How to Prepare for a Job Interview?

Your application and resume drew their attention, and the employer is interested to know more about you, your skills, attitude, and other key criteria they are looking for in the persons they want to hire. This is a significant achievement for you towards getting the job you want.

But it is equally important to know that ‘job interviews are like first dates; good impressions count, awkwardness can occur, and outcomes are unpredictable.

While you have achieved so much and reached so close to being employed, very simple negligence from your side may be counterproductive. This guide is about interview preparation, key consideration and along with some interview tips and techniques for the same.

Below are some important skills and considerations in preparing for a job interview.

Related Reading: 14 Signs a Job Interview Went Well


1. Be Prepared

Recruiters give high importance to the preparedness of the applicant. According to Kristin Sailing, a data scientist on the Talent Management task force of the U.S. Army, the interview is a better measure of emotional intelligence indicators, preparedness, punctuality, work ethic and all the other little things that might make a good interpersonal fit.

There are a few classic techniques, but still very important in order to get ready for a job interview.

Spending some time to understand and concentrate on the interview preparation around those basics will be very helpful for you to impress the employers by providing an excellent responses to the job interview questions during the interview process. 

It is really crucial to develop a checklist for interview preparation to get better organized and ensure everything is planned in an excellent way. You can find many interview checklist online, such as checklist for interview skills.

1.1 Research about the Company/Organization

In general, you must have certainly researched the employers when you applied for a particular position, but it is still worth further exploration.

Particularly, at this stage you may want to focus more on the niche of the organization, what do they prioritize most in their employees, what are your strengths and possible weaknesses so that you can highlight the strengths during the interviews.

The website of the organizations, social media accounts, past annual reports and employee reviews on Glassdoor or Indeed can be very helpful to best understand the company and anticipate the most common interview questions.

Use this information, while introducing yourself and talking about past experiences and how you can add value as a staff member.

1.2 Boost your Confidence

Being nervous during an interview is very common. But it is important to understand that the more nervous you sound the less competitive you become because it affects the quality of your presentation, it may deliver some negative impression on the level of your confidence which may lead the decision against you.

It is equally important to understand that nervousness comes from negative feelings such as the interview is going to be very tough, the panel will ask difficult questions, I may not be able to answer.

But the fact is that you have been chosen for an interview from a crowd of applicants, the employer would like to understand more about you and there is a very good possibility to get a job.

If you focus on positive things you will start enjoying the moments, you will sound more pleasant, more confident which will strengthen your competitiveness for the position. So, focus on positive things.

This is not only true about interviews but everyday life. So, learn to develop a positive self-concept and make it a habit. You will not only master your interview but every step that sounds difficult for you at the moment.

You can also try some deep breathing techniques for relaxation. Take deep breath in with a feeling that you are inhaling all the positive energies in the environment, and deep breath out with the relaxation.

There are several resources available online for free such as Managing Stress for Positive Change available in linked in. You will get free access to this course for the first 24 hours. Once you are fully relaxed you can best respond to the job interview questions in a more confident way.

1.3 Keep yourself healthy and fit

Some minor health issues can also create huge difficulty during your interview so keep yourself healthy and fit. Prioritize to have good rest and sleep, take healthy meals and keep yourself hydrated.

1.3.1 Dress Code

Another basic interview preparation is choosing an appropriate dress code. Although, appropriate dress code during job interviews varies according to the working culture of the company.

However, it is important to avoid items that are distracting in nature, sandals or flip-flops, poorly fitting clothes, or shoes. If you are not sure, wear professional, or business, attire, without being overly formal.

1.3.2 Effective Opening

The opening of the interview sets the scene for the rest of the interview and creates a strong impact on the interviewers’ perception, so make a great opening of the interview. There are a few things you can do to keep your stress away and enjoy the interview; you can try some simple relaxation exercises such as breathing techniques.

Greet the interviewer, be respectful and polite. Be aware of your voice, be comfortable, speak naturally. Feel good, remember ‘80% success is showing up’.  You can also get best prepared for a great opening by anticipating the most common interview questions.


2. Highlighting Strengths and Softening Weaknesses

This is one of the most common interview questions in a job interview but often candidates fail to make the best use of these questions. This is mainly because the interview answer requires some preparation and balanced content with good examples to back up your interview answers.

To best prepare for these questions, list the top 5 or 7 strengths, and see which of them are the most relevant to the job you have applied for, how have you used these strengths and what are the most convincing details for the interviewer around these strengths.

