Preparing for an Interview Guide
Do you get nervous before a job interview? Probably. Do you get really nervous? That’s typical, too.
Yet there’s a bit of a “secret” when it comes to going on job interviews and keeping the jitters at bay and it’s all about how you look at it:
Think of a job interview as you interviewing them!
That’s right: you’re interviewing the company as much as they’re interviewing you
After all, you’re going to be spending a lot of time at the company (possibly even more time with your boss and colleagues than you do with family members). You have every right to work in a culture that fits you just as well as you fit it.
You also have the right to work for a company that helps you reach your goals and that values your contribution (both in its appreciation of you and your financial compensation).
If you’re still nervous, here’s another tip (and this one is so important that we’re going to boldface it and make it a sub-head):
A job interview really is just a conversation
That’s it. Really. Just a conversation between two people who are trying to figure out if they will be “good together.”
It’s a conversation because you, too, will be asking questions just as your interviewer will (we’ll tell you what type of questions below), and the two of you will have a back-and-forth chat. A conversation.
And you enjoy conversations with your friends, right? So this interview really should be a friendly discussion between two equals who are trying to see if each of them is a good fit for the other.
Now of course, the interviewer (the company) does have a bit more say in the matter. But you do, as well. Never forget that.
Some general interview pointers
- Research the company before the interview. Look through its entire website to learn more about it. Google it and see what comes up. Prepare some intelligent and thoughtful questions about the company that you can ask during your meeting. Doing so also shows that you’re truly interested in the company and the position.
- Don’t ask questions about salary, benefits, days off, etc. You can ask these questions at your next interview or when you’re offered the job. (Don’t take the job until you know about salary, etc.)
- Take a careful look at the job description and jot down some examples of your work experience, education and general background that align with its requirements and be sure to highlight how your experience, etc. fits in with what they’re seeking. In a nutshell: you need to show how your experience solves the company’s/hiring manager’s problems.
- Prepare one or two examples of stories of accomplishments, results, etc. that you’ve reached while working for your current or past employers. Be as specific as possible and show how the work you did in reaching them is applicable to this company’s/hiring manager’s needs.
Some general video interview pointers
- Since many employers now interview job candidates via video, you should practice an interview via video with a friend or family member if you’ve never had a video interview before.
- Check to make sure your video connection/camera is working before your interview.
- Aim to look directly at the video camera (usually the small light at the top of your laptop or computer screen) when speaking and even when the interviewer is speaking. This makes it appear as if you’re looking directly at the interviewer.
- Dress as you would for an in-person interview. If you’re certain that your bottom half won’t show in the video, you can wear sweats or shorts or whatever, but wear appropriate tops and/or blazers on your top half.
- Find a room with natural light, such as window. In fact, if you have a choice, aim not to sit directly in front of the window as it can create a halo around you, making it difficult for the interviewer to see your face. Also, try to avoid stark overhead lighting as it can create unflattering shadows.
- If possible, place a desk lamp or standing lamp with a shade right above and behind your webcam.
Interview questions you can expect
- Why do you want to work here/in this job? This is where your research about the company will come in handy as you can speak to how your skills fit with the position and the company’s future.
- Why do you want to leave your current job? Keep your answer short. Never, ever, bad-mouth your current boss, company or coworkers. Doing so just makes you come across as a complainer/whiner. Answer along the line as to how the new position is in line with your goals; you want a new challenge, etc.
- What is your greatest weakness? Be honest. Don’t aim to couch it as a hidden strength. If you, for example, feel that you have a “weak skin,” that you “take things too personally,” say so and talk about what you’re doing to work on that weakness.
- What did you like least about your last position? Again, no complaining. It should be something along the lines of there was no room for improvement, it wasn’t challenging any more, etc.
- Do you prefer to work in a team or alone? You can say which you prefer, but you must add that you’re completely fine working alone or as part of a team. (Extra point if you then give an example of working the situation you least like.)
- What is your greatest accomplishment? You probably have a few. So the one you discuss here should be one that showcases how your particular skills, background and accomplishments can results in helping this employer/manager.
Behavioral-based questions you’ll probably be asked
It’s true: how we behave in the past is an indicator of what we’ll do in the future, so employers tend to ask “behavioral” interview questions as:
- Describe a time you faced a stressful situation and how you coped.
- Tell me about a time you faced an angry coworker/client and how you reacted
- What’s a difficult decision you made in the past year?
- Describe a time you’ve had to get along with someone you personally disliked and how you handled it.
- Describe me a time you had too much on your plate and what you did about it.
- Give me a specific example of when you had to do something your boss told you to do with which you didn’t agree.
- Tell me about a time you made a mistake and what you did about it.
You should look at these questions and come up with potential answers. It’s also a good idea to look at additional behavioral questions you may be asked and prepare.
Questions you should ask the employer
- What are this department’s concerns/what goals are you hoping your department will meet? This gives you a great opportunity to showcase how your background, skills, etc. can help the hiring manager meet these goals, etc.
- How do you describe your management style? If the boss likes to keepa close eye on her team members and you prefer to work in a more open environment, this may not be the job for you.
- What skills and personal characteristics does your idea candidate have? The answers here will help you reiterate how your particular skills etc. are a good match.
- Who has been the best in the position and why? This helps you determine if you have the characteristics and skills of the hiring manager’s stars.
- Why is this position open? Did the previous worker get a promotion (that bodes well for your future)? Did the person get fired? If so, gently ask the hiring manager to give a broad reason (no personal details) why. The answer will help you determine if you have the same characteristics/lack of skills and so you may want to decline this position of offered.
- How do you think my skills, background match what you’re looking for? This can be a “scary” question to ask: you do risk hearing that, well, they don’t. But if that’s answer given, all is not lost: you can dig a bit deeper and then discuss how your accomplishments, skills, etc. can help. What’s more – and this can truly work! – you could say something like “That’s true: I don’t have XYZ skills/background. But I do have ABC skills/EFG background, which I’m sure you can see mean I can help you in LMNOP ways.”
Are you itching to find a new job in the IT, finance/accounting, digital marketing, or HR fields? If so, check out our current opportunities. If you don’t see anything that piques your interest, we’re always receiving new contract, direct-hire and contract-to-hire positions from our clients, so make sure you check out our Find Jobs page regularly.