Preparing for a job interview
Posted October 16, 2013, by Helen Isbister
When you’re out on the interviewing circuit, a crucial thing to remember is that a square peg won’t fit into a round hole. A PhD and even a Nobel Prize could be beaten hands-down at a job interview if a less accomplished mortal better suits the job description and company culture.
By the time you make it to the hot seat, you have already established via your resume and cover letter that you have the qualifications and experience required to do the job.
Now that you are face-to-face with the interviewer, it’s time to show that you are also the best fit for their company. The goal: to show that you have the skills, background and ability to do the job, plus that you will be able to fit with the company’s overall ethos and vibe.
Find out about the company culture
Tailoring your interview so that you hit all the right buttons means understanding the company and how it operates. Knowing about the company’s background and operations, what management is looking for and what the office vibe is like will help you to do well at the interview and give you a good chance of being offered the job.
Getting background information may require a little corporate stalking. Like all 21st century stalking, most of it can be done easily on the Internet. Read the company profile, and read what is being said about the company from sources other than the company website – for example, do a Google search for media articles. Don’t forget to call up contacts who may be able to give you the inside scoop, and check out some of the key company players on LinkedIn.
Pull the job advertisement apart with a red pen, circling all the skills, qualities and experience that the job interviewer may want to explore with you. Start making a list of key skills and personal attributes so you don’t waste time elaborating on skills they simply don’t care about.
Stay focused on the job description
It’s unlikely you will find all the answers to get through the interview on Google, so this is the time to do some extra work. If you are going to sell yourself as the right person for the job, you’re going to need to know precisely what you want to say. Don’t waste words – and your time and theirs.
Make a list of all the standard interview questions (see our extensive list here). Using the job description from the job ad and any other information about the job that you have gleaned from your research, write answers to match their requirements, using examples from your previous experiences. The examples you use must match what the interviewer is looking for and should be directly relevant to the job you are applying for. Connecting the two is the best way to get yourself hired.
Review your achievements
Review your accomplishments and note down the skills that you have acquired. For example, if the company wants a persuasive person, think about the times you have used your powers of persuasion to bring about a positive outcome. Did you have a good idea about streamlining a system that would save time or money and you needed to persuade your boss that it would work? If a key requirement is being able to work in a team, find an example of working in a team that the interviewer will identify with and that relates to the position. No point mentioning your time as a part-time checkout person when the job is for a content writer. You need to compare apples with apples.
Make a shortlist of the things you think the interviewer will find most appealing about you and reiterate these during the interview. Stay on target with each question. It’s important to remember here that you are selling yourself, not a fictional being you have made up to reflect the job advertisement. Professional interviewers can smell a fraud a mile off, so always stick to the truth.
Close the deal
It is your skills at interview that will get you the job. You can have the best resume in the world, but you won’t get the job if you can’t convince the interviewer that you are capable of doing the job and fitting into the workplace culture.
To close the deal, you need to ask the right questions of your interviewer as well. The questions that you ask are as important as how you have answered the questions. See some examples of questions to ask during a job interview for some ideas.
Finally, thank the interviewer for taking the time to see you and make a graceful exit. And, at the first opportunity, send an interview thank you letter or email.
Did you find this useful? Check out more of our useful interview tips.