Interviewing 101: How to Ace Your Interview

Kern Carter

November 10, 2021

10 minutes

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You can put together a killer resume, have the right experience and skill set, but much of whether or not you get the job can come down to your interview. Regardless of how technology has advanced, the need to connect with someone personally is still crucial to employers. An interview provides hiring managers with the opportunity to learn more about you and gauge how you’ll fit into their company culture. 

Interviews are also a two-way street. Part of your preparation is to have questions ready to ask the interviewer. You can only learn so much from a job description, so while the interviewer is figuring out if you’re the right fit, you need to get clarity on your job duties and expectations before making a final decision. 

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. You need to be ready to nail this interview and we’re here to help make that possible. We’ll be covering the different types of interviews, what you can expect when you’re being interviewed, strategies on how to prepare for interviews, and what to do after the interview is over. 

Getting a job isn’t easy and getting the exact job that you want is even more challenging. But understanding how to prepare before interviews and perform once you’re sitting across that hiring manager brings you one step closer to securing your dream job. 

Different types of job interviews 

In order to be fully prepared for your interview, we first need to talk about the different types of interviews you might be thrown into. You’ll need all the same foundational principles we’ll cover to be successful regardless of the type of interview, but it’s worth knowing what you might be up against in each situation. 

Phone interviews 

A phone interview is often the first step in the interview process where a recruiter will usually ask more general questions to screen candidates. Before the employer brings you in for a more in-depth interview, they want to gauge your interest in the job, give you a chance to ask them questions, and get a better feel for if you’re the right fit. The thing about phone interviews is that they can happen at a moment’s notice. You need to be ready for a quick turnaround which can sometimes stir up a bit of anxiety. Find a quiet space, make sure there are no distractions, and put your phone notifications on silent, so you don’t get interrupted by alerts or another phone call. 

Behavioural interviews 

In a behavioural interview, you’ll be asked questions about how you handled previous work-related situations. The thinking is that however you handled those situations in the past will be an indication of how you will handle similar situations in the future. Some behavioural interview questions can include: 

  • When is one time you went above and beyond your duties? 
  • Tell us about a time you had to work under pressure
  • How did you handle not agreeing with one of your co-worker?

Expect these types of questions throughout your behavioural interview. It’s also important to note that you may get these questions during a “regular” interview, so it’s better to be prepared.

Case interviews

A case interview is when the interviewer will ask you to solve some kind of business problem or business “case.” The business case is usually a previous project that the company has already dealt with and their intention is to assess how you will handle the situation. Case interviews are common in the medical and legal industries, but many companies employ this tactic. For example, if you’re applying for a graphic designer role, the employer might use a case interview to get you to design a website for a new product. In a situation like this, you’ll have a couple of days to deliver the project and then you’ll have time to explain your deliverables to the employer. 

Other case interviews may be done on the spot. The employer will propose a problem or case and give you 30 to 45 minutes to solve it. In those scenarios, you need to think and act quickly. The short time frame is intentional. An employer wants to know if you can think on your feet in a structured manner, but they also understand that any answer or proposal you come up with will likely be incomplete. Your goal should be to choose a direction, go with it, and be ready to explain why. 

Video/Virtual interviews 

Through experiencing the remote climate, you should be comfortable with doing virtual interviews. You won’t be in the same room as the interviewer, but that shouldn’t change much. However, it’s important to dress appropriately, as you would for an in-person interview. You’ll still need to be as prepared as possible, and you still need to engage and ask questions. 

There are some nuances you’ll need to consider. Make sure your Wi-Fi is working well. Testing it before your interview is a good idea. If you’re living with roommates or other family members, make sure you tell them what time you’ll be getting interviewed, so there aren’t any loud noises. We’ll dive deeper into how to prepare for interviews in the following sections. 

Group Interview 

Group interviews are when you are in a room with other potential candidates and you are all interviewed at the same time. Companies use group interviews for multiple reasons: they want to expedite the hiring process and doing interviews one by one is more time-consuming. Group interviews also tend to run longer and give interviewers the chance to incorporate tests and challenges—similar to a case interview—without having to bring interviewees back individually. 

