Similar to writing a great resume and cover letter, rocking your interview can seem really difficult at first, but becomes much easier if you follow a few simple guidelines to better prepare yourself.
Anyone who has ever sat in a classroom can remember a time where someone else forgot to read the book before coming to class and was forced to cobble together a nonsensical answer when asked by the teacher to discuss the book. Please don’t be that person in an interview! Preparing for an interview is actually very simple and straightforward – but most people never bother to put the extra effort in. That means you can jump ahead of the competition just by doing your homework.
Doing your homework means learning about the company you’re interviewing with; who is their CEO, who will you be interviewing with and what is their role within the company (sometimes they’ll be from HR – sometimes they’ll be a manager in the department), what is their mission statement, and what long/short-term goals do they have? Most companies will post this information on their company website, but others will have it on their social media pages or in news articles. By figuring out the answers to these questions before the interview, you can speak competently about how you’ll benefit the company and ask pertinent questions about your role in the organization.
Practice makes perfect. Or – at the very least, practicing your interviewing is going to help you become a more confident and engaging interviewer. Find a friend, roommate, or family member and give them a set of flashcards with potential interview questions on them.
- Half of these questions should be specific to the job description on the position you’re applying for. For example, if it’s a sales position and one of their requirements is experience managing a sales territory, you can write down a question on your flashcard like this: How many years of experience do you have in sales management?
- The other half of your questions should be general questions about your competency and your future, such as: Where do you see yourself in five years? What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them? Tell me about a time of failure in your career and how did you handle it?
If you need more examples of potential interview questions, this list from Indeed is a great resource! By practicing your responses in person, you’ll be able to improve your answers, answer more precisely in your actual interview, and reduce any nervousness you might be experiencing prior to an interview.
Show up with more than just the clothes on your back. Interviews are like an open-book test, so make sure you come to your interview with the information you need to impress the interviewer. Bring at least two copies of your resume printed on sturdy paper. Write down any major accomplishments or important responsibilities you’ve had on a second piece of paper that you can refer back to throughout the interview. I recommend titling this list of accomplishments “Benchmarks & Milestones” because it should outline all the major points throughout your career.
You’ll also want to bring along a reference sheet with at least three references. This reference sheet should include the names, phone numbers, and addresses of every reference you’re including. It can also be helpful if you include your relationship with the reference – any hiring decision-maker is going to be more interested in a reference from a former manager than from your mother.
Negotiate your salary with cold hard facts! Prior to your interview, do some research on websites like PayScale and GlassDoor to see what the average salary is for the position you’re trying to get. Practice stating why you’re worth getting paid the salary you’re going to ask for. For example: Because of my five years of experience as a CPA, and my demonstrated track record delivering measurable results in my previous position as a finance director, I believe my compensation should be XXX,XXX for this role.
Value statements like these are a great way to negotiate your salary while simultaneously increasing your chances of actually being selected for the position. Just think about it, if you’re a hiring decision-maker, would you rather higher someone for less money who can’t articulate what value they’re bringing to the table, or someone who has a clear strategy already in place for how they’re going to justify what they’re asking for.
To sum it all up in a few words, whether you’re applying for a sales, nursing, leadership, management, or any other type of role, you’ll want to do your research, practice before your interview, show up prepared, and negotiate your salary with information employers care about.