Make a simple note with these details, look for the numbers, for example, your role is writing a winning grants application, you can think of the total number of grant applications you have written, the percentage of a successful application, the biggest amount you have secured, your role in the team, etc.

This not only tells about your strengths but about the organization skills, presentation skills, the level of details you can capture which the employer will really be looking for in their employees.

Another challenging part is responding to the job interview question ‘what are your weaknesses’. In responding to your weaknesses, you can carefully and honestly present them to the interviewers to turn them into your strengths. Below are some of the key consideration for sharing your weakness in a way to turn them into your strengths:

–          List the weaknesses you have.

–          Make sure you do not include the essential skill for the position, this will be very counterproductive for you.

–          Analyze the selected weaknesses you would like to present if asked during the interview, how they have impacted your performance in the past, how do you overcome those challenges and how are you planning to get rid of these challenges.

–          Details out what support you need from the company. See if the expected support is realistic, that can be offered in general.

–          Present how you have improved on those weaknesses and how do you assure that this will not impact your quality of performance.

–          Do not sugar coat your weaknesses, do not use vague language. Be clear and confident but not boastful, after all weakness is weakness.


3. Effective Closing

Ending your interview with the right note leaves a good impression on the interviewers. Many interviewers are undecided about rating the candidate until the last minute of the interviews and a positive ending provides you an opportunity to get the advantage of this.

Below are the things to consider while ending a job interview.

  • Ask about the next steps and timeline.
  • Very briefly restate your enthusiasm for the role.
  • Thank everyone in the panel for interviewing you and offering your availability for the next steps or any additional clarity required.


4. Interviewing with Confidence

Presenting yourself in confident ways help you to better demonstrate your presentation skills and respond to the job interview questions by the interviewers in more logical and interesting ways which is key to success.

Confident presence in a job interview will also make you feel good and enjoy the interview as well. In addition, employers will also be looking for confident candidates to hire.

There are a few things that you need to consider to look confident and to boost your confidence:

  • Eye Contact: Maintain eye contact with interviewers while you are listening to them and while responding to their questions. This helps you to engage the interviewers. Engaging the interviewer helps to make effective communication which is crucial in any job interview.
  • Posture: Good posture is also equally important in a job interview. Do not squeeze yourself into a small space, do not cross your hand. Some people also have a tendency to move their hands, or tap their feet, be aware of such smaller things. If you enjoy your interview, you will face such instances less.
  • Talk Naturally: It is important that you talk slowly, naturally. You are not too low in voice and you are not shouting either. Make sure you are smiling and enjoying the talk. All these things are simple that we consider in our everyday conversation but during the job interviews it is not uncommon that people make mistakes on such simple things not because they lack capacity but because they fail to pay attention to such small things.
  • Listen and Enjoy: Focus on listening, if they present in a casual tone, make some jokes and laugh be part of the same. Enjoy the conversation, make sure you use good moments to present your strengths in a natural way; do not be impatient.


5. Virtual Work Environment

With Covid 19 pandemic mobility restriction virtual work has been a standard for many companies and questions in relation to virtual work is a mandatory part of the job interview process.

A very typical job interview question is ‘are you comfortable in a virtual work environment?’. The best way to respond to this question is to be prepared for this.

If you are comfortable working from home, you can focus on your interview-answer on why it is a strength for you, how to ensure efficiency and quality such as being organized, maintaining a format environment during work hours, or flexibility in work.

Demonstrate the past experience of working from home. Also share how you maintain work-life balance, in working from home.

If work from home is not feasible for you, then you need to ensure to communicate that clearly, what alternative might be feasible and at the same time indicate decently why you are still interested in the position and how you add value to the role compared to someone who might be easily available to work from home.


6. Asking Great Questions to the Panel

Getting staff members is as important as getting a good job. Therefore, the interviewer will certainly want a new staff member of their company who has good work ethics, certainly interested in the role and company, and has an outstanding capacity that is needed to perform the role.

One of the best strategies to give this impression on the interviewer is to ask good questions to the interview panel.

What are the great questions? You can use this opportunity to check if you have answered all the questions and if the interviewers have not got answers to any of the questions they have asked.

This will prevent you from being negatively rated for any of the questions that you might have covered partly unintentionally.

There are some other basic questions that you can use in any of the interviews such as ‘what is company culture? What is the staff turnover rate? How do you help your team members grow professionally? What are the major challenges the company is facing and what is the department (for which the role is advertised) doing?

Asking questions shows that you are really interested in the position and would like to best understand it. It also indicates the level of understanding of the company which every employer will be interested to know.


