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How To Prepare For An Interview

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You made it through school and successfully graduated. This is a major milestone in anyone's life and something to be proud of. Now that you’re done, it’s time to put all that time and effort to good use. Time to get paid!

The goal of any interview is to show that you’re a good fit for the company hiring and to convince them you’re the most qualified. It’s your time to show off your skills, knowledge, and ability to complete the job they are hiring for. If you can convince them you’re the best, you won’t have any problem getting the job you want, for the pay you ask.

Getting Started

Get multiple interviews

If you’re seeking a job after school, make sure you apply and get invited to interview at multiple companies. You don’t want to put all your hopes and dreams into one interview, it pays to have options. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. From the outside, it’s hard to tell what the company is like. The best way to find out is to see for yourself. After you’ve interviewed at a few places, compare them to each other and see what you like the most and what you want. If you only go to one place, you risk missing out on great opportunities elsewhere
  2. The first interview is usually the hardest. You won’t be as prepared, you don’t know what to expect, and you probably don’t have all the confidence you’ll want in the beginning. Think of how much better you will do in a later interview if you get some good practice in! I would even suggest applying to places that don’t excite you very much and go just to get your confidence built up and some experience with your interview skills.
  3. Give yourself options. How great is it to know that you get to pick where you want to work based on more than just who is willing to hire you. If you get multiple offers, you also have bargaining power (and nothing to lose) if you want to ask for more.
  4. You probably won’t get offers everywhere you interview. Unless you’re some kind of pro, it’s safe to assume that you won’t get a job offer from everyone you interview with. It’s competitive out there, and every interview can’t be perfect. Don’t be out of luck if one spot doesn’t hire you. Show them it’s their loss and make an incredible career somewhere else.

Do your homework

Learn about the company, what they do, how you’ll fit in and contribute. Come up with questions to ask to show that you know what they do and are genuinely interested in the company.

This is a good chance for you to interview them and start to decide if it’s a place you’d like to be a part of. If you don’t like the answers they give, it’s probably worth looking at your other options to find a better fit.

Make sure you’re qualified

Read the job description & compare

Look at what the recruiters are seeking in an employee. Compare that to your skill set and abilities to make sure you are someone they want to consider.

** Bonus - if you aren’t experienced in an area they are looking for, what can you do to get more familiar with it and be able to add that to your skills? Also, if they are looking for something you aren’t familiar with, there's a good chance that that most of your peers aren’t either. Go above and beyond to learn what others haven’t, and you will stand out.

Before You Go

Preparation Basics

Have some answers ready

Things like your previous jobs, challenges you’ve overcome, accomplishments, and struggles are all good things to think about beforehand. The goal is to save as much mental energy as possible for the unexpected and challenging questions and have the ones they will almost certainly ask memorized and ready.

** Bonus - practice these kinds of interview questions with a friend to get comfortable talking about it, you will be more confident about them when it’s time to perform.

Plan what to wear

Deciding what to wear can be hard. Ask what they are expecting when planning the interview and they should give you a good idea. It never hurts to go more formal than they ask, and it can be dangerous to underdress. You’ll have to use your best judgment here, but no matter what you wear, make sure it’s clean and put together. Even if the culture is very casual, you want to make a good impression on your interview.

Figure out what you’ll need

Extra copies of your resume, somewhere to take notes - either pen and paper or laptop (depending on the job), information to complete an application, and samples from your portfolio are all good things to have with you for the interview.

Making An Impression

During the interview

Get there early

This one is usually implied, but it’s still good to go over. Plan to get there at least 10-15 minutes early, it may save you from rushing and stress right before you start.

Unexpected things happen, whether it’s traffic, parking, trouble finding the office, or forgetting something important - it’s a good practice to plan on being early.

In the best case scenario, you have 10 minutes to kill before the interview to get mentally prepared (power-posing anyone?) and go over the essentials one more time. Worst case, you have a good buffer and you are much less likely to be late, making a bad impression.

Show some confidence

Give a firm handshake. Make eye contact (but not too much). Smile and show that you are excited to be there. Sit up straight and present yourself well.

Show them you are the right person for this job and that you are confident in your ability. Your non-verbal communication is equally (arguably more) important than your verbal communication. It matters to do this part right.

Be professional and courteous to everyone

Treat everyone like they get to decide whether you’ll get a job or not. Not by kissing up, but be respectful and nice to everyone you interact with. In many companies, you’ll have to win over more than just the interviewer to earn your spot.

Keep in mind that a huge part of your visit is not just to review your skills and qualifications (they should have a pretty good idea of them by now), but to make sure you’ll be a good fit for the company culture and that your peers will want to be around you during the time you work there.

The interview is your chance to show them who you are and why they will want to work with you. Be yourself and have fun with it.

Give your attention

It’s a good idea to turn your phone on airplane mode and put it away in a bag or somewhere out of mind. A call or notification can be distracting, not only to others around you but to yourself.

Eliminate anything that might throw you off or pull at your attention. Nothing will throw you off like your phone ringing and panicking to turn it off. It also looks bad to look at your phone during the interview. It will make them feel like you aren’t paying attention and don’t really care.

Have questions prepared

A great way to finish your interview is to ask the interviewer some questions. It can be about the job, the company, or whatever else is relevant. It shows you are engaged with the interview and want to know more.

If you did your research before, you should have a good idea of what the company does and where you’ll fit in. Some good questions to have ready at the end are:

Be careful not to ask questions about things you can easily find online or should already know. Try to ask more thoughtful questions and show the interviewer you did your homework.

How Did It Go?

After the interview

Once the interview is complete, run through how everything went and decide if you think it went well or not. If it went well, why?

Did you feel confident the whole time?

Was the interviewer easy to talk to and received you well?

Did you overcome challenges the way you hoped?

If you feel good about it overall, then you most likely did a good job and made a good impression. If it didn’t go well, why?

Were you not prepared enough?

Are you not yet qualified for the job?

Maybe you aren’t a good fit for the culture and you wouldn’t be happy working there anyway.

Try to break it down and be honest with yourself about it. An interview is not just for the company to evaluate you, but for you to evaluate the company. It should be a good fit for everyone involved if you’re planning on staying for a while and being successful.

No matter how the interview went, you can still make it a win. If it went poorly, figure out why and practice those things for your next interview. If it went well, make sure you know what your strong points are and how you can improve for next time.

Here is an infographic about interview statistics that may be interesting to you.

Conclusion

To be as prepared as you can be for your next interview, make sure you research the company and have a good idea of what they do and how they do it. Make sure you are qualified and a good fit there. Get prepared for common questions and be ready for some challenging ones. Figure out the right way to dress and show up looking as clean and put together as possible.

Once you’re ready, plan on arriving 15 minutes early and show some confidence by shaking hands and making eye contact. Treat everyone you come across like you treat the decision makers.

During the interview, keep your cool and your preparation will help you to succeed. Have some questions ready for your interviewers at the end. After it’s over, decide how you think it went and what you can learn from it.

Now go impress your interviewer and let us know how it goes!