While you want to come off as natural as possible, please don’t think that means you shouldn’t prepare for a job interview. During the interview itself, mindset and familiarity with the job and company — as well as what YOU bring to the specific job — will help you relax enough to be yourself.
I remember well my first interview where I relied on “quick thinking and natural charm” to win the day. And I also remember how nervous I got — and not getting the job. While I can’t guarantee that prepping for an interview will always land you the offer, feeling well-prepared can help ease your nerves enough to at least show interviewers who you really are. And that’s a big part of getting any job.
Prepare for a job interview to ward off brain freeze!
The more you feel familiar with the job requirements, company, and kinds of people who work there, the more comfortable you can be in the interview room. Facing an interview cold — with no prior knowledge or mental prep — can lead to a “cold” interview, where you don’t make that all important two-way connection.
Also, if nerves take hold, you can get so caught up in judging yourself and your performance, you aren’t completely present in the moment. And that means you won’t be listening carefully and responding naturally. All key for a good interview.
Prepping for interviews helps make a good impression
Interviewers want talented people, of course. But they are also looking for people that they want to work with on a daily basis. And the effort and preparation you put into an interview affects the impression you make — and reflects on what you would put into the job itself.
Interviewers use the job interview to get a feel for who you are. And more importantly, who you would be on the job — not just whether you can do the job. When you prepare for a job interview, it shows that you care enough to learn about the company & job. And that reflects on who you are as a person, as well as future work habits.
What you need to know to prepare
Everyone has their own ways of preparing for things. So I like to think of this as a guide that you can adapt to feel right for you when you prepare for an interview. The main thing is to do enough to relax your nerves and feel good about yourself in the interview room.
Most of what you researched will remain inside — a base which you can draw from for your answers and questions. Please don’t feel the need to show them everything. Or go on and on after answering what was actually asked. You want to help them see a person they’d enjoy having on board — not a know-it-all that would be annoying to work with. 🙂
(1) Know yourself
While this may seem obvious, please don’t be tempted to skip it. If you don’t know who you really are, you won’t be able to show interviewers enough to leave a clear impression. So take a moment to think about yourself. Your work history, strengths, failures, dreams, and why this job fits who you are.
To help, you might take a self-assessment test (you can find some online) or simply ask yourself questions about your values, skills, talents, and wants. Also, really think about anything you’ve done before that you don’t want to do again, if you have the choice.
Why does this help you prepare for a job interview? Because people who know themselves come off stronger in message and more confident. Plus they don’t have to fumble for answers. You can just talk about what’s true for you — while matching it to what the company needs.
(2) Know the company and industry
Learn as much as you can about the company and industry. Familiarity helps put you at ease and also helps you shape your answers. Look for articles on the internet, including news sites. Are there other openings you might want or that might point to company plans / directions? Check out how the stock is doing if publicly traded. And check out competitors. Maybe even read an annual report if there is one.
Also, the company website can help provide more info and show you how they present themselves to the world. Plus, of course social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Glassdoor and Indeed for employee reviews and clues. Besides searching for existing info on search engines, you can set up google alerts for new mentions online.
(3) Know the job
Study the job description carefully. Anything you don’t understand, look it up. Pay special attention to what they say and the key words they use. Highlight the main skills and requirements, and think about how they match your actual or any transferable skills. If there are any skills you haven’t used recently, refresh them. This will also help you feel just a little more prepared for the interview.
(4) Know the people & culture
LinkedIn is a great starting point for finding people who work there. Or who once worked there. Even Board listings may present a name that you or your family know. Not only might you get a sense of the company and culture, but you may find a networking connection. Again, the internet in general and social media can provide some good finds.
LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed are some sites that also give feedback from actual employees. But, take what you find with a grain of salt. People are more likely to post bad experiences than good. Also, companies may ask some of their employees to post good reviews to help the company image. Still, worth browsing.
(5) Know your resume & history
In my many years of interviewing candidates, I was surprised how many people didn’t remember what they had on their resumes. They seemed surprised when I asked about the details they listed. So please review your resume carefully.
Also, look for where you match the job description and again where transferable skills can apply. This is a good time to think about stories you’ll use to help in your interview. For those stories and answers in general, think about successes you might want to highlight within each job or assignment — and how to tell the story to help you turn around any weaknesses or failures.
(6) Know that you can do the job
Again, this may seem obvious. But a lot of people go into an interview not sure whether they can do the job. If you have doubts, there’s a good chance the interviewer will feel them. So even if you worry there may be candidates with better qualifications, tell yourself if they hire you, you will find a way! You don’t know what the company is actually looking for. Assume it’s you, and take it from there.
EXTRA: Teach yourself one new fact or skill related to the job in advance of the interview. This may not seem like the most essential step, but anything that increases your familiarity and ease is a great way to prepare for a job interview. And it will help counter any of those very human and very normal doubts.
(7) Know that you practiced being interviewed
Just knowing that you’ve practiced can help. So can familiarizing yourself with the kinds of questions you may be asked — and some stories you can turn to to make your points. Some tips to help:
- It’s hard talking about yourself. But practice can make it easier.
- If you believe in yourself, others will too.
- Research common questions online to help you practice.
- I used to record myself or simply stand in front of the mirror and answer sample questions.
- Get family and friends to play the role of interviewer to get more comfortable in “the hot seat”.
- You might even try interviewing them too, just to feel what it feels like on the other side
- Visualize yourself being interviewed and doing well — relaxed, smiling, making a connection. Do that a few times a day — and on the morning before your interview.
Final Tip: Let it all go!
On the day of the interview, clear your mind and trust that you’ve done enough. When you prepare for an interview, that allows you to know inside that you’ve done all you can. That’s all anyone can do. So right before you walk into the room, take a few easy breaths in and out — and tell yourself that the words will come to you. Let everything else go.
It’s time to have a real conversation with real people. Just listen and answer in a way that shows you have what they need, and you’re someone they would like to have working with them. Even if you stumble a little, that’s normal. Just keep yourself in the moment, maybe smile a little to show you’re human, and keep going.
Remember … they’re looking for the whole package. A stumble or two — as well as some interview nerves — is totally normal. Your only job is to let as much of the real you shine through as possible, to help them see the capable, dependable, trustworthy, resourceful (and pleasant) person they’d enjoy having as part of their team.
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