10 Ways to Prepare for an Interview
Interviewing is a learned skill that can improve with practice, practice, practice! The interview is a critical part of a job seeker’s journey, and there is only one chance to make a great first impression.
Since 1998, Annex has coached thousands of candidates in preparation for interviews and we are happy to share our knowledge with you. Here are ten ways to prepare for a job interview.
1. Understand the role you applied for
Ensure you thoroughly understand the role you are applying for. Review the responsibilities, deliverables, qualifications and experience. By understanding the role in as much detail as possible, you will be able to communicate examples of how your professional experience and skill set is directly relatable to the role you are interviewing for, and the company as well.
2. Research the organization
ALWAYS research the organization with which you are interviewing. Pay attention to the company’s core values, significant achievements, awards, etc. Interviewers often ask what you know about the company to test if you are genuinely interested in the company and have taken the time to do research in advance. This is also an opportunity to speak to how your personal core values and experiences relate to theirs.
3. Be prepared for common interview questions
Prepare for common behavioural and generic interview questions. Examples include:
- Tell me about yourself. This is open ended on purpose so the interviews can assess your communication skills. Talk about your work skills and what you like to do outside of work.
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses? Use the S.T.A.R. method (see question #8 below) to describe a time you experienced failure and what you did to learn from that experience. It is brave, but also endearing, to admit a previous mistake. It also shows that you are self-aware and interested in personal growth and development. We all learn much more from making mistakes rather than successes.
- What do you know about our company? See question #2 above.
- Why do you want to work at our company? Show that you know what the company does and why it is interesting to you. Try to align your skills, interests and career path with the organization.
- What makes you a good fit for this position? Be aware of the key requirements of the role and speak to how your experience relates.
Practice answering these questions out loud, just as you would practice a presentation. Our CEO always says that 95 percent of confidence is preparation.
4. Prepare questions for the interviewer
Take the time to prepare a list of questions, write them down, and bring them to the meeting. This shows your interest in the organization and the role. Not sure what to ask? Consider these and add more:
- Tell me about the strategy of the organization and where it is going in the next three years.
- Tell me about the projects I will be working on and how those projects fit into the strategy of the organization.
- What is the structure of the IT department – e.g., corporate applications, operations, PMO, etc.
- Why do you like working here?
- Describe what an ideal candidate looks like in this role.
Not asking questions is commonly cited as the biggest mistake made in interviews.
5. Understand your experience
Ensure you fully understand your resume, from profile and professional experience to technical skills and education. Interviewers will ask you questions directly related to your experience. Be prepared to communicate project details and benefits realized. Think about how your experience – e.g., projects, teams, industry, technology, methodology, etc. – relates to the organization and environment where you are interviewing.
6. Create a lasting first impression
First impressions are very important in a job interview.
- Work on your handshake.
- Practice making eye contact.
- Know your interviewers by name.
- Give yourself extra time and plan to arrive early. Our CEO is also fond of saying it is better to be 30 minutes early than two minutes late.
- Go to bed early the night before so you are fully energized.
Be confident, give a firm handshake, stand and sit with good posture, smile, and relax. Another saying our CEO is fond of is “be yourself on your best day”. You got this!
7. Dress to impress
Dress code plays a major part in an interview. If possible, ask ahead of time about the company dress code. Dress professionally, paying attention to colours and style.
Don’t forget about basic hygiene. If you are a coffee drinker or smoker, or ate a meal before the interview, brush your teeth or pop a mint. Refrain from wearing strong perfume or cologne.
8. S.T.A.R. Method
The S.T.A.R. Method is a structured way of responding to a behavioural-based interview question by describing the specific situation, task, action and result.
Situation: Describe a specific event or situation relevant to the job you are interviewing for, with enough detail for the interviewer to understand.
Task: What goal were you working toward?
Action: This is where you shine! Describe the actions you took to address the situation with the appropriate amount of detail and keep the focus on YOU!
Result: Describe the outcome of your actions and don’t be shy. Make sure your answer contains multiple, positive business impacts and benefits.
Sample S.T.A.R. Response
Situation: Advertising revenue was falling off for my previous employer’s newspaper, The Review, and large numbers of long-term advertisers were not renewing contracts.
Task: My goal was to generate new ideas, materials and incentives that would result in at least a 15% increase in advertisers from the year before.
Action: I designed a new promotional packet to go with the rate sheet and compared the benefits of The Review circulation with other ad media in the area. I also set-up a special training session for the account executives with a School of Business Administration professor who discussed competitive selling strategies.
Result: We signed contracts with 15 former advertisers for daily ads and five for special supplements. We increased our new advertisers by 20% over the same period last year.
9. Interviewing by phone or video
Phone interviews require 100% availability to answer the call (i.e., no distractions) and stay on the call (i.e., good reception and a fully charged phone). You can make a better impression during a phone interview by standing up and using hand gestures – yes, even if they can’t see you!
Video interviews are more effective if there are no distractions in the background and you have a strong wifi connection. Be sure to dress exactly how you would for an in-person interview. Lastly, look directly at the camera instead of watching the image of yourself on screen.
10. Interview don’ts
- Don’t lie.
- Don’t ramble.
- Don’t interrupt the interviewer.
- Don’t arrive too early for an interview and definitely don’t be late.
- Don’t ask about money/compensation during your first interview.
- Don’t speak negatively about your current or former employers.
- Don’t keep your phone on or out.
Part of Annex’s value add for candidates is we will always help you prepare for an interview. If you are interested in a new contract or employment position, please reach out to us.