It’s a great feeling when you get an interview offer, because you made it through the first hurdle! But a new challenge emerges – interviewing. Even for seasoned professionals, interviewing can be a nerve-wracking experience. Here are my top 5 tips for preparing for an interview
#1: Prepare for Common Questions
Although there can be a lot of unknowns in an interview, there are common questions that are likely to be asked that you can prepare ahead of time. Here are 3 common questions:
“Tell me about yourself.” Tip: don’t answer this question chronologically (past, present, future). Instead, start with a summary of what you’re doing now and highlight relevant skills and education. Then briefly highlight other past relevant experiences and conclude with why this position is the right next step in your career.
“What are your weaknesses?” This is a tough question to answer, but I know one thing for sure: be honest in your answer. Interviews can smell a fake answer from a mile away. My advice on how to answer is to choose a weakness that is real, but not mission critical to the position you’re applying for. Then, follow up with detail about how you’ve improved on your weakness or have made adaptations so it’s not a big issue.
“Why are you interested in this position and our company?” While a question like this seems outwardly easy, there's a deeper question being asked: how much do you actually know about us and this role? If you fail to give a very specific answer, it can look like you haven't done your research.
Let's say you're interviewing for a marketing position at Google. A good response to this question could sound something like:
"While Google's reputation is certainly what draws many candidates, I am excited to be a part of a team where I can bring my whole self to work and will be challenged creatively every single day. Additionally, one of the things that excites me most about this position is having the opportunity to work on the cutting edge of the intersection of AI and marketing."
Make it clear that they're not just a stepping stone on your way to greatness - you actually want to contribute and contribute to their work in a meaningful way.
#2: Be Explicit About Your Interest
When you’re asked a question in an interview, of course you need to answer the question they asked. But did you know you’re not limited to just that information? After you’ve answered the initial question, you can continue to build off your answer and provide additional information about why you’re specifically interested in their company or the position.
Doing this also helps the interview to feel more like a conversation and shows that you are enthusiastic. You don’t want to spend too much time on this “second answer”, but it can give interviews additional confidence that you’re the right person for the job.
#3: Give Specific Examples
If you want interviewers to remember you and your skills, be sure to include specific examples of your experiences as a part of your response. While it’s good to have a summary statement of your skills/approach (“One of my strengths is that I’m a very detail-oriented person…”), that should almost always be followed up with an additional sentence that starts with “For example…”
Be sure to tell your story in a logical flow so others can follow. One popular acronym is STAR, which stands for situation (context, details), task (or obstacle, challenge to overcome), action (actions you specifically took, approach), and result (impact, what you learned).
Before an interview, I recommend that you sit down and think through 7-10 different STAR stories. You may not know what questions are coming your way, but if you prepare that many stories you'll most likely go into the interview feeling more prepared.
To learn more about how to tell a compelling story, check out this Savviest blog post: Use Stories to Talk Your Way to Success.
#4: Don’t Be Spooked by Unemotional Interviewers
In an interview setting, it’s very common for interviewers to have to maintain an air of formality while interviewing candidates. They may not laugh at jokes, smile, or otherwise engage with you during the interview. This is completely normal!
Objectivity is used to reduce hiring bias and create a level playing field for candidates. If you find yourself losing confidence during an interview, remember that they might be really enjoying you as a candidate. We tend to overestimate how poorly we perform in interviews, so you’re likely doing a much better job than you feel like in the moment!
#5: Prepare Intentional Questions for Them
An interview will typically end with a reverse question – “Do you have any questions for us?” It’s a simple question that is easy to say no to (especially if you’ve done your research), but it’s a severe misstep if you don’t have any questions prepared for the interviewer.
This is an opportunity to demonstrate your curiosity about the role, the company, and how you’d potentially fit into the team. Some of my favorite questions to ask in this portion of the interview are about training or onboarding, team culture, professional development, or larger opportunities/challenges in the related industry.
Here are some examples of good questions at the end of an interview:
- Can you tell me more about what training and onboarding would look like?
- If selected for this role, what are opportunities for professional development and advancement?
- How would my performance in this role be evaluated, and how frequently?
- Why did you make the decision to work here?
- What excites you most about this company when you look at the year ahead?
Tying It All Together
Interviewing is both an art and a science. While there is lots that you can do to prepare, there will always be some element of the unexpected. When you get to the moment before an interview, remember that they've already decided that you're qualified for the job - otherwise they wouldn't be interviewing you!
Go in with confidence and be ready to communicate who you are and why you're so excited about this position. You got this!
Megan Pritchett is the Head of Career Coaching at Savviest and founder of CareerDork LLC.
She is a Graduate Career Advisor at the University of Denver and earned a Master of Science in Career Counseling from California State University, Sacramento. A presenter and member of the National Career Development Association, Megan is passionate about increasing access to quality career coaching and helping others reclaim the hope that their work can be meaningful and purpose-filled. Learn more about Megan on LinkedIn.