We’ve spent a significant amount of time together discussing how best to decide what type of job you want, how to craft your resume and how to go about landing an interview. It’s only logical that our next topic is the interview itself, right? Well, almost. You wouldn’t walk into a final exam or a big board meeting unprepared, would you? An interview is a test, and one where there is no makeup or retakes. A botched interview could mean a lost opportunity and if there is one thing that I’ve learned over the few several years as well as the course of this blog, it is this: a good employee/student does their homework ahead of time!
So, what information and tools should you arm yourself with before you go into an interview? While there are many forms interview questions can take, they’re generally going to cover three different areas:
- Your background and your skills. This sounds easy as you should know what it is that you’re claiming to be able to do, but there are a couple of things you need to consider. If you’ve been tailoring your resume to various positions or companies, make sure you review the same one you submitted for this particular opening. It’s important to remember which version they responded to as it is likely you highlighted an experience, understanding or approach that they view as desirable in an employee. While you know your own history, it can sometimes be difficult to come up with specific case studies or examples when you’re put on the spot. Read through common interview questions and practice how you might present certain achievements so as to effectively answer these questions.
- The company and the position. When did the company form? What are their particular goals or niche market? How does this role fit into the overall picture? You should be able to show the interviewer that you have an understanding of the company as a whole, as well as the duties of this particular role (at least in a general sense). Check out the original job posting for an understanding of the position and the company website and Facebook page for information about the corporation. What are people saying about them? Do they have a good reputation among their competitors? A few minutes consulting the almighty Google or Twitter will answer all of these questions! If you have any questions about the company that you need cleared up, by all means bring this in with you. Remember: you’re interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.
- The merging of the two. This is where the previous two categories combine together. For those mathematically inclined, that’s “You + Company/Position = A Good Thing”. How do you, your experience and personality align with the company and the position? What type of future do you envision here? What new aspects will you bring to the role? Have you thought about a 3 month and a 6 month plan? Somewhere during the course of this conversation, you will have the dreaded “salary” discussion. There is lots of advice on how to negotiate your salary and there are even salary calculators that can be used to help estimate your worth (based on experience, position and education level).
While this may seem to be a bit overwhelming, just remember that the average full-time employee spends at least a third of their average weekday at work. That means you’ll be spending about 2,000 hours annually at your job. Doesn’t it seem worth it to spend an hour or two preparing for the meeting that could decide where you’ll spend several thousand hours over the next year or more?
How do you prepare for a big interview? We would love to hear your tips!