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How to prepare for a job interview: A guide for success

Job interview


You did it! After hours and hours of applying to various jobs and internship roles, you get the message saying you have been invited to a job interview. Amazing! But, now the high is fading, your worries are kicking in, and you’re probably thinking “I hate interviewing. I don’t know how to do it, and I always struggle with it.” Sound familiar?

Well, you’re not alone. Most people find interviewing and interview prep to be incredibly stressful. Even if you know you would be a good fit for the role, your anxiety, the dry mouth, the shaky palms and everything in between, can put you off. So, what’s the best way to overcome this fear? Practice….and this guide. We’ve broken down every step needed to help you smash it at your next job interview.

Let’s get started!

Why is learning how to interview well a good skill set to have?

It is essential to develop good interview skills, a job interview is the most common form of application for any role and it also serves as an excellent way for you to gauge if the role and the company would be a good fit for you. It’s your opportunity to sell yourself and your skillset and show your potential employer why you are the best candidate for the position.

In addition to this, the company will also be selling themselves to you, they will want to show that they are the best company for you and your career development. I like to think of it as a first date. Each half is trying to show their best qualities and build a relationship with each other. The same concept applies when interviewing. The interview is not just for you, but also for the employer.

So, practising and mastering the art of interviewing can help lead to second-round interviews and eventually, several job offers. On the flip side, if you don’t do the interview prep, it will be reflected in the interview itself and will leave a bad impression. This is the case even if you’re the most qualified candidate on paper. As the old saying goes, if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
So, let’s get into our tips on how to interview for success.

?What should you do before the interview process?

Ensuring your interview is a success begins before you even meet your interviewer. It’s determined by how well you do your interview prep. This is one of your keys to success. Ideally, you would have done some research into the position before applying for the role. Now that you’ve secured the interview, it’s time to go a bit deeper and find out even more about the role and company.

When conducting your research about the company, here are a few things to look for.

1. How the business functions – How do they make money? What’s their product and services? How do they market this product?

2. Their Unique Selling Point (USP) – Also known as ‘unique selling proposition’ – a company’s USP is what makes their product or services better than their competitors. What is it, and why does it make them better than their competitors?

3. Who are their competitors? – Who are their biggest competitors in the industry, and why? How do they compare to other companies like them? What makes them different from their competitors?

Additional Questions to ask

4. How do they present themselves on social media? You can determine a company’s brand personality by the way they present themselves online. Check out their Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. to get more insight into the company’s values, culture and personality. This can help provide you with more insight into if they are a good fit for you and your skills.

If you are applying for a social media or digital marketing position, take a more in-depth look into their analytics. What’s their engagement with their audience? Note down some recommendations you have, that could help with areas they are weak in. If this is brought up as a question in the job interview, you’ll already be prepared to answer it!

5. Who is your interviewer? Spend time looking into who is interviewing you. Check out their LinkedIn and learn a little more about their previous experience. Follow up by learning what their position is within the company. What role do they play? Lastly, prepare a question about them specifically to ask at the end of the interview. This not only helps you have questions to ask at the end, but also shows that you’ve spent time learning not just about the position, but also about them as an individual.

6. Prepare intelligent questions to ask at the end of the interview – A red flag for many employers is when candidates do not prepare questions to ask at the end of a job interview. Why? Because it’s an employer’s way of gauging just how interested you are in the position you are applying for, and it also shows you spent time researching the role and company. They expect questions, so ask them.

What type of questions should you ask?

Before, we get into what the best type of interview questions are, let’s start with the number of questions you should ask. It’s best to have a least three questions in your back pocket to ask at an interview.

Why? Because if the interviewer answers one of your questions before the end of the interview, you have at least two other questions you can still ask. If you only have one prepared and they answer it, you will be scrambling to think of another question and not focusing on the interview itself. If you only have two questions and they answer one already, only having one question can also give off as bad of an impression as having no questions. So, three is your magic number.

There are three main categories to touch on when preparing your questions: company culture, future development, and your interviewer. Let’s break that down a bit more.

Culture questions

Culture questions are important because they can give you insight into what the culture will be like if you get the position. Is it an environment you would thrive in? If they describe a place that doesn’t sound like you would work well in – it’s worth reconsidering if the position is right for you.

In addition to this, employers enjoy getting asked questions on the company culture because it shows your interest in not just the role, but the company as a whole.

