A busy young woman preparing for her next job interview.

5 Things You Must Do When Preparing for a Job Interview

Job interviews — who doesn’t feel at least a bit of anxiety and stress about them?

One of the main sources of this worry, I think, is the unknown nature of job interviews. You go in feeling like the interviewers have the key advantage. And while you may have some good answers to some of the standard interview questions under your belt, there’s always the curveball questions that seem designed to catch you off guard.

While many prepare for an interview by going over their resume and memorizing the job posting, there are some more advanced tactics you can use. Remember, giving a good job interview is a skill, and like any skill it can be improved through preparation and practice.

With that in mind, here are some pointers to help you get ready for the big interview, including some tips you may not know about.

Think outside your resume

Your resume is only the start of the job conversation. It’s a jumping-off point to a conversation about what you actually did, the challenges you faced, in your previous jobs and positions.

To prepare, make a list of the scenarios and situations you encountered during each position that expand on your skills. Try making it into a three-column table, with headings for Job, Skill and Story/Outcome. Remember, don’t be overly specific or mechanical; tell a story! This kind of detail isn’t on your resume, but makes up the stories you tell your interviewer that give them a full understanding of your work experience.

This preparation shouldn’t be a lengthy written account, but serves as a study aid letting you quickly recall your examples.

And remember, keep this summary document up to date, refreshing it after an interview and as you advance through your career.

Research the company in-depth

Go beyond researching the position you’re apply for — make sure you understand the organization, its structure and priorities. This will show your interest in the job, and set you apart from other candidates, who talk too much about themselves.

Luckily, this research has never been easier. You want to spend time on the company’s website and look into their:

  • Strategic plan
  • Organizational structure
  • News articles
  • Interview panel members
  • Workplace culture and any HR awards for best employer, etc

Use this information to ask your interviewers questions related to the company’s strategic plan, the goals of the position you are applying for, and the challenges they can expect to face.

Use a framework to help with generic questions

Use your summary sheet from above to link answers together and use examples. When answering generic questions, refer to your resume — remember, they won’t have read it all — and tell an engaging story using the STAR method:

STAR method for job interview preparation.

Prepare to get technical if you need to

Depending on the type of interview and the industry there is a variety of subject matter expertise that may be required and assumed you know. So be prepared to show your specialized knowledge on the spot. If you hold a technical or professional designation, make sure you are up to date on the latest research and publications relevant to the position and that organization.

Prepare yourself in case you have to give a presentation on the spot. Sometimes interviewers will ask in advance, other times they’ll surprise you. Get ready to show your knowledge, and do some quick refresher studying in case there is a test. Prepare by assuming the interview will be tough, that way you won’t let yourself down, even if it’s not as challenging as it could be.

Practice alone, practice with others, practice!

Go all out when practicing for your interview. While many practice by talking to themselves — hello you there in the mirror — an overlooked tactic is to do mock interviews with friends or family.

This gives you valuable feedback, and we all get better through feedback, so practice your interview skills with others to hone your abilities and build your confidence.

Specifically, ask someone to listen and identify any poor habits, or even record a video of yourself and review it. Your focus here is on improving your interview answers and conduct. Look for:

  • Filler words such as ums, ands, uhhs, etc, that make you seem nervous or less professional
  • Body posture and physical behaviours like fidgeting, slouching and avoiding eye contact
  • Don’t say good question in response to the questions. But if one question is particularly interesting or difficult, be a real person, say wow that’s a tough question or whatever seems fitting.
  • On your last practice, wear your interview attire. This will help you really visualize the actual interview, and boost your confidence.

Good luck!

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