How to Prepare for and Nail an Interview in 6 Steps
There are 6 major components to nailing an interview. We break them down into the 6 ‘Gets’:
1. Get Ready
To pass the interview process, you must prepare and do research. The deeper your knowledge about the company and the role you’d be playing, the more you will impress your interviewer with incisive and pertinent questions throughout the interview.
Ready Part 1: Research the company
- Find out when the company was founded. Is it an old company, or new, or somewhere in between?
- Find out what their mission statement is. It can give you a small understanding of the overall company vision and culture, and will help you to fine-tune some of your responses.
- Read the “about us” on the company website. It’s possible the interviewer hasn’t even read it before, so if you manage to work in some knowledge you’ve gleaned from it, you’re sure to make an impression.
- If the company has staff profiles online, read them. Pay close attention to the profile of the person who will be running your unit, and your potential co-workers’ profiles, too.
- Read online reviews about the company, if there are any. What do customers think about the company? If the company is getting good reviews, you can explain how you’ll match and exceed standards. If the company is getting bad reviews, don’t be afraid to ask why. Be prepared to explain how you can help.
- Has the company been in the news recently? Use Google News, type in the company’s name, and do a search. Use “Search Tools” to expand the range of your search beyond “recent.” Do a little digging and you might find some press releases from the company itself, or news stories about the company. Ideally, you can find out what the company’s goals are, particularly with relation to the job role you’d be performing. You can then explain how you could help the company forward those goals.
- You can use major industry research services like Hoovers to find out how many people the company employs, their annual sales, competition, top industries, without paying for the full service.
- What if you can’t find any information? Don’t worry, the company is likely aware that their website is either non-existent or anemic, and won’t knock you any points for not knowing about them. Use it as an opportunity to ask to learn about the company, and then make your points about how you can help.
Ready Part 2: Research your role
- Read the hiring manager’s job description over carefully, if they wrote one. It will act as an excellent guide for what is expected of you on a daily basis, but it might not reveal the company’s overall goal.
- Research the specific position online. This may not work in all cases, but Quora, Yahoo Answers, and simple Google searches can offer up a wealth of information from people who have performed in the same position, or a similar one. Bonus: You can find out if the job is terrible and you should actually not even interview for it!
- What has the team you’re planning on joining been working on lately? Try to identify the direction they are taking, and how you’d fit in.
Ready Part 3: Research and rehearse answers to common interview questions
- First, you’re going to need to look at common interview questions and answers. We recommend our list, as it’s comprehensive and organized, but there are many others online you can look at too.
- Part of answering these questions well is researching yourself and your own achievements.
And that’s all for Get Ready. If that seems like a lot of work, I have a simple question: do you want a job or not?
2. Get Dressed
Now that you’re ready for the interview, it’s time to get dressed. Your best bet will be to follow company culture. For smaller companies and startups, or companies you are not familiar with, you could always contact the office anonymously and ask what people tend to wear to interviews. For both men and women, previous taboos are becoming more acceptable. For instance, if you have a tattoo peeking out from under your cuff, it will likely be ignored. Just don’t show off the whole sleeve. Again, that depends on the company you’re applying for.
All dressing and grooming advice comes with caveats, but a simple business casual outfit is likely your best bet when deciding what to wear to an interview. Overall, follow these three rules, and you’ll be set:
- Be Crisp
- Be Conservative
- Use Common Sense
Interview dressing habits haven’t changed much for men, but grooming habits are trending towards casual.
Facial hair – the safest course is to do a close shave. However, having extensive facial hair is definitely ‘in’ and acceptable, (depending on the job!) At the very least, trim it, clean it, wax it, oil it, do what you need to do to keep it under control.
Suit and tie – don’t wear wacky colors or patterns (stick with solid navy and dark grey), you can skip the jacket if it’s hot out or the company is less conservative; khakis and a button down collared shirt; polished dress shoes and belt that match your suit colors.
The amount of choices for women can be bewildering, and as usual women live with more arbitrary rules than men. Sorry, ladies.
