It’s time to prepare for an interview.
You landed the interview- congratulations!
Getting to the point of landing an interview is often the hardest part of the job hunting process, so certainly take a moment to celebrate.
Now buckle in.
There is a significant amount of work you should do BEFORE the interview happens. Typically, you have anywhere from a couple of days to 2-3 weeks to prepare for an interview. If you want to be successful during the interview, you need to maximize this time.
The following are tips for things you should ABSOLUTELY do that will help you stand out and feel prepared (and therefore confident!) during the interview.
1. Practice projecting self confidence through body language
Self confidence and body language should be things that you work on consistently, not just in preparation for a specific interview as it is an important skill throughout your career.
It is especially important during the interview.
The first impression you have on an interviewer will be your posture, your facial expression, and your greeting (whether a handshake, a head nod, a wave through teleconference, etc.).
Throughout the interview how you sit, what you do with your hands, where you look, and you facial expressions are crucial elements that impact an interviewer and your chances to land the job.
As I mentioned, you should be consistently practicing these skills. But make sure to specifically brush up on them before your interview.
Sit down in front of a mirror, preferably behind a table on a chair just like at an interview.
Take notice how you sit.
Are you sitting upright with your shoulders back? Are you leaning in towards the mirror? Is your chin up? Are your hands relaxed in your lap? If not, do these things.
Once you can sit in a powerful and confident position, practice answering a question. For this exercise, it is less important what you say but more important what you are saying with your body language.
Record a video of your answer.
When you watch the video back take notice of your posture, your facial expressions, where your eyes wander, if you smile, what you are doing with your hands, and where you are leaning.
You want your audience to feel engaged in your answer through your confidence and body language. Make sure you are sitting upright throughout your answer, lean slightly forward to show engagement, use your hands to help animate your answer at certain points (but not too much!) and SMILE.
Remember, interviewers are human.
It is difficult to feel natural during an interview environment. But you CAN make your interviewer feel that you are confident while also approachable (SMILE!).
It will go very, very far.
2. Prepare and practice answers for commonly asked interview questions
This is another item that you should start practicing as soon as you start job hunting.
There are a lot of resources online that outline commonly asked interview questions and answers (and I plan to have a blog post on this soon too!).
Review these questions and practice answering them in front of the mirror. If you have someone close to you that is in a leadership position, practicing with them is EVEN better.
But the mirror works perfectly fine. Bonus points for recording your answers on video.
It will feel awkward at first, and that is the point!
You want to get all the awkward-ness out of the way in front of the mirror. That way when you are in the interview you already have an outline of the answer in your mind. You know which direction to take your answer.
This will make you more natural and CONFIDENT (notice a theme?) in your interview.
Recording your practice sessions on video and watching them back in extremely helpful. This way you can actually see and hear your responses. Watch and listen for red flags (such as too many “umm”s).
You should practice responses to commonly asked questions MULTIPLE times…for each question. I recommend no less than 3 times for each question. And repeat that for at least 2-3 days (if you have the time before the interview).
3. Heavily research the company to prepare for an interview
To prepare for an interview, you should do as MUCH research as possible on the company. Understand their products, culture, business/strategic objectives and even their management team.
The first place you should look is (obviously) the company website.
Unless it is a stealth start-up you should be able to get a good understanding of their products/services, history, mission, and management team from the website.
If they have press releases on their website, make sure to read the most recent ones. This will give you insight into important business, strategic, and financial objectives that the company reports to the public.
If the company is public, make sure to look up their stock on a page like Yahoo! Finance. Besides the financial performance of the company, you will also find news articles related to the company.
What is the press and industry writing about the company? This will give you more insight what MATTERS to the company.
Use this information to help craft a narrative for how you, in the position you are interviewing for, can help the company achieve its goals. Every employee at every company is there to help the company achieve its goals…remember this is a business and the FIRST priority is success for the business.
How will you and your skill set help the business succeed? You can only understand this by understanding the company.
Once you do understand this, make sure you emphasize this in your answers during the interview.
This information will also help you further gauge your level of interest in the job. Does the company and their mission excite you? Is the business on solid financial footing?
4. Prepare targeted questions for the individuals on the agenda
When you have an interview scheduled you should receive an agenda with all of the individuals you will be speaking to and their titles. If this is not provided to you- ASK!
It is very important for you to understand WHO you will be speaking to and your recruiter/HR representative should provide this information to you.
It is imperative that you do your research on these individuals and their roles to prepare for an interview. Look these people up on LinkedIn.
Where did they work before? Where did they go to school? Have they shared any articles? Anything to help you understand who they are, what their experience is, and even some personal tidbits are helpful.
DO NOT LOOK THEM UP ON PERSONAL SOCIAL MEDIA (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)..that’s creepy. You want to be respectful of peoples’ personal lives.
But LinkedIn is a professional social networking site that is there to understand them as professionals. Use this information during the interview to make a human connection (check out my other LinkedIn tip for job searching).
Did they go to the same school as you? Or even a rival school? Make sure you (naturally) mention this and make this connection in the interview!
This will help make the conversation more human and light…and ultimately make you more likable.
Interviewers and companies WANT TO HIRE PEOPLE THEY LIKE.
It is also important to use this information and the information you gathered in #3 to create TARGETED, specific questions to ask each individual on your agenda.
Try to have 2-3 questions prepared for each individual that is SPECIFIC to their role. Don’t ask the finance individual about the creative direction for the company.
Use your knowledge of the company’s products to ask relevant individuals about the company’s plan for product expansion, product development, etc. Use your knowledge of the company’s recent successes to ask questions about future strategic objectives.
Questions like these not only show that you came PREPARED for the interview, but they show a genuine interest and curiosity in the company.
5. Have a range for your salary expectations
If the interview goes well (and it will), the HR representative will ask a very important and common question. What are your salary expectations?
You should have an answer. Make sure you have a RANGE based on your research for that position in that industry.
You want to use a range, rather than a specific number, because this will leave flexibility for negotiations once an offer is made.
The easiest way to get an idea of the salary you should ask for is to use Glassdoor.
If the company you are interviewing for is larger, you can search for them on Glassdoor and see reported salaries for your position (or a similar level position). If the company is smaller, try to find similar positions in the same industry at larger companies (in the same/similar geographic location/cost of living).
Use this information to come up with a range that is about 10-15% above and below your target salary. So if you are targeting $60,000, a good range is $55,000- $70,000 (~10% below target and ~15% above target).
These numbers are guidelines and I typically round it to the 5s and 10s rather than having an oddly specific range.
Remember, when you provide your salary range say it with confidence. You are worth it.
Feeling prepared? There’s more…check out the question you should never answer at a job interview and how to write an interview thank you email.