Some great culture questions to ask would be:

  • “What does it mean to be a great culture fit here?”
  • “What does the typical work week look like in this department (or specific team)?”

Questions involving future development:

The second category of questions to ask are ones that show that you are forward-thinking and already contemplating how you can be successful in the position. A positive trait that employers will appreciate in their new potential employee. Here are two great questions to ask them:

  • “What is it that you would like someone in this position to accomplish in the first 90 days?”
  • “How have past employees been successful in this position?”

Questions related to the interviewer:

The third category of questions to ask are ones strictly for the interviewer. These types of questions are important as they allow you to gain an insight into the interviewer’s perspective on the company when they joined and how that may have changed since.

This category of questions could help highlight any red flags if their experience was not as they expected. It also enables you to connect with your interviewer, leaving them with a good opinion of you once the interview is over. Some good questions to ask them could be:

  • “What was your view of the company when you joined and has this changed since?”
  • “How has your role changed since you’ve joined? – This specific question highlight’s the company typical job progression.”

Questions to ask if you are brave:

Now, we can’t take credit for this question as a great career coach name Cass Thompson told us about these next two questions. These questions are fantastic for getting some insight into what the result of the job interview may be and can also help give you an opportunity to further elaborate on any questions you didn’t answer well enough. They are as follows:

  • “Based on our conversation today, do you have any hesitancy in hiring me?”
  • “Who do you think would be an ideal candidate for this position, and how do I compare?”

A word to the wise, the employer may come back to you and say they feel you may not be a great candidate and not the right fit. If so, thank them for your time and the opportunity to interview with them. Though it may hurt, you now know the status of your application and can move forward with other possibilities.

If they say, they enjoyed your interview but felt you were weak in some areas. Use the opportunity to see if you can further elaborate in that area and provide a better example. This can help strengthen your overall interview and shows the employer how you can not only handle receiving feedback but also act on it, by providing improved responses.

Now that you’ve done your research and have at least three follow-up questions to ask. Let’s move on to what you should do during the interview itself.

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What should you do during the interview itself?

I reached out to several hiring managers and recruiters and asked them what they typically look for when interviewing potential candidates. Here’s what they said.

  • Do they show up early, even if it’s a virtual call?
  • How are they dressed? First impressions are important, and this also includes your clothes. Online or not, consider what you’re wearing to an interview. Go for a smart top and make sure your hair is done.
  • Are they listening to my questions before they respond to me?
  • Do they live up to their CV?
  • What is their energy like?
  • Would they be a good cultural fit?
  • What type of candidate are they?

Whew, that’s a good amount of things that they consider. So let’s break it down a bit more so you can understand just how to hit all those points and more.

First up, showing up on time.

This is a bit of an obvious one, but showing up a little early can set you off to a good start with the employer, and it gives you time to get your thoughts together before your job interview. Consider it one last time to prepare for your interview mentally. For online interviews, it’s a good idea to show up at least 5-10 minutes before the interview itself. If your interview is in-person, 15 minutes early is your sweet spot.

Impressions, unfortunately, matter.

First impressions are critical with any job interview. This applies to your wardrobe (dress well!) and also your personality. Are you energetic and excited about the position? Though you may be nervous and want to do well, do not be afraid to let your personality shine during the interview itself. Employers want to see who you are as an individual, to assess whether you would be a good cultural fit for the team.

Listening and Responding

Though your energy and appearance are both critical points, the most important part to work on during your job interview is how you respond to the interviewer’s question. Here’s what you should not do during your interview.

  • Interrupt the interviewer midway through their question with your response, not only is it rude to interrupt you may end up not properly answering the question they were going to ask.
  • Not fully listening to their questions. It is important to ensure you are fully listening and understanding the question, to avoid you missing something or misunderstanding the question.
  • Give short answers and without any elaboration. One of the most common reasons given as to why a candidate failed a job interview is for not elaborating on their responses. It makes you appear unprepared, uninterested, and overall not a good prospective employee.

Now that you know some things not to do let’s discuss what you should do.

