So you’ve applied to a job, but not just any job. This job is your dream job, your saving grace, or your ticket to a new city! You hope and pray that you get noticed by the hiring manager.
And then you get the phone call–the invite to interview. You excitedly agree and feel on top of the world–until the day before your interview.
When it hits you that you have less than 24 hours to prepare and don’t even know where to begin, you might start feeling anxious, incompetent, or even a bit agitated. These are totally normal feelings, but don’t worry, this article will help you rock your interview so that you can feel prepared and confident when you meet with your potential employer.
#1 Know the company.
A question I always got at my professional interviews went something like this, “So what do you know about our company?” A great way to prepare for this question is to go on their website and see when the company was founded, what its purpose is, and write down any information that you think is interesting or unique about the company so that you can recall these things at your interview. Check out their website several times and learn all that you can. Your response doesn’t have to be long, but be prepared to give them 2-3 well rounded sentences.
#2 Know yourself.
Another question I always received was, “Can you tell us about yourself?” I used to think this one was about me and my personal life, but I was so wrong. I later found out that employers do not care about your photography hobby or your church attendance. They want to know about your education, a little about your job history, and your aspirations. A good response would be something like, “I recently graduated with a business administration degree at (name of college). I also completed an internship at (name of company) which was a great experience. Right now, I’m looking for a position where I can use my education and management skills to further my passion for leading successful teams.”
#3 “Why do you want to work here?”
I always wanted to say, “Because I really need a job right now,” or “Because I need money to feed my family,” but both of those are obviously not acceptable. Although this seems like a silly question, it might just be the one to either make or break your deal. Find out about the company’s direction, its values, its mission, etc. A great answer would start off with something like, “I think this would be a great place to work because I believe your company has great culture and values, such as (list here), and I’m also impressed with (list a few things here).” When preparing for this question, also consider the company’s reputation, its products and services, and its success in its field.
#4 “Do you have any questions?”
Always, always come prepared with a few questions. I used to use the crutch, “I had some questions but I forgot them as soon as I sat down. Could I please email you if any arise?” Do not do this! Bring in a notepad with your questions so that your interviewer will see you’ve come prepared and that you are interested. Great questions include, “Is this a new position?” If it’s not a new position, you can ask, “Why did the person in this position decide to leave and how long did they work in this position?” Another great question is, “Do you offer tuition reimbursement for furthering education for this position?” And, “What hours would I be working?” is always a good one too.
#5 “Tell me about your greatest accomplishment.”
This question can be related to your job and/or education experiences. My answer was always something like, “My greatest accomplishment was finishing my bachelor’s degree. I juggled two jobs, took care of three children, and went to school full time. I wanted to quit at times because I was so overwhelmed but I kept going. It helped me build perseverance and multi-tasking skills. I also consider it my greatest accomplishment because I feel like this experience molded me into a more responsible person who values the importance of deadlines and details to achieve results.” Be passionate about this answer!
#6 “Tell me about a time you had a conflict with your manager and how did you resolve it.”
This is the time to show how humble you are as a person. Tell your interviewer about a time you and your manager did not agree on something or about a time where you made a mistake and had to face the manager. My answer sounded something like, “I remember making a decision without the manager’s approval because I thought I was being helpful by not bothering the her with it. However, she was upset that I didn’t involve her and I got in trouble. I was angry that I was reprimanded for it because I thought at the time I was doing something good. But, I thought about it and realized that it really was a poor choice to make even a small decision without the manager’s thoughts on it, so I apologized to her. It was a humbling experience and I learned that I should always consider everyone’s opinions before making decisions. ”
#7 “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
This a question to gauge whether you’re going to be a long term employee or not. Make sure you answer with the company in mind, as well as your potential growth. A great answer might start off like this: “In five years I see myself as a team leader in a company like yours. I also see myself mastering my management skills and continuing my education to keep improving.” Employers love candidates who are lifelong learners and those who have growth mindsets.
#8 Know the job description inside and out.
Some of your questions might be related to the job description. Sometimes these include, “Why should we hire you?” “Is there anything listed on the job description you are concerned about?” or “Tell me about your skills and abilities that relate to this position.” Be prepared to wow them with your skills and talents!
Bring copies of your resume just in case your interviewer doesn’t have one. Also bring a copy of the job description to look over while you’re waiting. Highlight any concerns on the job description that you may have. Also, a pen, a notepad (with your questions), and your business card (if you have one) are all great things to have on had as well.
If you find yourself getting anxious and tongue tied, don’t worry. Just say something like, “Sorry, I’m a bit nervous, can I repeat my answer?” Good employers know that you’re human and will graciously let you repeat an answer if you stumble. Interviews make even the interviewer nervous!
When you are answering questions, look at your interviewer and not at the floor, the ceiling, or at your notes. Keep your hands neatly together on top of the desk and sit up straight. Don’t ramble with your answers, keep responses to 2-4 good sentences. If you’re not sure that you answered their question correctly, you can ask, “I’m not sure if I answered your question sufficiently, is there anything I need to clarify?”
Your personality is one of the first impressions your potential employer will have of you, so make sure you let it shine! When you meet your interviewer, smile and shake his/her hand and tell them that it’s nice to meet them. At the end, shake their hand again and tell them that you enjoyed their interview and hope to hear from them soon.
Dress to impress! Know your position and the company’s culture! If you’re interviewing for a management job, then you should wear business professional attire. If you’re interviewing for a secretarial position, than business causal attire will do. Check out this helpful article to help make sure you look your best for your big day. Note: you don’t have to spend a fortune on a nice outfit. Check out your local thrift stores to buy a fashionable ensemble that costs just a few bucks rather than a few fiftys.
Breathe. Be present. And be yourself. Good luck and let us know how your interview went in the comments below!