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Journey to landing your first job Part 4: Preparing for the interview

Journey to landing your first job Part 4: Preparing for the interview

You’ve made your resume, written your cover letter, reached out to recruiters and have finally been called in for an interview. But preparing for it isn’t just about Googling some of the most common interview questions. Of course, that’s important to do, but you also need to make sure that you know the company in detail and outline exactly why you’re a great fit. To help prepare you for your interview, here are some tips you should keep in mind.

Tip #1: Know the company

Learn as much about the company as you can by searching on Google, talking to people in your network, reaching out to previous and current employees, and reading news releases. Most candidates just look at the company’s social media and its website, but don’t go into depth and see what others have to say. By checking out multiple resources, you’ll get a better idea of the company and will be better prepared to answer why you’d like to work there and what you can offer to them. 

Tip #2: Know the job

If you want to prove to the interviewer that you’re a great fit, you first need to know what exactly they’re looking for. Most organizations outline what they’re looking for in a job posting, so make sure you highlight the experience and skills they’ve mentioned in the job description. 

Tip #3: Know the interviewers

If you don’t know who’ll be taking your interview, make sure you ask. Look up the role of each interviewer and prepare some questions specific to their role. For instance, you can ask for more details about their job, discuss a common interest (you might find this in their LinkedIn profile), or talk about current events relevant to their field.

Tip #4: Know the kind of interview 

Different companies conduct different kinds of interviews and it’s better that you know the interview format before you go in. Some companies have one-on-one interviews while others conduct a video or phone interview. Once you know the kind of interview you’re going to be sitting in, you can spend time familiarizing yourself with it. 

Tip #5: Know how to talk about yourself

Before going in for an interview, you need to think about your answers, in particular the skills and accomplishments, that will resonate with interviewers for the job you’ve applied for. While doing so, make sure you formulate an answer specific to the company and the role for the most common interview question – “tell me about yourself” or some other variation of it, like “walk me through your resume.”

Also make sure that you’re able to answer why you’re interested in the role. Identify key factors about the company that aligns with your interests and work style. Even if the interviewers don’t ask you this question, you can still use that information to answer other questions. 

Tip #6: Know the STAR method

Most interviews involve behavioral questions and for that, you need to have some stories prepared about your past experiences that you can tweak as needed. And when answering questions using a story, it’s important to ensure that the story is well-structured with a clear takeaway. You need to give your interviewer context so that they understand what happened but still answer the question concisely. This is where the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method can really help.

First, briefly describe the scenario so that the interviewer understands the stakes. Then talk about your role, followed by what you did and why. End the answer with the outcome and the lesson you learned. If possible, throw in some hard numbers, especially when talking about your accomplishments and numbers, to communicate your impact.  

Tip #7: Brush up on interview skills 

In addition to judging how well you answer questions, your interviewers also see how well you use other interviewing skills like empathy, small talk and listening. Such skills give them a better idea of how you’ll fare as a colleague. 

You should also practice answers to common questions, but make sure not to memorize them. Instead of writing and memorizing an entire answer, simply take down notes and keep them on hand for reference. This way, you’ll cover all the bases without reading answers from a script.  

Tip #8: Be mindful of your body language

Your body language conveys a lot, so make sure you’re mindful of what your stance and posture conveys. For instance, when you sit with your arms and legs crossed, you might appear defensive or closed-off. Think about your movements ahead of time so that you’re not distracted during the interview. 

Similarly, if you’re giving a video interview, make sure you put the Zoom window near the camera so that you don’t look away from the interviewer or make non-verbal gestures to show that you’re actively listening without cutting them off.   

Tip #9: Prepare some questions  

At the end of the interview, the interviewer will ask you if you have some questions, and instead of saying no right away, make sure you do have some questions ready that are specific to the company and job. 

Don’t just prepare a couple; have more than you think you’ll ask. This is because the interviewer might already answer some of the questions without you asking anything at all! 

Tip #10: Other tips

Some other tips to remember:

  • While it’s impossible to prepare for everything, you can still prepare yourself to handle unexpected questions that you don’t know how to answer. To get some time to think about your answer, repeat the question thoughtfully because slowly saying something like “that’s a great question and I have to say…”
  • If you have a technical interview or know that your skills will be tested, make sure you practice as early as possible. Doing sample questions won’t just be good for practice; it’ll also put you in a problem-solving mindset. 
  • You most likely won’t be having a money conversation in your first interview, but interviewers might still ask your salary expectations. And to make sure you don’t get caught off-guard or give a low number, make sure you do some salary research and know how you’ll answer. 

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