What you need to keep in mind for group interviews is that it’s not just about answering the questions correctly, it’s about how you interact with others in the group. It’s almost like you’ve been placed into a work simulation and you have to act out how you would perform if you were really on the job. 

Second/Final round interview 

Getting invited to a second interview means you are likely to be one of the top candidates. Employers liked what they saw in your first interview and have narrowed the pool of candidates  down. That said, the expectations are different this time around. First, it’s possible you’ll be interviewed by other members of leadership. You may even be introduced to team members you may work with. You can also expect the conversation about your role to be more in depth. Expect questions about the industry and how the company’s mission can be achieved with your help. You’ve already convinced the employer that you can be a good fit. The second interview is about solidifying your presence among the other candidates and expressing your perspective on what you can bring to the position.

What to expect in a job interview 

Now that you have an idea of the different kinds of interviews, let’s talk about some of the standard questions you can expect. Each company will no doubt have their own set of questions, but there are general types of questions that you need to be ready for. 

How to answer behavioural interview questions

When preparing to answer behavioural questions, the first thing you need to do is review the job duties on the posting. Those duties give you insight into the type of work that will be expected. You can use that as the basis for questions employers will ask about past work projects and how you handled different situations. 

Use the STAR interview method

When answering behavioural interview questions, try implementing the STAR method. The STAR method is a simple four-step technique that you can apply to any behavioural interview question. The four steps go like this: 

  1. Situation—provide context on the situation you are about to explain  
  2. Task—Describe the task or problem  
  3. Action—Describe the action you took to complete the task or solve the problem 
  4. Results—What was the outcome of your action 

Keeping the STAR method in mind will help you answer any behavioural question in enough depth and clarity to satisfy the hiring manager. 

Most common job interview questions

Aside from behavioural questions, you can expect to be asked several common questions that you’ll need to prepare for. How you answer these questions plays a significant role in whether you get hired or move on to that second interview. 

Here’s how you can answer some of the more popular job interview questions

Tell me about yourself

More often than not, when interviewers ask “tell me about yourself” in an interview , it’s really just an ice breaker. They’ve read your resume and are familiar with your accomplishments, but this is the time to speak a bit more about who you are personally. While this is an open-ended question, remember that you’re trying to get a job. So while it might be tempting to talk about how cute your dog looked in their Halloween costume, try to reflect on aspects of your personality that are relevant to the position. 

Why are you a good fit?

This question connects to “tell me about yourself,” but what the interviewer is looking for is whether they think you’ll mesh well with others on the team. This is not the time to list your skills. Talk about working in a group or team environment and show off your knowledge of the company. Let them know in what ways you are in alignment with their vision and how you can participate in helping them fulfil their mission. 

What motivated you to apply for this position?

Umm, you need a job, and they’re hiring. Jokes aside, you should take care in how you answer this question. This is a career job, so you want to show that you value the opportunity. Money is obviously part of your motivation and you shouldn’t run from that truth, but this is a good time to talk about your personal and professional goals and how the position you’re applying for fits your goals. 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Questions like these are why it’s so important to have a career plan before going into any type of interview. You want to show an understanding of your career path both within their company and beyond. When answering this question, don’t just talk about where you want to be, but make sure to detail the impact you hope to have. It shows a different level of awareness when you can parallel your personal growth with the company’s goals and the effect your work will have on consumers. 

Questions you should ask in a job interview

As much as you may feel like you’re in the hot seat during your interview, you shouldn’t leave any interview without asking questions yourself. It might feel a bit intimidating at first, even if you’re an extrovert. But you have to work at this company, and as much as the employer is assessing whether you’ll be a good fit, you need to do the same. 

Here are some points to keep in mind when preparing questions for your interview: 

  • Don’t ask close-ended questions aka questions that are answered with a simple yes or no
  • Don’t ask questions that Google could answer (meaning don’t ask questions you should already know the answer to before taking the interview) 
  • Don’t ask questions you think will impress the interviewer, instead ask questions you really want answered.

