparing answers to potential interview questions, always prepare some questions of your own to ask the interviewer. You can ask about the daily responsibilities you'd have in the position and what the company would expect from you in the first month or two at the job. You could also ask about the overall company culture and the company's goals for the next few years. Asking questions helps demonstrate your enthusiasm for the job, and it also highlights the effort you've put into researching the position.
Tips for video and phone interviews
Major companies often conduct the first few interview rounds by video or phone. Since connection problems could cause a slight lag in speech, it's particularly important to speak as clearly as possible during these interviews. Make sure to check your microphone placement and volume levels in advance of a video interview to make sure that those are set correctly.
Check your camera's view of the background before the interview, and make sure that your backdrop is free of clutter and distracting items. Consider doing the video interview while seated against a solid-colored background, such as a wall. If you don't have time to completely clear away clutter, placing a privacy screen directly behind you is an effective solution. If you're doing the video interview at home, ensure that your phone is turned off, and consider covering your doorbell or placing a sign on the door so that neighbors or delivery services don't knock and disturb your interview.