Before a big test or assignment, you (hopefully) study or do research to help ensure you do your best. Even if it’s something slightly more casual, like speaking in front of the class or preparing to play a game, you take the time to practice so you perform at a high level. Preparation is key, and preparing for an interview should be treated with the same amount of importance as anything else that matters to you.
Preparing for an interview is important because the stakes are so high. Getting a job in your field sets up your entire career––and in a world where every industry has become super competitive, you can’t take anything for granted.
In this article, we’ll discuss the top job interview tips how to prepare for job interviews, including how to prepare for commonly asked questions, behavioural interviews, and steps you can take to enter every interview with confidence.
Like anything else you’re unfamiliar with or trying to get more information about, start with research. When researching for a position, however, there are certain you should follow to be sure you’re getting the specific info you need to be successful in your job interview.
Whatever job you get, you’ll be part of delivering a product or service. You need to know everything about what that product or service is. This is different than researching the entire company (which we’ll get to in a bit). Researching the product or service means studying the industry, understanding where that product or service fits in the industry, and that specific product’s history of growth and development.
For example, if you want a job as a junior engineer, what do you know about the product you’ll be building? How successful has it been? What’s the latest news about the product? How are people reacting to it publicly? Understanding everything you can before going into your interview will ensure that you’re prepared for any questions and can also ask the right questions.
This is such a crucial part of your preparation. The job description lists out what the employer expects from you. Before your interview, you need to study everything that the description says and make sure you can show capabilities in all of those areas. If there’s something in the job description that’s outside of your experience, not to worry. You don’t have to be an exact match to apply for a position. What’s important is that you have something to say about why that part of your experience may be lacking and how you can make up for that in other ways, either through alternative skills you possess or jobs and internships you’ve taken that have transferable skills. What you don’t want is to be caught off guard by a question that may highlight one of your potential weaknesses. You need to have an answer for everything.
There are a couple of reasons why this is important. The first is obvious: you need to know as much as you can about the company you’ll potentially be working for. Even if it’s a popular company, don’t skip this step. Dig a bit deeper and do some research about what other employees say about the company. Read articles that talk about the company and some of the ways in which they operate. You don’t just want to answer questions in your interview; you want to ask informed questions based on your research.
Researching a company should also provide insight into whether you really want to work with them. An interview is not a one-way street. Everyone has values that matter to them and, if your research finds a company has done things that conflict with your values, it’s important you bring that up during your interview. Yes, it’ll be a hard subject to discuss, but it’s better you get answers upfront than regret your decision later on.
Every interview is different and we can’t predict all of the questions a recruiter or potential employer may ask. However, there are common questions that will be asked in most interviews. Those are the questions you can prepare for.
An elevator pitch summarizes who you are, where you are in your career, and where you hope to be in the future. What makes an elevator pitch unique is that you’re supposed to articulate these points in under one minute, or the time it takes to ride in an elevator. An elevator pitch is crucial for an interview because it gives the interviewer a top-level understanding of who you are. One of the common questions interviewers ask is, “tell me about yourself.” Having an elevator pitch ready means you can answer that question with confidence.
This is an easy question to get tripped up on. This is not the time to speak about how great the company is (although compliments are always welcome). Your answer to this question needs to be more personal. What value can you bring to the company? List some of the things you learned through your research and show why you would be the perfect candidate to elevate or add to what the company does. This is also a good time to tie in your values. If they’re aligned with the company, then let the interviewer know how.
If you want the answers to the test, ask someone who’s already taken it. Now of course we’re not advocating for cheating on tests, but when it comes to interviews, speaking to someone within the same industry—or the same company, if you have them in your network—is an effective way to get insight into what an interviewer might actually ask. Once you’ve identified someone you want to connect with, schedule a virtual coffee chat and get as much information as possible.
It’s becoming a bit more common to include salary expectations in the job description, but it’s still not a regular occurrence. That means when you get selected for an interview, you often go in without knowing what the job pays. This is another time that research comes into play. You should have a good idea of the position’s average salary, so when an employer asks what your expectations are, you don’t undervalue (or overvalue) yourself. You’ll be able to quote a number based on research that’s in line with industry standards.
In addition to the questions listed above, be prepared to answer the following questions:
This should be an easy answer since you’ve already spent time researching. You should be able to recite answers with your eyes closed. Keep it positive and focus on some specific achievements of the past year or so.
This question is your chance to show off a little bit. When speaking about your strengths, make sure that they are strengths relevant to the position you’re interviewing for. Even better, describe a situation where you put that strength to work. For your weaknesses, don’t necessarily think of something you’re not good at; think of something that’s a challenge. When you position that way, it becomes something you can overcome.
When hiring managers ask you a behavioural question, they’re asking about how you behaved in a specific, job-related situation. They want to know what that challenge was and how you overcame it. For example, a behavioural question can be “Tell me about a time that you didn’t agree with a colleague about the direction of a project. How did you resolve it?”
Now, there’s not necessarily a right answer when it comes to behavioural questions. It will be specific to the situation you choose to describe. What can help you in your preparation, however, is using the STAR method when answering. The STAR method helps you break down your answer into four parts:
Situation — Give context on the situation you’re about to describe
Task — Describe the problem you faced
Action — What action did you take to solve the problem?
Results — What was the outcome of your actions?
Using the STAR method gives you a framework for answering behavioural questions in a manner that’s in line with good storytelling.
As important as it is for you to prepare to answer t different types of questions from interviewers, it’s almost just as important you have your own questions prepared. These questions should help you with any unanswered questions that came up through your research. They should also help you determine if the job really is the right fit for you.
Here are five questions you should prepare to ask in an interview: Here are the five best questions to ask in an interview:
These are just a few of the questions you can ask. Remember to be respectful of whatever time you were allotted for your interview, but asking questions is a must.
We can’t stress enough how important it is to rehearse for an interview this step is. Practice, practice, and practice some more. The more you hear yourself repeating your answers, the more comfortable you’ll be sitting across from a hiring manager. The very best way to practice is with a friend or family member. Ask them to play the role of the interviewer and ask the questions you need to prepare for. It’s a good idea to practice both virtual and in-person so you’re completely prepared and comfortable in either situation.
If you can’t get a friend or family member to agree to help, then practice in front of a mirror. Pay attention to your body language and the tone of your delivery. Make sure to maintain eye contact and articulate your words clearly. Practicing your interview makes a big difference. Don’t skip this step.
It’s finally the big day. You’ve done all your research, prepared for common and behavioural questions, and practiced with a friend, family member, or in the mirror. Now it’s time to ace your interview, so let’s make sure you show up the way you’re supposed to.
On the day of your interview, make sure you take these final steps:
Always make sure to send the hiring manager a thank-you email or message after the interview is over. Following up gives you one more opportunity to showcase your qualifications and get the interviewer thinking about you again.
Here are a couple suggestions for writing a great follow-up email:
Job interviews can be intimidating. There’s a lot riding on how you perform. That’s why preparation is so important. Researching and practicing make all the difference, and will help you be at your best to land your dream job.
Prepped is here to help you prepare for every step of the interview process. Our AI interview tool gives you real-time feedback on your pacing, energy level, and facial expressions. We also have resources and tools to help you write a better resume so you can stand out among other candidates. Sign up with Prepped today and walk into your next interview like you’re already hired.