So how do you close the deal and secure the job offer?
Here’s how to prepare for an interview to ace it, in 3 key steps.
Step 1: Do your research thoroughly
This should always be your first step, as soon as you know you have an interview coming up.
Between Google and LinkedIn, you really have no excuse on knowing your stuff.
You need to know the company you’re interviewing for as thoroughly as your favorite sports team – performance stats, key players, likely future performance and strategy.
Here’s what you should at least cover in your desk research and notes:
- What the company is about, basic performance history, share price
- Key revenue drivers, threats to industry and company, opportunities
- A good knowledge of recent industry trends and news topics
- Your reasons for wanting to work at this company
- The background of your interviewer, any mutual acquaintances you may have
That said, preparing for the interview also applies to logistics of the interview day:
- Never arrive late,
- Make sure you leave plenty of time to find your way around, and
- Dress sharp.
Step 2: Practice until it’s second nature
There are tons of companies that make millions each year doing mock interviews. While this can be helpful, but it’s not the best help you can get.
If you’ve been busy building your network, you should have had some practice handling informal interviews without too much pressure.
However, the best way to practice interviewing is also the simplest: get interviewed as much as possible.
It’s at this point where most people scoff and say: That’s easy to say. I don’t get interviews!
You may not like the companies that are willing to interview you, but you definitely can get interviews. Start your search by applying for every job you can, and accept all job interviews. Even for jobs you have no intention of accepting. That’s where you get your interview practice.
If you’re really new to interviews, you should also at least have a think about your answer to these standard HR questions:
- Tell me a little about yourself:
- Give a 30-60 second summary of your education, career, current life situation.
- You should be summarizing what’s on your resume/CV, ending with where you are today (and why you’re applying for this role).
- Why are you looking (or why did you leave you last job)?
- Focus on the positives – advancing your career, developing your skills.
- Try not to mention money here, and don’t lie if you were laid off (try to be brief and positive) or fired (have a good explanation that isn’t resentful to your previous employer).
- What can you tell me about this company? Why do you want to work here? This is where your preparation in Step 1 will count.
- How has the company been doing?
- What are the current challenges facing them?
- What do you think of them?
- You should be able to hold a good discussion, and have solid opinions of your own.
- Mention your career goals and how this company fits into them in the long-term.
- What relevant experience do you have?
- Practice running through your experience in your CV.
- Be selective about the parts you highlight – focus on the areas you think will be important to the role you’re interviewing for.
- What’s your greatest strength? This is a well-used question. You should jump on this to explain why you’re awesome – don’t hold back.
- You work well under pressure.
- You’re a great leader.
- An amazing problem solver.
- Always back these up with examples.
- And focus on work-related strengths only – if your proudest moment in life was discovering your ability to belch the alphabet, you still shouldn’t mention it.
- What’s your biggest weakness? This is a bit of a tough one to balance.
- You shouldn’t shoot yourself in the foot by saying things like “Oh, I can be incredibly demotivated.”
- But don’t give a politicians’ answer either, such as “I’m too committed to my work and too good at it – it can stir resentfulness in the workplace”.
- Give a minor work-related flaw, and then spend the majority of your time talking about the development opportunities you’re pursuing to make this better.
- Example: “I’ve been told that I am a great presenter and have been brought on to present to senior management. In these senior meetings I was told I could sometimes be more assertive in getting my point across. I’ve been taking public speaking courses to build on this, and are working on X and Y to really become an amazing presenter.”
- Do you have any questions to ask me? A very common question – you almost certainly will be asked this.
- Prepare a good work-related question: When can I start if I’m hired?
- What would I be working on?
- How is it like to work with Inspiring Person X?
- Do not come unprepared for this question, and don’t ask controversial questions either.
Step 3: Be your charming self
First impressions matter, a lot.
In fact, a recent study from assessment specialists Thrivemap concluded that on average, most (88%!) hiring managers take 10 minutes or less to decide the suitability of a candidate:
- 25% admit making a decision on a candidate in 5 minutes or less;
- 63% said they make a decision on a candidate within 6-10 minutes;
- 9% said it took longer than 30 minutes to make up their minds;
- Only 2% said they don’t make up their minds during an interview.
Speaking from experience both as interviewee and interviewer, I have to agree. People decide very quickly if they like or don’t like a person.
And thus ‘charming your interviewer’ or ‘leaving a good impression’ is also simply known as making him or her like you.
Here are simple but important things to leave a good impression:
- Be polite
- Be interesting
- Be enthusiastic and knowledgable about the job
- Have good and intelligent questions to ask the interviewer
Best of luck for your interviews! If you have more tips on how to prepare for an interview, or would like to share your interview experiences so far, leave a comment below!
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