Congratulations, you've landed the interview! The initial sense of dread that your resume is being dropped into the deep, dark void of the internet every time you apply for a job is over. The hiring manager saw something special in you, and now it's time to knock their socks off in person.
Interviews are arguably the most crucial step of the hiring process, so it's imperative that you prepare. Like, a lot. However much you think you need to prepare, spend twice as much time preparing. So, where do you start?
1. Research, research, research
Just because you're offered an interview, that doesn't mean you're a shoo-in and can waltz into the interview without preparing. While it does mean the hiring manager saw some good qualities in your resume and cover letter, you'll still be expected to elaborate on your experience and convince them that you're more talented, qualified, and dedicated than any other candidate.
- Dig deep into the company's website until you're familiar with the company's services, products, mission, recent projects, etc. Going into the interview, you want to know not only what they do, but also how they view themselves. Get a feel for their values and culture, and use that knowledge to ask informed questions during the interview.
- Research the company's competitors and form your own ideas about what makes it different. Impress them with your knowledge of the industry and competitive landscape.
- Make sure you know about any major recent projects or news stories involving the company. Draw in relevant tidbits and reference those happenings and milestones during your interview.
- Examine the job description and come prepared to talk about how you meet those requirements and can even offer them more.
2. Choose your outfit and pack your bag
If you're unsure about what the company dress code is, ask. In general, it's better to be overdressed than underdressed, but it's also wise to just ask instead of assume. Lay out your outfit the night before and do any ironing/steaming to save you time and stress in the morning.
Essential things to bring to the interview: several copies of your resume, your portfolio, several copies of your business card (if you have one), a notepad and pen, and a list of professional references, just in case. Basically, anything that is going to prove your expertise and back up your words, you should bring.
For example, if you've written for a magazine, bring in a copy. If your interviewer asks you a question about your work, you can pull out the physical copy and show them -- that'll show that you're always prepared.
3. Practice your answers
Have a roommate, friend, or family member ask you common interview questions so you can practice your answers out loud before the interview. They can give you immediate feedback if there's anything they notice you can work on.
Come up with a handful of anecdotes that you can use if they ask common situational interview questions. You know -- a time when you showed leadership skills, a time when you disagreed with a boss, a time when you made a mistake, etc. Do a little search on Glassdoor to find out what questions people who have previously interviewed at the company have been asked. And if you have a connection at the company, ask them how you can best prepare.
During the interview, you'll want to stay focused and remember to breathe, so practice your body language with a friend beforehand. Firmly shake their hand, sit up straight, maintain eye contact, nod when listening, and smile (yes, we know women are told to smile a lot, but in this case it'll really help show you're enthusiastic about the job).
4. Prepare questions to ask
This is a crucial part of the interview. While it's your chance to further impress your interviewer with smart, thought-provoking questions, it's also your last chance to figure out if this job is really right for you. You want to know the nitty-gritty details about the day-to-day challenges in your position, the unfiltered company culture, and realistic opportunities for upward mobility.
Don't worry about memorizing your questions -- you can bring in a written list and add to it any questions that come up on the fly during the interview. By the time the interview is over, you should have a deeper understanding of what your responsibilities would entail, what the challenges are, and what the next steps in the interview process are.
Need help coming up with interview questions? Here are some resources to help:
- 93 Questions to Ask in an Interview That Will Actually Tell You About the Job
- 5 Creative Interview Questions That Can Reveal Red Flags
- Questions to Ask an Interviewer That Make You Sound Like a Genius
- The 12 Questions You Should Be Asking Recruiters
5. Calm your nerves
We've all been there -- sweaty palms, hot face, nervous stutter, a brain that seemingly goes blank when you're asked to talk about yourself. Remember that you're human, your interviewer is human, and you're there to talk about why you're the best candidate for the position. Think of it like a business meeting where you're trying to sell a product that you're passionate about, and the product just so happens to be you.
The morning of:
- Give yourself plenty of time to get ready so you aren't rushing around. Also give yourself an extra 15 to 30 minutes to get to your interview location in case of traffic or an accident.
- Before interview day, ask your company contact where you should park and where you should meet them in the building.
- Do whatever relaxes you the most, whether that's 15 minutes of yoga or slowly sipping your coffee.
- Eat a hearty breakfast (it'll boost that brain power!).
- Recite some affirmations and tell yourself you've got this. Confidence is everything during interviews.
- Imagine the absolute worst-case scenario (the zombie apocalypse hits during your commute and you arrive 30 minutes late with tattered and zombie-brain-ridden clothing and then pass out during the interview), and then think about how likely that scenario is. It's probably not going to happen. And even if it does, we're all human, and a great employer should understand that.