Fresh manicure, light makeup, keep roots colored if you dye your hair.
Pantsuit or dress suit with a knit top or blouse that compliments conservative coloring (navy, grey, black); pencil skirt; polished closed or open-toed shoes; heels no longer than 3 inches; handbag and belt are in good shape. If you wish to add color, include it in your accessories – conservative necklace, earrings, watch, or bracelet.
Again, all dressing advice has to be taken in context. For instance, you shouldn’t wear open-toed shoes to a manufacturing plant.
3. Get Pumped
Nerves, butterflies, jitters, whatever you want to call them, there’s now a lot of science around how to harness these feelings and use them to fire you up.
I wrote an article for The Muse called “3 Sneaky Mind Tricks That Will Help You Ace the Interview” which you should read in full. However, if you want the bite size pieces for how to trick yourself into getting pumped for an interview, here they are:
Trick 1: Do not try to calm down!
Research from Harvard indicates that to combat the jitters, all you need to do is convince yourself that you are excited, not nervous. By throwing a positive spin on those butterflies, you can put yourself into a better frame of mind for the interview.
Trick 2: Read about how others in your position succeeded
A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that consumers of literature begin to think and behave like the protagonists they are reading about. In other words, if you read biographies about successful people and their personal career struggles and breakthroughs, you will literally begin to frame your own mindset in a similar success-minded manner, without even really trying.
Trick 3: Get a grip
Worrywarts, nervous Nellies, Cassandras – we have a lot of words for worriers! — and it’s because we all fall into the trap of being overly self-critical and anxious. The trick to combating this psychological pitfall is known as cognitive restructuring. Essentially, be aware of your self-critical habit and remind yourself that your situation isn’t really as bad as you think.
Use these psychological methods to nix your worries and pump yourself up before the interview, and walk in with confidence and poise.
4. Get Smart
Now you’re in the interview, and it’s time to put on the show. You’ve prepared yourself well, you’ve researched the company and you’ve rehearsed your answers to common interview questions.
- Bring in two copies of your resume. The interviewers will definitely need to reference it, and you’d be surprised at how unprepared interviewers can be. bringing in your resume helps lubricate the process and makes you look professional.
- Sit up straight. Slouching looks unprofessional and demonstrate a lack of confidence.
- Shake their hand firmly. Do not provide a “dead fish,” — give the other person a full grip and a firm shake. Nothing is weirder than receiving a “dead fish” handshake.
- Look them in the eye when speaking. Looking around the room and down at the table anxiously will make you come off as unprepared or worse, untrustworthy.
- Don’t mumble. Speak up and speak confidently.
- If you don’t know the answer to a question, be humble and ask. Showing genuine interest and humility will prove that you’re genial and easy to work with.
Provided you remain confident and well prepared, you’ll come off to come off as sharp and intelligent.
5. Get Dirty
Many people forget that the interview isn’t just for the company to learn about you, it’s also for you to learn about them. There are several pointed questions you can ask that will reveal critical details about the company and in turn help you make a smarter career decision.
Dirty Question 1: What do you enjoy most about working here?
What it reveals
If the interviewer struggles to respond to this question, you can make a safe bet that they don’t enjoy their job.
Dirty Question 2: Who held the position previously, and what happened to them?
What it reveals
From this question, you can find out:
- If previous person was fired (company turmoil?) or promoted (room for advancement!)
- Why they were fired or promoted — how can you also succeed, or avoid the same fate?
- Potential obstacles you may find yourself facing, either professionally (do you have enough skills?) or from management (personality conflicts?)
Dirty Question 3: Is there room for advancement? What does it take?
What it reveals
Find out if you’re entering a dead-end job before getting stuck. Sometimes getting a dead-end job is necessary, and it can act as a stepping-stone into a better career option. The important thing is to find out before you spend too long in the job wondering when you’ll finally be recognized.
6. Get Out
Congratulations, you nailed the interview and blew some minds! You’ve made it clear you’re a valuable addition to the company, so they’ll be calling you in for a second interview. Finally, you’re going to have to handle salary negotiations in the second or third interviews.