  • Allow the interviewer to ask their question before you respond to it. It not only shows respect to your interviewer but also gives you time to gather up your thoughts before you answer.
  • Though you may think you know what the question is, do not ‘switch off’ and assume you know the answer. Even if you are right, it’s important to listen to the question they are asking you, ensure you fully understand it before giving your answer. If you are unsure of what they are asking you, ask for clarification and then take a few seconds to gather your response. Employers prefer you to take the time to understand their question and answer well rather than rushing into an answer and not providing a good response.
  • Use those handy dandy questions you prepared during your interview prep, and ask them at the end of the interview. Remember, have at least 3 ready!
  • When it comes to answering interview questions, elaborate on your answer. This is an excellent opportunity for you to show how your previous work experience and skill set is relevant to the position you are applying for. By highlighting this, you are showing your interviewer why you are a good fit for the job, how you can transfer your skill set to this new position and be a valuable employee to the company.

That last point leads me into my next topic, how to structure your responses.

If you’ve read my previous article about covering tips on how to make a great job application, you will have heard of the STAR Method and how to utilise it within your application. If you haven’t checked it out, stop what you’re doing, and do it now.

The STAR method is essentially a structured way to answer interview questions when completing a job application or during a job interview. It can help you ensure you hit all your main key points in your answer without leaving anything out or accidentally going off on a tangent. The method is broken down into four main points.

S: Situation – Describe the situation or project that you were involved in.
T: Task- Describe the task that needed to be done to fix the situation.
A: Action- Describe the action you took to address the situation
R: Result – Describe the results of these actions and how that affected the situation you were involved in.

So, how can you use this method within an interview?

You use the STAR method to structure your answers to the interview questions. For example, if your interviewer says “Can you tell me about a time where you faced a challenge at your workplace?” By using the STAR method, your answer would look like this:

Situation: “During my internship at a marketing firm, we were tasked with creating a marketing campaign for a client who were looking to increase their brand awareness. Unfortunately, two days before the launch of the campaign, the client wanted to change the campaign we created for them to an idea they had instead and we now only had two days to bring it to life.” – This is your situation.

Task: “Therefore, we spent the first day getting as much information from the client about what their idea was and then brainstormed how to recreate this idea into a new marketing campaign in under 48 hours. I was tasked with putting together the content and the visuals for the campaign. Such a tight deadline, was challenging for me because finding the right content for the right market can be difficult, and it was my first time handling the visuals as well. However, we knew it was important to recreate the client’s idea to keep them happy.” – This is your task.

Action: “I overcame this challenge by looking at previous successful campaigns with the same content and researching what made it successful. Following this, I work alongside another intern to perfect the visuals and timing of the campaign. Lastly, we did quick market research in smaller groups to get feedback and incorporate any changes that needed to be done.” – This is your action.

Result: “Ultimately, we launched the campaign in time, and we were able to recreate the client’s idea effectively. The campaign helped increase the client’s brand awareness by 30%, and I developed a new skill set.” – This is your result

Now, tie it all together and voila!

You’ve successfully used the STAR method to answer probably one of the hardest questions in your interview and showed the interviewer that you are quick on your feet and can solve a problem effectively.

So, we’ve covered everything you need to do for your interview prep as well as tips on what to do and what not to do during your job interview. Now, let’s discuss what you need to do after your job interview. 

What should you be doing after the interview process?

The first thing you want to do following your job interview is to send a thank-you email to the interviewer. If you had several interviewers, send a thank you email to each one of them individually. Make sure you don’t duplicate the content exactly for each interviewer as they will notice.

A ‘thank you’ email after an internship or job interview is one small step to help differentiate yourself from other candidates. ⁣It can also help you reiterate points you made in your interview, touch on ones you forgot about and show off your writing skills. ⁣⁣ ⠀
⁣⁣ ⠀
When you’re writing your ‘thank you’ email, be sure to:⁣⁣

  1. Write a clear subject line – e.g. “Finance Job Interview Follow Up”⁣.
  2. Personalise like there is no tomorrow. Use their first names and maybe touch on some personal stuff they mentioned about when you asked about their position. ⁣⁣Express your appreciation- e.g. “Thank you for taking the time to meet me and discussing the Content Marketing Position” ⁣⁣
  3. Reiterate your interest in the position⁣, in particular, focus on something the interviewer said about the role, that interested you – This shows you’re a great listener and are interested in the role⁣.
  4. Ask if they are able to provide feedback. If they can’t, don’t worry. We have another trick for that coming up.
  5. Finish with a professional sign-off “Thank you for your time again. Sincerely, XX” ⁣⁣

Once you’ve sent your thank-you email, conduct a self-assessment.

