Looking for a new job often requires a lot of patience and perseverance. Still, when you get that call or email to schedule a job interview, the anxiety quickly turns into excitement. All of a sudden, the future looks a little brighter!
Of course, the interview process itself can be quite daunting. However, it doesn’t have to feel like an insurmountable obstacle. There’s plenty of solid information out there to help you prepare for a job interview, ace it, and leave a good first impression with any prospective employer. In this article, we’ve curated a list of practical suggestions for your next interview — and if you follow the six tips below, odds are you’ll nail the interview and win that dream position you’ve been searching for!
Tip #1: Research Your Prospective Employer
This tip may seem self-evident. However, you’d be surprised at how many job seekers fail to perform even basic research on the company for which they’re interviewing. The end result is usually poor performance during the job interview, an unimpressed recruiter, and a missed opportunity.
What should you research before going into the interview? While no two situations are exactly alike, here are a few things you’ll almost certainly want to know:
- The basic duties of the position
- The products/services that the company offers its customers
- How long the company has been in business
- Where the company is headquartered
- The company’s reputation, especially with regard to internal culture, opportunities for advancement, etc.
If you do your due diligence, you’ll be in a better position to speak knowledgeably with the recruiter about how you could contribute to the organization’s continued growth in the role you’re applying for.
Tip #2: Familiarize Yourself With Your Resume
It’s important to know your resume like the back of your hand because anything you include in it is fair game for your interviewer. Imagine how bad it would look if the interviewer asks you a question related to your past work experience, and you fumble through your answer! On the other hand, you will likely leave a favorable impression on the interviewer if you can speak intelligently about all of your previous positions — and particularly those similar or equivalent to the position you’re currently seeking.
Tip #3: Build a Job Interview “Kit”
For the sake of organization, put together a personal “kit” for your interview. Building such a kit can take a lot of the stress out of the process, and help you feel more comfortable and relaxed during the interview itself. Some items you may want to put in the kit or bring to the interview include:
- Directions to the company’s office
- Your interviewer’s contact information, if available
- Several copies of your resume
- Work samples from previous positions
- A bottle of water
- Pens and a notepad
Tip #4: Dress Appropriately
We all know the old saying: “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” However, the reality is that sometimes a “book’s cover” is what forms our first and deepest impression — and makes us decide whether or not we want to read what’s inside.
The same is true in the interview process. Your choice of clothes and hairstyle, as well as your level of neatness, are all indicators as to whether you would be a good fit for the company. For that reason, it’s important that you dress in a neat and dignified manner for the interview. You can always “dress down” later if the company has a relaxed stance on its employees’ appearance. For men, appropriate interview attire may include a tie, collared shirt, and khaki pants; for women, a modest blouse and a skirt that’s knee-length or longer.
What if you’re giving a video interview? Then there are a few other things to keep in mind. For instance:
- Set up and test your video conferencing equipment well in advance of the interview. Make sure your microphone is working, and your video feed is clear.
- Frame your on-screen image to look professional. Ensure that you are in the center of the picture. Use the “thumb rule” to gauge if your head has been properly framed on-screen: there should be about a thumb’s length of vertical space between the top of your head and the edge of the picture.
- Make sure your surroundings are tidy. If you have a bit of a mess to one side, make sure it doesn’t show up on camera!
- When speaking, remember to look into the camera lens, not at the screen. This will ensure that you maintain “eye contact” with the interviewer.
Tip #5: Prepare for Behavioral Questions
Probably the most nerve-wracking part of any job interview is when the recruiter asks you detailed questions about how you reacted to certain work-related situations in the past. For instance:
- “Have you ever had a conflict with a coworker? What did you do to resolve it?”
- “Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond to help a customer.”
- “Describe a time when your team was undergoing a major change. How did it impact you, and how did you adapt?”
It may not be easy to answer such questions off the top of your head. However, with enough preparation, you should be able to breeze through this gauntlet of behavioral questions. In most cases, using the STAR method is key. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. When you use this formula as an outline for your answers, it becomes much easier to organize your thoughts and leave a good impression on your interviewer. Make sure to research common behavioral questions used in interviews, and then prepare at least a dozen STAR-oriented answers to cover all your bases.
Tip #6: Never Disclose Your “Desired Salary” Too Early
“What is your desired salary for this position?” This awkward question is often found on job applications, and it may pop up during the interview as well. If your interviewer asks, how should you respond? Simply put: avoid giving a number until you feel confident that a job offer is near. There are two reasons why this is important:
- If you give a number that’s too high at the outset, you may “scare away” the recruiter before he/she even has time to form a favorable impression of you.
- If you give a number that’s too low, it may hurt your ability to negotiate for a more suitable salary in the future.
If your interviewer asks, you can simply say something like: “At this point, I am focused on finding the best position to match my skills and career path. I don’t have a specific number in mind for this position, but I am willing to entertain an offer that you feel is fair.”
Becoming a Job Interview Pro
The job interview process can be equal parts frustrating and exhilarating. However, if you keep the six tips we’ve discussed above in mind, you’ll become an “interview pro” in no time — and eventually land your dream job!
If you’re ready to branch out and apply for new jobs, or if you’ve already been searching for a while, be sure to check out our job listings at Lensa. We can help you find jobs that best match your skills, professional experience, personality, and goals. Then, you’ll not only know how to ace your next interview — you’ll know which jobs you want to interview for!