This is it. Your efforts in creating your CV, online presence, and attending career fairs have finally paid off. You got an interview offer. Happy as you are, you wondered how you could prepare for the big day. If so, you’ve come to the right place.
An interview is the time to sell yourself. Not literally. Rather, it’s the opportunity to really show off to the interviewer and convince them why they should hire you. It’s your time to shine.
Hope is not a strategy.
As always, preparation is key to succeeding in things, including interviews. Preparation is working hard now so you do amazingly on the big day. Preparation is everything, so let’s make sure you’re doing it right.
Before the Interview
This is where most of the work takes place. From what to wear to what to say, these are 13 things you can do to get the most preparation for the big interview. Remember, hope is not a strategy.
1. Don’t panic
An interview is not an interrogation, it’s a conversation. The company wants to know more about you as a person, since they already knew about your skills from your CV. It’s also an opportunity for you to know more about your future workplace. It’s a two-way conversation.
An interview is just you and the company getting to know each other.
Yes, you really want the job and that might make you feel anxious. Guess what - the interviewer is also anxious to find the right talent for their company. You both want this as much as each other, so don’t panic. It’s just a conversation - an important one.
2. Prepare for the generic questions
No matter what and where you’re interviewing for, there are some generic questions that are almost guaranteed to be asked. These are questions like:
- Tell me about yourself
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Why should we hire you?
As you do more research on the job and the company, you can prepare yourself for the more specific questions related to the position you’re applying for. Preparing your answers and practicing them is already a big chunk of the work done.
3. Research the job and the company
Interviewers expect you to come prepared with knowledge about their company, so take the time to familiarize yourself with the company that’s interviewing you, the position you’re applying for, as well as the industry they’re in.
There will be questions asking why you applied for this job in this company. This is where you can demonstrate the knowledge you got from your research, showing that you take this opportunity as seriously as the company does. On the contrary, coming unprepared with this information might just seal the fate of your interview.
Knowledge about their company, job description, and industry will also be useful to ask questions for the recruiter later on.
4. Research the interviewer
This doesn’t mean you should be creepy and stalk their Facebook and everything. You should look up relevant information about your interviewer, such as their position and the year they started working here. If your interviewer is the HR Director who worked there for 20 years, then you have a better idea on just how big of a deal this interview is.
Other information may be useful for breaking the ice when the interview starts. If you have something in common, like the same hobby or high school, then that’s something to loosen up the interview later and also help you leave an impression.
5. Research the interview
Interviews come in different shapes and sizes. Some are short and sweet discussions with HR, others are multi-stage interviews that can take many hours. It’s important to know what kind of interview you’re getting into so you can prepare yourself with the right mindset.
Shoot an email to HR or call them up and ask. If it turns out to be a day-long stint with technical assessments and group discussions, you’ll know to bring a bottle of water and get enough rest.
6. Research yourself
This means making sure that you’re honest about the skills and experiences you put on your CV. Take the time to remember your previous experiences so you’ll be ready to talk about them at length when asked. If you have other skills that you want to talk about but didn’t put in your CV, make sure to refresh your memory.
Show off, but be honest.
Recall as much detail as possible to your skills and experiences. If you successfully led a team, make sure you can say how many members were there. It’s all about proving that you’re honest about what you say in the interview and your CV.
7. Polish your elevator pitch
If you’ve read the post on winning career fairs, then you know what an elevator pitch is. Essentially, an elevator pitch is a short summary to show yourself off in under two minutes. It briefly talks about your skills and experiences, and why you should be hired.
While an interview gives you more time than just two minutes, a good elevator pitch is your answer to the “tell me about yourself” question. It also gives you a clearer idea about which skills and experiences you want to stress during your interview.
8. Get someone to practice with
Talking to the wall or the mirror is good practice, but it’s not quite the same as conversing with another human bean. Get a friend or someone and roleplay with them as your interviewer. Not only this gives you a more realistic preparation, but you also get live feedback about any weak answers or even find out additional questions that you need to prepare for.
9. Bring your CV
Most likely the interviewer would already bring your CV with them, but there’s no harm in bringing a couple copies to your interview anyway. Who knows if you might need them?
When I was interviewed once, my interviewers were struggling to find my CV file in their laptops, so I whipped out not one but two copies for both of them. Hardly a stunning feat, but it’s enough to leave an impression.
10. Bring stationery
Make sure you have a notebook and some pens in your bag - they might come in handy. There may be a pop quiz before your interview, or you might wanna explain something by using your notepad, or the interviewer might forgot to bring their pen. In any case, coming prepared gives a much better impression than asking to borrow something from the interviewer.
Also, bring some water. It helps to stay hydrated and clear your throat before talking for long periods of time. Make sure not to drink too much, though.
11. Get dressed
As unfair as it sounds, you will be assessed by how you dress before how you speak. Still, dressing appropriately means you take effort. Most of the time, business casual is the way to go. Long sleeves, slacks, and shoes for the guys, and a blouse with a skirt or pants for the ladies.
If there are specific instructions to dress formally in the invitation email, then follow that. Otherwise, you may call up the interviewer and ask if there’s any dress code enforced.
Better overdressed than underdressed.
In any case, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. Nothing wrong with showing up to a cool startup in a full suit, but showing up to a big bank in an anime shirt and sleepy pants is just plain silly, man.
12. Take care
Mental preparation should be followed by physical wellness. Don’t eat any questionable things close to the day. Chili, curry, and things like that should be avoided so your tummy won’t be the one answering the questions in the interview.
Make sure you get enough sleep the night before, especially for an early morning interview, especially if you’re not a morning person. Don’t be tired even before the interview begins. A fresh face is more engaging than a sleepy one. Sleeping early also helps you to…
13. Don’t come late
Nothing speaks “unprepared and lazy” louder than coming late to the interview. Traffic jams or broken alarms are not an excuse. Leave the house earlier than normal and arrive early, ideally 30 minutes before the interview starts. That way, you don’t feel like you’re awkwardly intruding their day while also showing your integrity.
That said, accidents do happen. If there is a legitimate excuse, such as an emergency that prevents you from coming on time or at all, then inform your interviewer as soon as possible and explain to the emergency to them.
That covers what you should do in the pregame - before the interview itself. In part 2, we’ll discuss what you can expect during the interview. There are quite a lot of work to be done even before that, so be sure to check back in after for the next part.