Here are some good questions to ask in an interview: 

  • What are the projects you’ll be working on right away? 
  • What does a typical day look like? 
  • What does success look like for this role? 

How to prepare for a job interview 

If you think you’re going to walk into an interview without preparing and nail it, think again. Anything is possible, but being prepared gives you the best chance at making a lasting impression. Preparing for an interview is not as complicated as you think. It takes a bit of time and you may have to get a friend involved (mirrors work, too), but it’s totally worth it because it makes a difference in how you perform. 

Here are some simple actions you can take to make a lasting impression in your job interview

Research the company 

This is literally step one. You should know everything you can about this company before setting foot in that interview. Online research is a great place to start, but if you know anyone who works at the company, speak to them, too. 

Practice your interview answers to common questions

We gave you a list of common interview questions; practice them. Get a friend to pretend they’re interviewing you. If that isn’t possible, sit in front of a mirror and practice your answers. When you’re done, practice some more. Come up with your own set of questions that you think the interviewer will ask based on your research. 

Prepare your interview questions

Remember, we mentioned you shouldn’t leave an interview without asking questions? Well, you shouldn’t go into that interview without having questions prepared. You’ll likely think of more questions during the interview, but don’t leave it to chance. Prepare three or four questions that will help you get a better understanding of the company so you can make an informed decision. 

Prepare an elevator pitch 

An elevator pitch is a short summary of who you are and where you are in your career, along with some of your future goals and ambitions. You should be able to articulate this in under one minute (or the time it takes to ride an elevator—hence the name) so it’s clear to a potential employer.  

Simulate a real interview experience with a mock interview

Practicing mock interviews over and over will make you feel more comfortable with speaking about yourself, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do—particularly for introverts. One way to get over that discomfort is to practice interviewing in the mirror, in front of a friend or using an interview practice tool. Be mindful of things like your posture, how you phrase your answers, and your general body language, especially for virtual interviews. Preparation gives you confidence. That confidence carries over to the interview. 

Dress appropriately

Dressing correctly is a big part of projecting the right message. Before you answer any interview question, an interviewer will see how you are dressed. Now, not all jobs require you to dress formally, but you should look your best for any interview. Through your research, figure out how strict the dress code is and match that standard in your interview. If you can’t determine what kind of dress code is necessary, then do your best to wear something that will make you feel confident.  

What to do after a job interview 

You thought it was over, didn’t you? You ended your virtual interview or left the in-person interview room and figured you’d sit back and wait for an email. Wrong! You need to send a follow-up note

Following up after an interview accomplishes several things: 

1. It helps to confirm whether the interview went well 

Sometimes, you genuinely don’t know if you bombed an interview or not. The interviewer’s body language is a hint, so is an interview being much shorter than expected with no mention of next steps. But a follow-up email could let you know more clearly where you stand.  

2. It shows you were paying attention

If near the end of your interview the interviewer mentions next steps, that’s a good sign. When you send a follow-up email, mention those next steps. You can also mention a more casual moment that occurred during the interview. Something that would make the interviewer smile when reading it. 

3. It keeps you top of mind 

Most job markets are super competitive. Anything you can do to stand out or give you an edge against another candidate, you should take that opportunity. A follow-up note shows that you really do care about the position and that may be the advantage you need to get hired. 

It’s important you send a thank you note within 24 hours of your interview. Also, send the note the same way you’ve been communicating with the potential employer (email, LinkedIn, etc.). Prepped email and message templates guides you on how and when to send these messages effectively.

Get Prepped to ace your next interview

You should have everything you need to prepare for (and do well) in your next interview. Remember, this is a process and you may not get the job on your first try. Try your best not to get dejected. Interviews are challenging for many people and it takes some experience before you really get comfortable. 

That’s why Prepped Premium is built to help with the interview and hiring process. We’ve developed AI technology to get your resume past recruiters and to help improve your interview skills. We also have email and message templates to help make networking easier with both old and new connections.. 

Get started with Prepped and walk into that interview like you’ve already been hired!