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The Essential Guide To Preparing For Your Next Job Interview: 9 Steps to Success

Updated: Oct 23, 2022

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The job interview process is stressful and difficult for most people. How you perform during this meeting could make the difference between you getting the job and going home empty-handed. Practise and preparation is essential - you need to do everything you can to know what to expect and have detailed responses ready. Remember, a job interview is not just a test of your knowledge but also a glimpse into your character, skills, and personality as a potential employee. It’s not just what you say but how you say it that will leave an impact on the hiring manager. Get ready to ace that next interview by following these nine essential tips.

One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation. - Arthur Ashe



1. Do Your Research

Before going to any interview, it’s critical to do your homework on the company, key people and your interviewer/s. Everyone knows research is important, but few people do enough!


You can research online by searching the company’s website and recent news articles relevant to the business. Use LinkedIn to gain insights into key staff and recent discussion items from the company's posts.


This is a good time to leverage your professional network. Ask anyone you know who is connected to the company about it's culture, and learn as much as you can about current challenges and how your skills can specifically help them. This will provide you with important talking points you can use during the interview.


Knowing key facts about the company and it's people shows your genuine interest and positions you as an ideal candidate for the role. It will allow you to strategically highlight your most relevant experience and skills, ask smart questions, and avoid making any comments that are misguided or irrelevant.


Research the company

The more you know about the company will allow you to specifically highlight why you would be motivated to succeed in the role. It will also help you find ways to work in your key strengths and skills as relevant to the role when preparing your question responses.


When doing your research, consider:

  • What is their current focus?

  • Do they promote internally?

  • What key skills does the company value?

Research the people

Do some background searching on the interviewer/s and key people in the company by searching LinkedIn and the company website ‘meet the team’ page. Knowing who will be interviewing you will allow you to direct your interview responses to address areas most important to them. For example, if your interviewer is the:

  • Hiring Manager - they will be most interested in how your skills and qualifications fit the role.

  • Direct Manager - they will want to understand your professional experience and how you have delivered results in the past.

  • Team Members and Colleagues - they will be looking for cultural and personality fit.

If possible, you will also want to enquire to know the type of interview you’ll be walking into so that you can prepare. Common interview types include:

  • Direct Interview: This interview generally just involves the candidate and the hiring manager. These are focussed on how you fit the skill and experience requirements of the role. Direct interviews are a relatively rigid format of straightforward questions to acquire all of the information about your qualifications and resume.

  • Behavioural Interview: The behavioural interview is one that focuses on your problem-solving skills, leadership, conflict resolution, stress management, etc. You’ll be asked questions that require specific examples to prove your results. Behavioural interview questions typically begin with “Tell me about a time when…” or “What would you do if…” This type of interview may be considered a bit more intense than a direct interview.

  • Group Interview: Employers use group interviews to gauge how well candidates interact with each other. Although interviewing with other candidates may be overwhelming, the key is to keep track of the interviewer and make sure you don’t miss out on any important signals.

  • Panel Interview: A panel interview consists of several representatives of the company. Their job is to judge what you say as well as your actions. Remain calm, try to relax and be mindful of your body language.


2. Know Your Strengths and Skills

Knowing the details about the company are just the beginning. You must also have a clear understanding of your strengths that make you the best candidate for the job, and how you utilised them in your previous experience to deliver results. This will also help you prepare for questions about what you’re looking for in a next job or career path.


Take time to reflect on your previous roles and accomplishments. Compare the details in the job description to your resume to see what skills you have listed and how they can apply to this job. This will help hiring managers see how you can contribute to the company right away. Be prepared to discuss your skills during the interview. This is especially important if the job description is vague or doesn’t focus on skills. Knowing your skills will help you understand if the job is a good fit for you.


3. Practice Acing the Basics

Many job interviews begin with a few basic questions about your background, experience, and career goals. Be prepared with a clear response so that you can answer with confidence. Expect to field questions like “Tell me about yourself,” “What do you know about our company?” and “Why are you interested in this position?” Be ready to respond to these basic questions with clear, concise answers.


You can also provide a few key facts about yourself and your work history to help jumpstart the conversation. This can be something as simple as the years you were employed at a certain organisation or any awards or recognition you’ve received. Respond to the company-specific questions with facts that are related to the business. Avoid generic statements like “I want to use my skills to help the company succeed,” or “I am ready to make a positive impact”. These responses are too vague and don’t provide any details about your skills or how you can help the company.


Prepare your elevator pitch

One of the most common interview questions is “tell me about yourself”, so make sure you have a response prepared with a great elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a 30-second summary of who you are and why you are qualified for the job. This is your chance to tell the interviewer why you're the best candidate for the job, and should reflect your strengths and ability to solve the company’s problems.


Emphasise your key message

Your key message should make the connection between what you’ve achieved and what’s needed in the role. Professor Art Markman says hiring managers need to know three things: How you achieved what you achieved, whether what you achieved is relevant to the job, and whether you are a good fit for the job. Keep those points in mind as you respond to questions during the interview!


These questions are not always asked directly, but you can convince an interviewer that you are the right person for the job by providing the answers through your responses.


Remember the following as you convey your key message:

  • Convey calmness and capability with your body language and establish rapport with your interviewer,

  • Share what you’ve learned by conveying your knowledge from previous failures and challenges,

  • Use stories from your professional experience to describe how you have achieved results in the past.

