how to prepare for a job interview

Landing a job interview nowadays seems like an impossible task with so much competition.

Some roles see thousands of applications, so if you managed to get an invitation to a job interview, this article will help you know how to prepare and make a great impression in order to increase your chances of landing the job.

Also, this means that your resume impressed the recruiters and your qualifications match their requirements, so give yourself a tap on the back.

Although landing a job interview seems hard, this is the easy part of actually landing the job.

In order to make sure that you will get a job offer, you need to know how to prepare for an interview the best that you can.

How to prepare for an interview

Research the company and the role

Before attending any job interview you want to make sure that you know as much as you can about the role and the company.

First, read the job description several times and outline the most important requirements. See how your experience and skills align with those requirements and make sure to write down at least a few past professional experiences or situations that outline those skills.

For example, if one of the most important job requirements is “2 years of experience in managing a team”, you should be able to present not only the fact that you were managing a team for 2 years but how exactly did you do that.

  • How was that team structured and what were your daily responsibilities?
  • How were you able to keep track of your team’s work?
  • How often would you meet with your team and how were you delegating tasks?

If one of the requirements is “experience using X software” write down the position you held, for how long and in which company you used this particular software, along with why was this software needed.

This way, the interviewer will know that you are proficient in using that software and can apply that knowledge to a new role.

For example, if they require “experience using Adobe Photoshop” you can say that while you were a Graphic Designer for X company, for 3 years, one of your main responsibilities was to create new visuals in Adobe Photoshop for the company’s social media profiles. You were not only in charge of the execution of the visuals but also of concept creation and implementation.

Here you can mention any type of freelance work, if applicable, where you have used the software.

A great job interview preparation tip is to write the job requirements down on a piece of paper and match your skills and experience to these requirements.

Create 2 columns. In the left column you will fill in the key job requirements and on the right column you will fill in the most important experiences that outline a particular skill from the left column.

After you are done with the job description, it is time to research the company. Why? Because the more you know about a company, the fewer chances you have to be caught off guard. On top of this, you will also be able to evaluate if you would truly enjoy working there.

There are plenty of online resources to help you out. From LinkedIn, Glassdoor, their social media, website, online news, etc.

First, you need to look at general things, such as when was the company established, what is their business model, where do they operate, do they mention any future plans, who owns the company, how many employees do they have, etc.

Usually, most of the information is available on the company’s website. Social media will give you an idea of the corporate culture, recent events, current employees and any important developments.

Glassdoor allows current and past employees to leave reviews about a company. If the company is listed there, it’s worth checking it. While rarely all company reviews are positive, what you need to pay attention to, is the percentage of bad reviews. If the percentage is low, then you shouldn’t worry too much.

Also, it’s important to keep in mind that sometimes past employees give bad reviews, so take all reviews with a grain of salt. You should be worried only if all bad reviews are about the same thing, for example, a manager, or toxic culture.

LinkedIn is an amazing tool as it allows you to not only see current employees but past employees as well. If let’s say, you will be interviewing for a Sales Executive position, it would be smart to check all past employees with this title that have worked for this company. This will give you a great idea of employee turnover.

If all the past Sales Executives didn’t make it for more than 1 year with the company, it might mean that the environment is not the best and you should lower your expectations in terms of building a future with the company, should you accept their job offer.

Knowing the past employees’ backgrounds will allow you to have a better understanding of the company’s requirements and how you compare to them.

You might have a stronger background, which is clearly an advantage. This can be anything from having more years of experience, having worked with bigger companies or having more skills.

What is your added value?

After you have thoroughly researched the company, you should have a clear picture of who they are, how do they operate and how you can fit in.

A key tip on how to prepare for an interview is knowing how you can solve their problems.

How can you know about their problems? Most of the time, this information is available online and if you are lucky, you should be able to find at least one pain point that this company has and that you could solve.

For example, if you are interviewing for a Social Media Manager position, the first thing that you need to check in detail is their social media presence.

You need to look at things such as active channels, following, consistency in posting, quality of posts and engagement. Most times, there is at least one area that needs improvement.

If you find that they are consistent, have a good following and good quality posts but the engagement rate is low, this is a subject that you can tackle. This is where you show added value.

When presenting this during a job interview, make sure you start on a positive note and then transition to where you noticed they need improvement and how can you help. Below you have an example:

“ I noticed that while you are very active on social media and have a good following, your engagement rate is quite low. This is an area where I have a lot of experience and have helped Company X and Company Y increase their engagement rates on social media by offering a solution to and educating their target market, as opposed to just selling with each post. On top of this, I am always up to date with the algorithm changes which allows me to create content that our followers will see and engage with.”

Research the interviewer/s

Usually, when being invited for a job interview, you should know the name and title of the person who will be conducting the interview.

This is great information that you can use to find out more about this person. You can use LinkedIn for this as it provides a great overview of the person’s background, including work experience and education.

You might find that you’ve both worked for the same company in the past or attended the same university, which is a great topic for breaking the ice when meeting the interviewer. 

Also, it’s important to remember the name of the interviewer. People are more open to people who call them on their name.

For example, when introducing yourself you could say: “ I’m Lucy. It’s great to meet you, Mrs. Smith. Thank you for this opportunity” as opposed to “I’m Lucy. It’s great to meet you. Thank you for this opportunity”.

Know the company name and address

In order to prepare for any unexpected event, it’s best that you check a day ahead of the interview where exactly is the company located.

Check the address on Google maps and write it down as well. Check some important landmarks next to it to make sure it will be easy to find and you won’t be late for the interview.

Prepare your interview outfit

Deciding on what you are going to wear can take more time than you are initially planning, therefore it’s best that you prepare your outfit at least 2 days before your interview. This way, if you need to buy a new shirt, for example, you will have enough time and avoid adding more stress to the process.

If you are lost about what would be appropriate to wear, here are a few tips:

For large corporations, financial institutions, banks, government organizations, etc. it’s mandatory to wear a suit for both men and women.

For any other companies and institutions, startups or agencies (marketing, pr, advertising), a dark pair of jeans, and a long-sleeve white shirt it’s the safest bet for men.

For women, a long-sleeve white shirt, skirt or pants, and flat shoes it’s also safe. If you are still not sure, going back and checking their pictures on the website or social media, should give you a better insight into their company culture.

Remember that you want to be neither underdressed nor overdressed.

Prepare answers to the most common job interview questions

Prepare a set of questions for the interviewer

Prepare any documents or items that you need to bring with you

You should always bring at least one copy of your resume with you, so make sure that you print it beforehand and you are not leaving it until the evening or morning before the interview.

Depending on the position you are applying for, you might need to bring your portfolio, references or even a laptop with you. Print whatever you need to print and regarding your laptop, make sure you have a decent background picture, your laptop is clean and the documents needed are easy to track, in a folder on the desktop.

Prepare a Thank You note

Always follow up after the job interview.

This small step can make a huge difference, as many hiring managers put a lot of value on thank you notes.

This article was first published on Chasing our Financial Freedom on the 18th of September, 2019.