Doing a self-assessment after a job interview can help you evaluate how you thought you did when it came to answering the interview questions and how well you showcased your communication and presentation skills. The self-assessment is not a time for you to dwell on everything you thought you did wrong. It’s designed for you to self-assess your performance, note down the things you feel you need to work on, the things you thought you did well and also whether your interview prep was sufficient.

By doing a self-evaluation, you are highlighting areas of improvement, that you can work on for future interviews with other companies or the next round of interviews with the same company. Therefore, you are actively working on how to make yourself a better candidate. In addition to this, by highlighting what you thought you did well, you can work on how to showcase your areas of strength more your next job interview.

If the interviewer can provide feedback, compare your notes to theirs and work on the suggested areas. On the flip side, if they are unable to provide feedback, at least you have your own evaluation and an understanding of what to work on for your next job interview.

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What to do if you are rejected for the position?

So, you did your interview prep, you asked questions, and you sent a ‘thank you’ email, but unfortunately, you still received that dreaded. “Thank you for your time. Unfortunately, we’ve gone another way.”

You may be feeling dejected, upset and angry. It’s completely understandable to be upset about a job rejection. Therefore, we encourage you to take some time out to work through your feelings before you move on to the next step. Reach out to others who may have experienced the same thing as you and ask how they moved past it. By understanding that you are not alone in experiencing job rejection, it can help provide you with a great support system and the motivation to move on.

We would like to highlight that just because you did not receive the offer, does not mean your attributes and professional qualifications aren’t great. When it comes to interviewing and finding the best candidate, employers have to weigh numerous considerations. Try not to take it personally.

Instead of thinking that you were not right for the company, rephrase it in your mind and consider the fact that the company may not have been a good fit for you and your career goals.

Get back on the horse.

Once you’ve had time to process your emotions – the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s time to get back out there. Getting started again after a job rejection is rough, so we’ve created some ways to help ease you back into it.

  1. Go through your previous cover letters and applications and pull any useful content that could be useful for your application forms. When we say pull, we do not mean duplicate! Tailor the content to the job description, but work on repurposing any content you may have used previously. You can use what you’ve written before as a way to create a stronger foundation for your next application or cover letter.
  2. Look back on your self-evaluation notes and any feedback provided by the interviewer. Make a game plan on how to develop your areas of weakness and your areas of strength. For example, if you struggled with your presentation skills, work on presenting to other people to help reduce some of the nerves you may feel.
  3. Write down some of the interview questions you were asked and struggled to answer well, look into the questions and work on how you may be able to respond better to them next time. Although you are unlikely to be asked exactly the same question in two different job interviews, interviewers often ask similar questions. Therefore, improving your previous responses to difficult questions can make it easier for you in your future interviews.

By picking yourself up after a job rejection and implementing the tips mentioned above, you can go into your next job interview as a stronger and more confident candidate. 

3 Additional Tips

Phew, so now we’ve discussed interview prep, the interview itself and what to do after the job interview. The tips above apply to any job interview, whether it is online or in-person, however, online interviews are becoming increasingly common especially as first stage interviews so below we have included three bonus top tips for you to use when you have an online job interview.

  1. If you are doing an online job interview, write down your interview prep on sticky notes including down key information about the company and the role. After this, paste the sticky notes around your computer screen, leaving the camera free. During the interview, you can look at those notes if you feel you are struggling. It’s like an open-book test.
  2. Get familiar with the technology you are using for your interview. If the interview is done via an online platform, make sure you have set up your account and try a test call with a friend. Test your microphone and camera before joining the job interview call and make sure you are sitting in front of a plain, bright background.
  3. When answering ensure you are not rushing quickly through your answers and try to speak as clearly as possible, this tip applies to both online and in-person interviews but is especially important for online interviews where the sound quality may not always be as good. Making sure you take your time and don’t hurry your answers will ensure the interviewer can understand you.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve made it this far, good work! You are ready for every stage of the interviewing process. Though interviewing may not be your forte, it’s still a valuable skill set to have and it’s important to continually work on improving it. It is not only helpful for you now when you are applying to current roles but also for other higher positions you may apply for as your progress in your career.

Do you have any tips you use for interviewing that we didn’t touch on? Let us know below!

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Julia Hurtado

Julia Hurtado

Having spent an entire summer dedicated to travelling abroad, Julia now focuses on helping other students experience life outside their home country. As an American now working in London, Julia enjoys sharing advice on interning abroad, sipping tea (with 2 sugars, 1 milk please) and reading in her spare time.

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