How to Prep for a Job Interview

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How to Prep for a Job Interview

You’ve already knocked it out of the park with your stellar resume, cover letter and first-round phone interview. When you make it to the final, in-person interview, it’s all about proving your potential employer’s intuition right: that you’re the perfect candidate for the role, just like it thought.

“You’re trying to communicate, ‘This is what I can do for you that nobody else can,’ ” says Tony Beshara, president of Dallas recruitment and placement firm Babich & Associates and author of “The Job Search Solution.”

If you want to convince your employer you’re the best person for the job, prepare your heart out before you walk into the room. Follow these expert job interview tips to make sure you’re ready to land your dream job. 

Create your professional narrative

You’ll come across as a self-assured, valuable candidate if you go into the interview with a rock-solid idea of who you are and what you’ll bring to your potential job. Piece of cake, right? 

Here’s how to do it: Look at your resume and create a narrative about how you got to where you are today. Answer these questions for yourself:

  • Why did you choose your college?
  • Why did you choose your major?
  • Why did you pick each job, internship or extracurricular activity you took on?
  • What made you move on from each previous job or internship?
  • Why are you excited about the job you’re interviewing for now?

Interviewers might not ask you these exact questions, but rehearsing answers in your head will give you a better idea of what you’re hoping to achieve in your first job.

Become an expert on the company — and on your interviewers

Doing your homework before the interview gives the signal not only that you’re serious about the job, but that you’ll be a thorough, conscientious employee. Look through the company’s website (including the About Us, Press and Investor Relations pages), its Twitter and Facebook profiles and recent news coverage. Fire up a new Google Doc called Interview Prep and write down the company’s:

  • Mission
  • CEO: name, how many years he or she has been at the company, where he or she worked before
  • Current challenges
  • Opportunities for growth

Then look up your interviewers on LinkedIn, if the hiring manager told you whom you’d be meeting with. On your Interview Prep doc include their current titles, as well as their last two positions and how long they worked there. Knowing your interviewers’ backgrounds will help you prepare spot-on questions for them later on, and it might help calm your nerves before meeting them for the first time.

Come up with answers to possible interview questions

In the excitement of the interview, it can be hard to recall specific tasks you completed at previous jobs, internships or in on-campus organizations. The hiring manager might ask for an example of a past success or challenge, or what your weaknesses are.

Avoid getting stuck on an answer by preparing two illustrative anecdotes for each position you’ve held or extracurricular activity you took on. Pick out one project you worked on that you’re proud of and one that didn’t go so well. Include reasons why you think the project, initiative or event worked or didn’t work, even if it wasn’t clear at the time.

Most importantly, make sure to note any success stories that show how you met or surpassed specific goals. Include numbers to make your examples even more powerful: “As community service chair for my sorority, I recruited 20% more participants for our 2014 day of service than the previous year,” for instance. Put it all in your Google doc.

Prepare questions for each interviewer

At the end of almost every interview, the hiring manager will ask, “Do you have any questions?” Spoiler alert: The answer is always “Yes.”

This is where your research on the company and your interviewers comes in. Ask about the company’s goals for the upcoming year, why the hiring manager likes his or her job, or what it’s like to work for the company day to day. Come up with at least five questions to ask each interviewer. A long list of questions is key because some of them might get addressed during your conversations, says Tim Segraves, founder and CEO of interviewer.io, a startup that helps tech companies recruit and hire developers.

“If you only have two or three, there’s a big chance they’ll already get answered and you’ll be left with nothing to ask,” he says.

Avoid asking about salary, benefits or how the job will benefit you at this early stage in the process, Beshara cautions.

“If you give them good enough reason for why they want to hire you, they’ll give you good enough reason why you want to work there,” he says. And with the right amount of preparation, any employer will be clamoring to add an ideal candidate like you to its team.

Brianna McGurran is a staff writer covering education and life after college for NerdWallet. Follow her on Twitter.


Image via iStock.