Ch. 2: How to Prepare for an Interview
In Ch. 1: What is an Interview? we discussed the basics of interviewing and covered what you need to know before getting your first interview. This chapter covers how to adequately prepare after you've made it past the first hiring round... So, you landed an interview. Great job! Now what? Don’t celebrate until you have the job offer. First you need to learn how to prepare for an interview.
Before you go in for the interview you need to do some homework. Make a pre-interview checklist of what you need to accomplish before the big day. That list should include: research the prospective company; find information on the person who will be interviewing you; hold a mock interview; acquire all the right materials to take into the meeting.
Researching Your Employer
One of the most important steps to take before an interview is to research your prospective employer. You can learn their principles, goals, and mission to leverage and better adapt your plan of attack.
1. Check Their Corporate Website
Their website shows the company how it wants to be seen. They've put time and money into the site to highlight everything they want the public to see. This will be where you see them in their best light and get a feel for their mission and what they stand for.
Look for press releases and any company news on their site. See what they’ve been up to. Look for any recent news so you can talk about it and work it into your dialogue.
Consider how the job you’re vying for fits into their company mission and how it plays into the overall picture of their goals. What skills do you possess that can benefit them and help move them closer to the big picture?
The company website is also a great tool for researching the hiring manager and any person you will have contact with or that will be interviewing you. Search their faculty database and find every relevant person. Study each person and find out where they went to school, their likes, dislikes, job history, accomplishments—whatever will give you discussion topics and ice breakers.
2. Online Databases
Use online databases to find unbiased reports on your prospective employer. Hoover’s database keeps information and research on thousands of corporations. You can find statistics, financial records, and all the competitors for your corporation.
Other databases you can utilize in your research include:
Databases are invaluable when comparing companies, and especially useful if you've got multiple job offers on the table. Remember, the labor market is a tricky thing. Your labor is a commodity, just like gold or wheat, and is valuable. Don't be undersold!
3. Trade Journals
Trade Journals are a good resource for information on business and industry. You can use them to find out about professionals in the industry, industry trends, service reviews and news related to the business.
4. Google the Company
Google is an incredibly powerful tool. You can find anything you need to know just by typing in relevant keywords. Search your employer, news, stats—basically anything.
Google will give you the best most relevant databases and news on your employer, depending on what you ask.
More than likely it will pull up the resources above if you Google info about your company and ask for any stats. Don’t underestimate what you can find on Google. Just be specific and know what you want to find.
Tip: Use quotations to search for exact match keywords, like "who started google," or any other keyword relating to the company or person your interviewing with.
An overlooked technique, that is a very important element in how to prepare for an interview, is holding a mock interview to help prepare you for the real thing. Have a friend drill you on potential questions and critique your non-verbal communication. Ask questions back and find out if they are arrogant, unintelligent, or irrelevant. Tell your fake interviewer to be strict and act as professional as you possibly can.
Get them to ask hard questions and have solid answers prepared for every topic. Remember to demonstrate your skills in your interview: if you say you have great communication skills, you better be able to show it in an interview.
In the real interview, if you start to get nervous, think back to your mock interview and try to recreate how you felt then. Imagine your interviewer as your friend and relax. Practice before hand and you will do great.
What to Bring to an Interview
Don’t weigh yourself down with junk you don’t need for your interview. You should only have about three things with you and make sure they are neat and orderly—don’t walk in with a stack of crumbled papers and ask for a pen.
1. Make sure to bring a copy of your resume—This is mainly so you can follow along and/or give it to them if they have misplaced yours (and that does happen)
2. Paper and Pen—If you need to take notes or think of relevant questions during the interview a paper in pen will come in handy. Also, it will make you look like you care and that you’re prepared.
3. Reference List or Letters of Recommendation— Bring a list of references in case they ask for any or you can email it to them. This will show you actually have people on your side that will vouch for you. Don’t give it to them unless they ask. Don’t give more than you need to.
Letters of Recommendation are useful if they add to why you can do the job well or if they prove that you’ve done the job well in the past. Use at your discretion.
Do the research, compile a list of talking points, look your best, and bring the right stuff, and your interview should go fine. Remember to destress before your interview and clear your mind to calm your nerves; taking the stairs, if there are any, is supposed to be a good way to clear your mind right before you go in to the interview. Stay calm and do your best; that's all you can do.