A great resume isn’t going to get you hired but a great interview will. Whether you are a recent college graduate or a seasoned professional preparing ahead of time can make all the difference.
“Being prepared for the interview will give you an edge over the competition,” says Pamela Skillings, co-founder of job coaching firm Skillful Communications. “People feel like they can wing it with no problem but the job interview is different than any other type of communications, especially for new college grads.”
According to career experts, job seekers have to view the interview as their opportunity to shine above and beyond their resume. In order to do that, Amanda Augustine, TheLadders job search expert says the interviewee needs to come across as poised, polished and professional, which is where the practice comes in. “By not properly preparing for the interview, you run the risk of sending the wrong signal,” says Augustine. “The last thing you want to do is send the message that you’re uninterested in the role or that you didn’t take the interview seriously.”
Once you land an interview, the first step in preparation should always be researching the company and job you are interviewing for. Job seekers need to know the products or services of the company as well as the culture, which can typically be found on the company’s website, says Susan Heathfield, the guide to human resources at About.com.
Heathfield says to also do a google search of the person or people that will be interviewing you. Having information ahead of time will show you care enough to do your homework and it also gives you the opportunity to click with the interviewer on a more personal level if you know something about them.
It’s also a good idea to set up Google News Alerts for the company you are interviewing with so you’ll be up on the most recent news about it, says Augustine. Sources like Glassdoor can yield information about the company culture and the type of interviews they conduct. Often companies will put sample interview questions on their website as well, eliminating any excuses for not preparing ahead of time. Based on the research, Augustine says job seekers should put together a list of at least five questions for the interviewer. Avoid asking about pay and benefits until a job offer has been made.
One often overlooked preparation tool is the job ad itself. It’s a good idea to scour the job description carefully to make sure the skills and experience you’re highlighting during the interview matches the needs of the company, says Skillings. “It’s amazing that few people think about it in length,” says Skillings. Job seekers want to go into the interview knowing what strengths the company is looking for, as well as what the job duties are and why the person interviewing is a good fit, she says.
Interviewing for a new job can be nerve wracking, especially for people who haven’t done it a lot. Nerves can undoubtedly get the best of you and cause you to bomb an interview, which is why preparation is important. If you have an idea of what you’ll say prior to the interview, you won’t be stressed out and will be better equipped to handle any curve balls thrown your way, says Skillings. She suggests job seekers either practice with a friend or family member or record themselves so they can recognize any behaviors that may turn off the prospective employer. “It really does make a difference,” says Skillings. “Seeing yourself on Webcam may be a little painful at first but it helps fine tune how your present yourself to others.”
While you don’t want to come off as too polished during the interview spitting out one canned answer after the next, you do want to have answers for some of the potential questions in your back pocket. For example common interview questions include “tell me about yourself” or “give me an example when you stepped up and took a leadership role.” The recent college grad may not have much past job experience but he or she should be able to come up with a couple of stories of how they took on the leadership role in school or during another activity. “If you have at least gone over the details in your mind prior to the interview you really heighten the possibility of answering them well,” says Heathfield. “You don’t want to have canned questions and answers. You want to bring yourself with all your quirkiness and all your humor or whoever you are to the interview.”