How to prepare for an interview

Dec 22nd, 2020
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Securing an interview is one of the happiest moments of a job seekers life. It’s the moment that affirm that all the hard work and long hours you’ve put in over the last weeks or months have paid off and gotten your resume past the hiring software, through the perusals of recruiters, onto the desk of the hiring manager, and finally, secured your spot in the line-up of job hopefuls. 

Congratulations on getting the interview. At CareerBliss, we know that finding the right employment fit can take time, so we applaud you for sticking to it, and letting your experience and potential shine. But before you breathe too big a sign of relief, we’ll say this. Securing the interview does not mean you can or should just breeze through the rest of the process. Just like every step of the way to this interview slot, you’ve got to prepare if you want to have a stellar interview and make the best “first” impression on your interviewer.

But don’t worry. We’ve got your back. Our job happiness experts know that all good things take hard work, and we’re ready to help you achieve your greatest interview potential so you have every chance at securing the happy job of your dreams.

What to expect from an interview

Whether it’s your first interview, or your hundredth interview, 

5 pre-interview tips for a great interview

Do your research before the big day

Read up on the company, the job, competitors, media mentions, blogs–anything you can get your hands on about the company to have a good understanding of what they do and what tone you should take during your interview. You can tell a lot about a company from the writing style on its site. 

Your interviewer will likely ask you what you know about the company or the position, and being prepared with smart, insightful answers can do wonders in making a great impression, and showing that you care enough to be prepared instead of just winging it or depending on someone else to feed you the answers.

Ditch the coffee and pack a snack

Interviews have a way of making people feel a bit nervous, and coffee can amplify those nerves, leaving you jittery and talking a mile a minute. Before your interview, you should focus on calming your nerves rather than getting overly energized. Be sure to pack a non-messy, low-odor snack in your back in case the interview goes longer than expected and you are booked with multiple people in multiple time slots.

Plan your attire to fit the job and the company

Business attire has long been considered the standard for interview attire, but as startups and startup culture have become a mainstay of the business world, old ways of thinking about interviews and attire are changing. It’s always a good idea to ask what the company dress code is when scheduling your interview. Armed with that knowledge as a base, you should then take it up a notch or two for your interview. 

A basic rule of thumb is this: dress for the role you want. Dressing the part will help your interviewer see you in that role, and show that you can fit in. If you are interviewing for a job at a fortune 500 company, you’d better not show up in anything less than a suit and tie. However, if interviewing at a tech startup, a suit and tie will pretty much knock you out of the running, as a hoodie-clad CEO may write you off before you open your mouth, merely on the basis of not fitting into the culture upon first impression. When dressing for a startup interview, a smart, business casual outfit such as a button down shirt and slacks, and for women a pair of flats, shows that you can easily roll up your sleeves, and get the job done in the most comfortable (yet classy) way.

Review your story

Poor recall on your work history, chronology, or accomplishments can be awkward. It is after all the history of you. Use your time before the interview wisely to recall, review and rehearse your story and how you’d like to frame your experience. Applying for jobs and going on interviews is a major marketing endeavor–the marketing of yourself. And good storytellers make the best marketers. Make sure you know your story inside and out.

Bring copies of your job application documents

Even though you’ve sent everything to the company with your original application, you should always plan to bring 5 copies of your resume to every interview, along with printouts of your references. One interview may blossom into numerous meetings with company leaders, and you’ll want to be prepared to either show them quickly who you are through your resume, or give them access to quickly recall what they liked about your resume in the first place. Preparation and thoughtfulness leave a great impression. 

Prepare a list of questions to bring with you to the interview

You’ve heard it said that there are no dumb questions. Well the truth is that when it comes to interviews, the timing and framing of your questions is everything. Having some smart questions on hand will keep you from nervously asking obvious questions or making inquiries about the company that you could have easily found answers to online had you done your research. Likewise, knowing what types of questions you should avoid can do wonders in ensuring the interview continues going well.  

Questions you should definitely ask during your interview

1. What do you like the most about the company?

Everyone loves to talk about themselves. While the majority of the interview will be focusing on you, inviting your interviewer to provide their personal experience can give you some really great insights, and also make you more memorable to your interviewer. Pay attention not only to what is said in response to the question, but how they say it. Body language matters. If they talk about the company or their job in a lackluster way, it may be a red flag that this isn’t the company you’d enjoy long-term. And while a less than exciting response may just be burnout or personality differences, it should give you something to think about further as you consider whether the company is really a good fit for you.

2. What are your expectations of the person in this role in the first 30, 60 and 90 days on the job?

This question indicates that you are looking to the future, and how you can best meet the needs of the company. If any question could set you up for success within a company, this is it. Knowing expectations before you go in and just wing it gives you the upper hand if you are hired, allowing you to not only meet but even exceed expectations. And this question implies to your interviewer that you are savvy, smart and willing to roll up your sleeves and work hard for the success of the company.

3. What is the company culture like?

Always remember that an interview is not a one-sided meeting. Just as your interviewer is exploring if you would be a good fit for the company, you should be asking the right kinds of questions to determine if it’s a company you want to work for. One of the top 10 factors that determine workplace happiness, according to data from real employees, is company culture. Getting hired into a bad culture, or one that simply isn’t your style, can quickly leave you frustrated, unhappy and hitting the job search once again. As you parse out if the company culture is right for you, be sure to ask for examples of how the company upholds its culture. Examples can give you a clearer picture into the inner workings of the mindset within the company, and if you would really enjoy showing up to work there everyday.

Questions to avoid during your interview

1. Can I do this work from home?

Traditionally, the interview is not the time to try to find ways to not have to come to the office. Unless it’s an actual remote position, nobody really wants to hire someone who’s sole focus is on themselves, their convenience and their work-life balance. Although work-life balance is vitally important, and wise employers know it, employers also want to know that you are looking out for the needs of the company because you really are aiming for success. 

Note that in these days of Covid-19, inquiring along these lines is no longer as taboo as it previously was. But rather than asking outright if you can work from home, you might consider framing it tactfully and asking what Covid safely protocols they have in place, and how they’re ensuring their employees stay safe and healthy.  

2. Can I start work early and leave early? (and vice versa)

Once again, an employee that is only thinking about themselves and their comfort from the start isn’t a desirable choice for a company that wants to hire someone who actually cares about what’s good for the company. Once you have a job offer, you can hash out the details of the job with the hiring manager to determine if you both can come to a mutually beneficial arrangement.

3. What is the salary for this position?

If you haven’t already gotten some hint of the salary from your phone interview, or your interviewer asking for your desired salary, don’t ask. While it’s a given that most people get a job to earn money, you certainly don’t want to make it look like it’s the only thing you’re interested in. If you imply that you’re only there for the money, you may be seen as a liability to the company–like someone who is here today and gone tomorrow when a higher offer comes in. Employers value longevity, loyalty, and someone who is excited to show up to work and do their best. Save salary talk and negotiations until a job offer is on the table.

Incorporate these tips into your pre-interview preparations, then head on over to our blog to explore more tips and best practices for finding a happy job, and you’ll be well on your way to a great interview–and begin to master the job search.

The CareerBliss Team

CareerBliss cares about your career happiness. That’s why we offer a variety of great tools and resources to help you make better-informed career decisions. We believe that if you’re happier at work, you’ll be happier in life! Check out company reviews, salary information, career advice and, of course, millions of jobs on CareerBliss and choose happy today!

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