7. Handling Telephone Interview

Many of the tips and techniques for an interview will hold true for the telephone interview that are applicable for face to face interviews.

The additional consideration is that you cannot use eye contact, do not get non-verbal cues and technology may create barriers in communication.

The best way to prepare for a telephone interview is to try a mock interview with a friend.

Develop a list of the most common interview questions, and attend a full-length mock interview, record it and listen to it after you have completed it.

Note down the key areas of improvements and plan how you can improve it. If your friend who is willing to support you on the mock interview is professional with the relevant capacities, you may ask him/her to ask some questions that you have not proposed, which will help you to see how you respond to the unanticipated questions and what improvement might be possible in such a situation.

Try your best but be prepared for the limitations during the telephone interview. After all the interviewers also understand the limitations of the telephone interviews.

Video interviews are very much similar to the telephone interview with the advantage of seeing each other to get some non-verbal cues.


8. Developing Interview Skills

You may have seen some people who can do very well in interviews and showcase their knowledge skills very well and some others who struggle to showcase their knowledge and skills in job interviews. By interview practice, you can master these skills as well as the best interviewers do.

  • Visualize Your Dream Job and Make it Your Lifestyle: Visualizing the future careers, seeing it with clarity, and understanding what it means to be most successful in the role is key to be prepared for any of the jobs you dream for. Once you have these details you can make it your lifestyle to grow professionally towards that job. Such as if you want to be a writer, you may make a habit of writing at least a few paragraphs every day. This not only improves your skills but provides you confidence and helps you develop a great portfolio that you can use with great confidence during job interviews. This is a long-term process but provides very powerful tools and interview techniques that you can use during your job interview and helps you to stand out from the crowd.
  • Practice: To practice in a meaningful way, you can use mock interviews, record them and listen to note down the improvements. Once you think you are ready to see how your improvements look, you may want to try again. In interview preparation, it is important to be well prepared but do not to be over-prepared. The focus on the interview practice should be on the key message to respond to the most common interview questions, tone and way of presentation. Trying to memorize the content may have adverse impacts so keep it natural.
  • Interviewing techniques: Be familiar with the interview techniques such as formal competency-based interviews, lunch/dinner interview, group interview, etc. All of these different techniques have many things in common, but there are differences as well. Such as for competency-based interviews you will need to prepare in advance about your performance in the competency areas and be able to articulate it in context. But lunch/dinner interviews may focus more on interaction with you, the content may vary such as your aspiration, your behavioral and attitudinal aspects, your interest areas and so on. So, it is important to understand the interviewing techniques and present them accordingly.
  • Be Open and Honest: It is always important that you present yourself in an honest and open way with the interviews. If something is not fair and does not sound reasonable, very decently present why it is not a good fit for you, but at the same time proactively offer some alternatives that might be feasible for you and fair to the employer. Do present as a good professional with a passion for the job you have applied for but be aware not to present as a flawless individual.
  • Expect the Unexpected: In a job interview expect the unexpected, the questions you have never thought about may be asked, you may have made some minor errors, you might have missed some simple things to check and ensure. Expecting the unexpected is key to such an interview. Once you notice such things, do not panic. The best way to face unexpected situations is to keep calm, try to understand as much as possible and respond wisely. If this is a question you cannot answer at all, say it clearly. If you are not sure but making some guess, say it clearly that you are making a guess. This not only shows how mature you handled the situation but also your true capacity to do the things and you can turn such unexpected into a strength rather than a limitation.
  • Exploring Some Online Courses: One of the strategies to best familiarize yourself and try some of the skills is to explore some of the online courses. There are some great online courses on preparing for job interviews and developing interview skills. You can find many interesting courses on a job interview at Coursera Online Platform, similarly, you may also find How to Succeed at: Interviews available in Future Learn. Unlocking Your Employability offered by the University of Queensland Australia and Resume, Networking, and Interview Skills by FullbridgeX are other interesting courses available on the Edx platform. It will really be worth trying to explore such content when you have plenty of time to explore such resources rather than rushing after you have received an invitation for job interviews.


9. After Your Interview

After the interview, take time to send a thank you email to your interviewer through the official contact of the employer. Make sure you present why the interview was an excellent experience for you. Keep it short and focused. 

A great businessman Andrew Carnegie has said that ‘the average person puts only 25% of his energy into his work. The world takes off its hat to those who put in more than 50% of their capacity and stands on its head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%.

Although the author focused more on the business while saying this it is equally relevant to being strategic in every action we perform. So, getting the best out of an interview and securing a job offer is more of being strategic and you can learn all these strategies with little effort but for longer-term success.