What if I run into traffic on my way to the interview and get there late? What if I mess up one of my answers? What if I draw a total blank when my interviewer asks me if I have any questions for them?
If you’ve ever been up for a position you really wanted before, then questions like these have probably raced through your head in the hours — or worse, throughout the night — before your big interview.
Many people think of overwhelming anxiety as an inevitable part of the interview process. But the truth is, your nerves can be greatly eased once you learn how to properly prepare for an interview. Not only will this make you feel a whole lot better going in — odds are, with a clear head, you’ll actually do a better job.
Ready to learn how to walk into an interview with confidence, and knock it out of the park? Follow these five steps.
1. Research the Company
Recruiters and hiring managers don’t just want to know about your skills and experience — they also want to know how knowledgeable you are about the company. In fact, questions like “What is the name of our CEO?” and “Who are our competitors?” are both among the most commonly asked interview questions. But even if you don’t encounter a question like this, looking up the basics of the company is still worthwhile.
Use Glassdoor and online searches to learn about the company’s industry, products, mission, names of leaders, competitors, recent news and more. Then, you can drop these tidbits of newfound knowledge throughout your responses — e.g., when asked “Why do you want to work here?” a candidate might say, “The reason I decided to apply to this job was because of how much your mission resonates with me. I truly believe that making affordable, high-speed internet widely accessible will help bring the world closer together.” This proves a few things: a) you’re passionate about the opportunity, b) you’re a proactive self-starter with good critical thinking skills and c) you’re a good culture fit for the company.
You can also use this info to ask more informed questions of the interviewers themselves — more on that later.
2. Look Up Common Interview Questions
A lot of candidates stress out over not knowing what a recruiter or hiring manager is going to ask them. But in reality, you’ll get a lot of the same questions from one person to another. There are a few basic questions that you’ll almost certainly be asked — these include staples like “Tell me about yourself,” “Why do you want to leave your current job?” and “What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?” If you’re a data-driven job seeker, you’ll appreciate the list of the 50 Most Common Interview Questions that Glassdoor identified after sifting through tens of thousands of interview reviews.
You can also use Glassdoor’s interview reviews to find out which questions they specifically ask at the company you’re applying to, as well as which questions are common for your job title. Sure, you might be thrown an oddball interview question every now and then, but you’ll likely find that the vast majority of questions you’re asked are ones that you can identify in advance.
3. Rehearse Your Answers
Now that you have an idea of which questions you could be asked, it’s time to think about how you will respond to them. Keep in mind that in general, interviewers want responses that are specific, positive, impactful and genuine. If you want to know what kind of answers recruiters and hiring managers are looking for from specific questions, check out Glassdoor’s How to Answer the 50 Most Common Interview Questions.
Don’t just think about what your response should entail — go ahead and write it down. You probably shouldn’t write out full answers — that can result in you memorizing the responses verbatim, which can come across as too rehearsed — but making a bulleted list of key points you want to hit is a great idea. Try using the worksheet at the bottom of this blog post to sketch out your answers.
After you’ve written down the key points you want to hit in common interview questions, it’s a good idea to hold a mock interview aloud with a friend or family member. Some people might feel a little shy about doing this, but brush these feelings aside as best you can — in my experience, this is the number one way to improve your odds of succeeding in an interview. Doing a dry run will allow you to get any mistakes you might make out of the way before it counts against you, and also helps you get valuable feedback, so don’t skip this essential step.
4. Come Up With Your Own Questions
One of the questions you’ll almost always be asked by an interviewer is “Do you have any questions for me?” It might seem innocuous, but believe it or not, this is a very common area in which candidates trip up. Interviewers aren’t just asking this question to be nice — it serves as somewhat of a litmus test for whether or not you’ve done your research, are a good culture fit and demonstrate strong critical thinking skills.
Use the research you gathered in step two to help you craft intelligent, informed questions about the role and company that will give you a fuller picture of what it’s like to work there and what it takes to be successful. For example, if you learned that the company you’re applying to is launching a new mobile app, you might say “I read that your company is launching a new mobile experience soon. Can you tell me more about that, and how it relates to this position?” You can also use this opportunity to dig into anything that hasn’t been brought up yet or covered in sufficient detail, like company culture, how the company defines success and what drew your interviewer to the company.
5. Hammer Out the Logistics
Congrats — if you've gotten through the previous four steps, you’ve already gotten the hard part out of the way! Now, all you have to do is think through all the little logistical details of your interview. These can vary depending on what kind of interview it is — phone, video, in-person, etc. Here are a few things to keep in mind for some of the most common types of interviews:
- Pick a quiet place with good service to take the call
- Confirm the day and time, accounting for differences in time zone
- Confirm how you’re getting in touch with the hiring manager (Are they calling you? Are you calling them? Will you call their cell, or a conference number?)
- Review the job description and company information 30 minutes before the call
- Breathe — try to stay relaxed and focused!
- Pick a quiet place with good lighting and a simple background to take the interview
- Do a test run to try out the video software
- Restart your computer before the interview to help avoid technical difficulties
- Dress like you are going to an in-person interview
- Research standard company attire and dress one step above that
- Have directions to where you’re going
- Print multiple copies of your resume
- Plan on arriving 30 minutes early, but wait in your car or at a coffee shop nearby until 5 minutes before
- Brush your teeth or chew some gum before walking in
- Run through your cheat sheet of responses, and a list of questions to ask each interviewer
Preparing for an interview the right way does take some work on your part, but believe us — it’s worth the effort. Who knows? You might just find that interviews aren’t as scary as you thought after all. Now go out there and get ‘em!