Use the SAR framework when speaking to your professional experience

You will be asked about your past experience, career goals, or interests. When answering these questions, utilise stories from your professional experience to demonstrate your results and abilities. People are emotional creatures. Stories share your humanity and they help people get to know, like, and trust you.

When it comes to selling, facts tell, stories sell.

We are less moved by statistics and kind of cold facts and we’re more inspired to act when we actually feel something. And stories, if they’re told right, make people feel things.


One of the best things about stories is they’re totally unique to you. Nobody has your exact professional experiences. Sharing your stories is a great way to highlight your unique skills and position yourself as a memorable candidate at the interview.


We use and recommend the SAR Framework to structure your stories to share your professional experience in a clear and compelling way.

  • Situation: Provide some background to you what you’re sharing. What was the context of the task? What needed to be solved and what resources did you have-or not have? About three to four sentences long.

  • Action: Speak about the key steps that you followed. Tell them what you did to achieve an impact. Don't go into too much detail, keep it to two or three sentences focussed on your specific actions. Use active verbs, things like “I implemented” or “I persuaded”.

  • Result: How the problems were solved and what you learned along the way. Try to include a quantifiable result, like dollars made, time saved or improved profitability. Highlight the specific impact your skills achieved!

4. Have Testimonials Ready To Add Credibility

Consider infusing your interview responses with testimonials to support your claims. This is one of the most effective and persuasive methods lend credibility to your words.


Try mentioning a comment from a manager or senior colleague to back up what you’re saying about your abilities or experience. This can take the form of praise you received after delivering a project, or a positive comment that was said to you during an appraisal. For example, when answering the question about your greatest strengths, mentioning that your boss has praised you numerous times for your project management skills will reinforce those abilities.


5. Prepare For Difficult Interview Questions

Going into every job interview, you need to expect a few tough questions. It is a good idea to prepare answers for some of the most common of these, so you can stay calm and composed during the interview. A great resource for this is our list of common job interview questions. Read here how to respond to these 6 interview questions which trip up even the smartest candidates.


6. Maintain a Positive Mindset

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the moment, especially if it’s a job you’re really interested in. That's why it's so important to practise positive mindset shifts and keep control of your emotions through the whole process.


If you feel yourself getting nervous during the interview, pause and take a deep breath. It’s important to remain calm and collected throughout the whole process. You don’t want to appear too anxious or eager at the expense of seeming confident and professional. Stay calm and collected as you answer questions, even if you feel nervous. If you feel your nerves kicking in, take a few deep breaths to calm down.


Be present, and stay focused on the interviewer and the conversation at hand. Avoid bringing up unrelated topics and making statements that seem too eager or anxious. Even if you are excited about the position, it’s important to remember to stay calm and collected. This will help you avoid saying something you’ll later regret. It’s also important to avoid becoming too relaxed during the interview. There is a fine line between being calm and being too relaxed. You don’t want to appear too relaxed, which could make you seem apathetic about the job or company. However, being too nervous or anxious can make you sound too eager or unprepared.


7. Trust Your Instincts

Always remember they are not only interviewing you, but you are interviewing them. Your comfort and happiness in the job is just as important as their satisfaction with you as a member of the team! Don’t get so focused on nailing the interview that you lose sight of the fact that you need to be evaluating the company, too. Is this workplace and position right for you?


Consider whether your potential manager is someone you can imagine collaborating with. Pay attention to how you're treated throughout the interview process. Did you get a good feeling from the people interviewing you and the company as a whole? Are these people someone you can imagine going to with problems? Trust your instincts, you'll know what's right for you.


8. Write Down Questions to Ask

As the interview moves along, don’t forget to ask the interviewer questions. This is a great way to show your genuine interest in the position. It also allows you to learn more about the job and company.


Make sure to have questions written down so you don’t forget them or try to wing it on the spot. Questions can range from asking about the company culture to inquiring about future career paths and opportunities. Avoid asking questions that can be found by Googling the company. This shows a lack of genuine interest in the company and position and can come off as insincere. Questions can also show your preparedness for the position and help you stand out over other applicants. For example, if the job listing asked what skills are most important for the job and your background, you can use this as an opportunity to share your strengths. Avoid asking questions that are too personal or irrelevant. This includes asking the interviewer’s salary, benefits, or other personal topics. They are not required to disclose any of this information and it may offend the hiring manager.


9. End With a Strong Closing Statement

The interview may be drawing to a close, and you need to end on a strong note. The best way to do this is to have a closing statement prepared. This can be as simple as thanking the interviewer for their time and reiterating why you’re the right candidate for the job.


Be careful not to go on tangents. Your closing statement should be short, sweet, and memorable. It’s a great way to end on a strong note and leave a lasting impression with the hiring manager.


Summary

These nine essential tips will prepare you to ace that next job interview. From researching the company and hiring manager to preparing for common questions, these tips will help you be prepared and confident. Remember that the interview process is just as much a test of your character and personality as it is your skills and qualifications. By following these tips, you can be sure that you’re leaving a strong and lasting impression on the hiring manager.


Book An Interview Preparation Session

When you receive an invitation to an upcoming job interview, your first reaction is probably one of mild panic. Having a job interview confirmed often leaves you with very little time to prepare yourself mentally and practically. It’s easy to feel unprepared and see it as a sign that you can’t get the job. Don’t worry; this is normal! With some research and preparation, though, you can feel confident in your abilities and ready to ace any coming job interviews.


Refine your interview skills, question responses, presentation, and body language with a one-on-one mock interview with a career coach. Learn more and book your session here:


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