The Only Job Interview Prep Guide You Need
The best way to prepare for an interview is to over-prepare. Knowing that you’ve done your homework and you’re ready to have a conversation will mitigate the stress of interviewing.
This doesn’t mean you have to spend countless hours, but it does mean you need to be thorough.
There are two main things you’ll focus on for your interview prep. The first is learning about the role, company, and person who’s interviewing you. The second is learning about yourself. Why are you applying for this specific role, how does your past experience relate, what’s your work style?
Let’s start with the company and the position you’re applying for.
Understand the role you are applying for
The more you understand the role you are applying for the better you’ll be able to convince the interviewer that you’re the one for the job. You need to try to understand what your day-to-day will look like, the challenges the role will face, and the mission.
Read through each responsibility and imagine what it actually would look like to work a week in the position. I recommend that you copy the job responsibilities and paste them into a word doc. Then under each bullet point write out what you think you would actually do.
For example, here’s a responsibility point I pulled from a job ad: “Gather insights and advocate for feature enhancements and/or new products that will drive operational efficiency and fleet availability.” “Gather insights” probably consists of pulling and analyzing data and creating a process for getting feedback. And if you really wanted to perform well, you’d create a standardized system and automated monthly reporting for gathering insights. “Advocating for feature enhancements” would probably involve writing reports using data and presenting it to stakeholders.
Doing this will give you a better idea of what the job entails which means you’ll be better able to relate your past experience to it as well as ask better questions
Do the above for each bullet point and you’ll have a better understanding about the position. Also, here are a few questions you can ask yourself (and maybe even the interviewer) about the position:
- What underlying business-need is the person in this role trying to fulfill? What problem are they trying to solve?
- What does success look like in this role
- Who will the person in this role be collaborating with and who are their stakeholders?
Research The Company
It’s important to get an idea of the company at large. You might be able to relate a personal value or past experience to the company's value or mission.
Browse through the company website and answer the questions below. You might be guessing at times which is fine. For example, when thinking about what their biggest struggle is, you’ll just have to guess this based on their website and any articles about them or their industry.
- What are their values?
- What’s their mission?
- What is their product? What problem does it solve?
- What is their biggest struggle right now?
- What is going on in their industry?
Who is interviewing you?
Having an idea of who is going to interview me helps decrease the anxiety of the unknown and will help you understand what they will be looking for.
Find the person on LinkedIn and get an idea of who you’ll be talking to.
- What is their role?
- Based on their role, what is their relationship with the position you’re applying for? Even if they’re a hiring manager, think about what this person is looking for. What’s their goal in hiring this person?
- Based on their relationship to the position at hand, what questions might they ask? What would they be curious about?
Glassdoor is my go-to resource when I have an interview. Search the company you’ll be interviewing for and if you’re lucky you’ll get a glimpse of their interview process as well as the salary.
If the position you’re interviewing for is at a small or new company you might not be able to find this information. Regardless, checking Glassdoor should be a standard part of your interview preparation.
Be Prepared to Discuss Salary
Every interview is different so you never know at what point you’ll be asked about salary.
If you’re asked about the salary in the early stages, this is usually because the interviewer just wants to make sure that down the line, the salary won’t be a problem. They want to make sure that your expectations are within their budget. They just want to ensure they’re not wasting your time or theirs.
If this is the case, express that the role being the right fit is most important thing. And that if this criteria is met, you’re confident that you can come to a salary agreement.
That being said, you want to be ready to discuss numbers just in case. While you’re on Glassdoor try to get an idea of the salary range for the position you’re interviewing for. If you can’t find the salary for that specific position, get an idea of what the position salary is in the industry that the company is in.
Get an idea of the salary range, where in that range you aspire to be, and what value you bring that justifies that salary.
Learning About Your Past Experiences
If you deeply understand your past experience, you will be better able to articulate your accomplishments and how they relate to the position at hand. You don’t want to get asked about a part of your resume and be stuck without an example or further explanation.
Using a copy of the resume that you submitted for the job, go through each line. Underneath each statement, write a concrete example or provide further explanation. What challenges did you face, what skills did you have to use?
This will help you feel prepared for the interview. You’ll be better able to improvise if you get asked a question you didn’t prepare for. This is because you’ll have a bunch of real examples that will be top of mind.
