How to prepare for an job interview and totally nail it!
So you’ve landed a job interview. Congratulations! That’s awesome.
Now, it’s time to prepare.
An interview (internal or external) is simply a conversation between you and a prospective (or existing) employer. So why do interviews inspire such fear?
If you’re interviewing, I’m going to assume you really want the job (if not, pull out of the process now!) You’re being assessed for a role you’ve set your sights on. And the power is all on the other side – they can reject or accept you.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being in a conversation where the other person or people have all the power. It doesn’t feel right.
So over time, I’ve created a way to counter this power imbalance, have a successful interview, and protect my own sense of self all at once. If you take these steps and talk to them as equals you’ll no doubt land that dream job.
Prepare for a job interview with these 5 steps on your interview preparation checklist
1. Confidence and context is key: we’re all grown-ups here
First, you need empathy. Think about this from the employers perspective. Hiring is an expensive, time consuming process. Employers don’t like it either. They’ve likely scoured their internal network for people to fill the vacancy and having been unsuccessful they now need to look externally.
Looking externally often involves using a third party (recruiters) = expensive. It also involves risk. With an internal employee from another team it’s better the devil you know, right? You’re a big risk for them. Will you actually be able to deliver what you say you will? Will you fit the companies desired culture and behaviours?
So the company is nervous too. Remembering this context helps you to have an adult-to-adult conversation. You do not need to walk in, desperate and meek for this job like a child seeking permission to go to the local park. You are an adult, speaking to other adults and you had a lot to offer.
Walk in with your head held high, make eye contact, shake hands firmly (no one likes a weak handshake) and smile. You have been invited to join this conversation, so you have permission to enter the room as an equal to any interviewer sitting on the other side of the desk.
Pen an interview preparation checklist. Yup, actually write it down and highlight all your amazing qualities and the key points you are going to land in the interview.
2. You’re excited, not scared – use that energy to wow the interviewer
The primitive part of our brains responsible for alerting us to danger is there to protect us. Our brains are designed to warn us that a sabre toothed tiger is not a friend. We need to run away before it eats us.
This was useful when we had primitive lives. But as our modern world has evolved, so have our fears. We have a physiological response to fear that is hard to control – it’s a hard-wired fight or flight response. This is why interviews make us want to run away in terror.
BUT. Have you ever noticed that the butterfly sensation in your stomach, cheeks flushing red, eyes widening, faster breathing in FEAR is the same physiological response as EXCITEMENT?
It feels very similar in our bodies, the difference is the message to our brains describing why we feel that way. So it actually isn’t that difficult to convince our minds that we’re excited about the interview, not scared.
This is the opportunity of a lifetime, you’re going to enjoy meeting this amazing senior management team, you’re going to check out a cool office in action, you’re going to get an amazing job.
Visualise your success and your mind will accept that you are excited, not scared. This also helps to calm your physiology and gives you greater control over your thoughts. Check out Mel Robbins book The 5 Second Rule where she explains this in more detail.
3. You need to back yourself before you step into the interview
As Elissa wrote, here it’s critical that you back yourself. Here’s why:
Deep down you know your commercial worth. You are amazing. You are making (and probably saving) your existing employer a shed load of cash (A SHED LOAD). This makes you a valuable asset.
Next, you add invaluable social capital to the workplace because you’re a team player and a pleasure to work with. Low moral and bad office culture inevitably affects the bottom line. Employers value engaging and socially competent employees so don’t be afraid to show this side of personality in the interview.
Be sure to really study your CV/resume. Pretend you’ve never see it before and read it as objectively as possible. It’s impressive! You got into a great university, you probably topped your class, your training is impeccable. The interviewer needs to knows this too.
4. PREPARE – If you want the job, you have to know the company inside out, so get researching!
I’d be remiss not to emphasise that you’re highly unlikely to get the job if you don’t put any effort or work into preparing. It is nonsense to think that you can ‘wing’ a modern interview.
Mastering the freestyle interview is a contradiction in terms.
You’re expected to understand the company – what it does, what it stands for, its mission, its divisions, its customers, its suppliers. They expect you to use all the information available to you via Google and other public sources to understand their business. If you’re interviewing with big biz, make sure you’ve read the last annual report – everything will be in there – it’s a great way to get a high-level view of the whole organisation and, more importantly, where they are headed. LinkedIn is also a great resource – check out who else works in the office in similar roles.
Your interviewer will expect you to be prepared to talk competently about your experience and answer their questions. To do this well you need to PRACTICE (see point above). Even articulate people miss key points in the pressure of an interview. Or waffle (I have a tendency to talk too much when stressed).
So, work with a career coach, practice with your significant other or friends. Or record yourself on your phone and check for tone and pace. You’re going to have to try if you really want this job.
5. Preparing for an interview with clever questions and answers
Not only do you need good answers, you also need to prepare insightful questions (I usually have around five pre-prepared). Think about what you are really curious about – what do you want to know about the company that you can’t find an answer to on the internet or by talking to existing employees? It could be how the team is structured; whether you will be expected to work autonomously or collaboratively; or what skills they are looking for in the perfect candidate. Make sure that at least one of these questions is personal to the interviewer. For example,
“You have been at X company for five years, what makes you stay?”
Or something as simple as, “how has your day been so far?” when you first walk into the room.
Asking these questions takes the conversation to a more human level and gives you an opportunity connect with the other person at a social level. It also shows that you’ve done your research.
6. Answer interview questions strategically
An interviewer could ask you anything. You’re unlikely to be able to accurately predict what it will be. Companies often favour ‘Tell us about a time when..’ and ask you to describe how you acted in certain scenarios.
In my personal experience, the best way to prepare for these unpredictable questions is to think about four to five instances in your life where you have done something exceptional. You smashed a target, you created a new product, you turned around the performance of a team, you set up a new office, you streamlined a system etc. Build out these examples, bullet pointing the impact you had for customers and the business.
These should be examples that are highly relevant to the job you’re applying for.
Then whatever question they ask you, work to shoe-horn one of your amazing answers into the question. It’s OK if it doesn’t fit perfectly. If they ask you your favourite colour, I’m obviously not suggesting you launch into an epic story of a customer acquisition. But where plausible, you should be looking to tell them about your best moments to prove you’re capable of this job.
If you take their questions too literally, and provide ‘average’ responses, highlight none or few of your best moments, you’re unlikely to get this job. Play to your strengths – you have so many!
You rock – make sure the interviewer knows it
You should walk into that interview like you deserve to be there (because you do), share your unique and amazing capabilities, be excited and show them you understand what they’re looking for. You.
Are you preparing for an interview right now? Or perhaps you’ve just had a job interview? Did you nail it? Share all your stories, tips and tricks in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you!
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