Here’s what it will look like after you’re done:
Be prepared For These Questions
Preparing for the questions below will force you to articulate more about why you’re applying as well as your work style. These are questions you’ll get asked in one form or another during most interviews, so take the time to write out your answers to them.
- Tell me about yourself. Talk about your past work experience, how it relates to the current position, and end with why you applied. Ex. For the past few years I’ve worked in diverse work settings from teaching to the medical field to customer service. What’s been consistent throughout has been working with and helping others. And when I saw this position at X Company and the responsibilities, it resonated with me because of the focus on helping customers and becoming an expert in the product.
- What about this position made you want to apply? The answer to this will be similar to the ending of the last question but more in-depth and should demonstrate your understanding of the position as well as why you’re qualified. Talk about the responsibilities of the job and how they align with your career goals and expertise. Ex. I really liked that the position involves becoming an expert in the product and value proposition because in addition to customer service, I’ve always liked marketing. Also, being the customer’s voice internally and working with other teams resonates with what I’ve done in past roles whether it was improving processes in the emergency room I worked at or documenting customer feedback at the restaurant I served at. Lastly, the company’s value of “always be learning” is something that personally is really important to me, so it’s exciting to know that this is a priority.
- What is your greatest strength? What would your past employers say you're best at? Read through the job responsibilities and choose a strength of yours that aligns with the needs of the position. Ex. I’d say it’s communicating complex things in a simple way. Having substitute taught, this really tested that ability. I also love to write which requires a clear and simple explanation.
- Why are you leaving your current job? Always make it positive and orient the answer toward what you’re looking to do, not why you’re leaving your last position. Ex. After working at my current position for X months/years, I’d like a new challenge where I can contribute to a growing organization. I love my current position and team, but also want to work somewhere in which my personal values align with the company's mission. If you didn’t like your last position and you feel like it’s important to address, you can explain your values and how they didn’t align with the company.
These questions often start with “Tell me about a time when….”
The reason an interviewer will ask these questions is that they want to see how you deal with certain situations. What do you do when there’s a challenge? How do you react when you have a difficult person to deal with?
All you need are a few stories that will apply to many situations. For example, you might be asked “Tell me about a time you saved the day” or “Tell me about a big problem you had to solve”. The same answer addresses both of these questions, you would just present the same story in a different way.
“A time when you worked with a difficult person and how you handled it” and “Tell me about a time you had to deliver a piece of tough feedback” can also be covered with the same example. If you had to deal with a difficult person you probably also had to deliver tough feedback.
The way you want to answer these is the PAR method: Explain the Problem, the Action you took, and then the Result.
Here’s a list of behavioral questions I always prepare for.
- Tell me about a time when you saved the day / solved a big problem.
- Tell me about a time when you collaborated on a team/had to use team work to solve and issue.
- Tell me about a time when you had to deliver a piece of tough feedback.
- Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond for a customer (or in general).
- Tell me about a time when you messed up or failed.
- What don't you like to do at work? What do you enjoy doing?
Questions To Ask In Your Interview
Choose a few of these to be ready to ask the interviewer. Pick the ones that make the most sense for the position and that fit within the interview.
- Do you have any hesitations about my qualifications?
- What metrics or goals will my performance be evaluated against?
- Was this a new role created or did somebody leave?
- What gets you most excited about the company's future?
- How does this team work to support the company's goals?
- Do you expect the main duties to change in the next 6 months to a year?
- Are there opportunities for advancement or professional development?
- What's different about working here than anywhere else you've worked?
- Has your role changed since you've started working here?
- Can you give me examples of the projects I'd be working on?
- As you think about the key responsibilities of this role, what is the percentage of time that is focused on each of those responsibilities? (the answer to this will give you a good idea of what the role actually entails)
The interview is not a performance where you need to act out your answers exactly as scripted. It’s a discussion where the interviewer is simply trying to understand if you’re a good fit for the job.
You don’t have to interview perfectly. You might stumble over your words, draw a blank, or need to refer to your notes. This is okay. The person interviewing you is a human and understands that you are a human too. As long as you’re genuine and you’re trying, they will see this and you’ll be fine. Good luck!
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