Written By the Mike Callahan Coaching Team
As a Certified Life and Career Coach, it is my responsibility to promote the growth and development of my clients and to help them achieve their personal and professional goals, overcome the associated challenges, and allow them to accept and move forward with any shifting in life direction. No one enjoys the feeling of being stuck in a career, and I’m here to tell you today that you have the power to choose otherwise.
With my career coaching help, you are held accountable for your own progress. With my unique interview preparation checklist and interview preparation tips, you will be confident heading into your upcoming interview and be well on your way to landing the career of your dreams.
Follow these steps, separated by Pre-Interview, Interview, and Post-Interview, to discover tips that could transform your employment search.
Interview Preparation Checklist
- Familiarize yourself with the job posting. This is one of the most important tips to follow—this allows you to fully understand the requirements and duties of the position for which you will be interviewing and helps you to prepare great questions to ask the interviewers.
- Research the company and its mission. This is the second most important tip as companies want to know that you have looked over their website/social media accounts to see what they are all about and what you can expect to produce as an employee.
- Research the interviewer(s). If you have access to who will be performing the interview, it is a great idea to look over their LinkedIn profile or social media networks to see if you have any commonalities. This can help you build conversation and relieve some of the stress on both parties.
- Review your resume. Knowing your resume from top to bottom will allow you to extrapolate on your experiences when the interviewers ask about them. Joe Mater of Brazen explains, “Your key achievements happened for a reason. And so did your mistakes. Have a look at your resume and think about which events have been great teachers. What did you learn? How have you moved forward with those learnings? What could you do to develop even further?”. These are great questions to keep in mind when going through your interview preparation process.
- Focus on accomplishments. Write out some facts and accomplishments about yourself and how they added value to previous employers. You know that you have a lot to offer as an employee, and you need to be able to market yourself as a candidate to your prospective employer. Highlight the metrics that best align with the company.
- Network. According to research, 95% of people believe that networking opportunities are crucial to personal interactions within a business. It is also said that having connections to current employees of a company where you’re applying to work can benefit you during the pre-interview process. Luckily, in this day and age, a few minutes of internet sleuthing can often yield a wealth of events and opportunities to network with employees of a company for which you are interested in working. From industry conferences to happy hours, you can typically find a variety of networking events through an organization’s calendar or news site pages, as well as from social media posts of current employees.
- Understand and research different interview trends. Keeping up-to-date with current interviewing methods helps you as a candidate to strategize for possible question and answer sessions during the interview. For example, some companies will have structured interviews utilizing the “stress method,” throwing difficult questions or brain teasers at an applicant to see how well they think on their feet. Other companies prioritizing hiring for retention may have less structured, “chat” style interviews, spending time getting to know applicants personally to find the best fit. Regardless of what type of interview you’re facing, a popular and effective technique to use when answering behavioral questions is the STAR method—
- Share a situation where you were faced with a difficulty to overcome.
- Identify the task you were responsible for at the time.
- Describes what action you took.
- Explain the result of your work.
- Test out company-made products as applicable. Depending on the position you are interviewing for, consider trying out a product you will be selling to customers- this is a great business tactic as you essentially are evaluating a product and will be able to add value to the company by selling it from personal experience.
- Create scenarios. Write down experiences that relate to the position and imagine how you would react in scenarios that could possibly be encountered during employment. This helps you to become comfortable within the position without actually being in it yet.
- Prepare to talk about gaps in employment. While many reasons for having a gap in your employment history can come from very explainable and understandable reasons—health issues, familial problems, child-rearing, et cetera—others can give employers the impression that you’re not committed to your career. If you don’t have a great way to explain frequent or long stretches of time unemployed, start brainstorming ways to present the information in the best way possible and practice telling your story. Even if you feel like your explanation won’t go over well, remain calm and focus on the positives of any time spent unemployed, like opportunities to grow and develop skills that are applicable to the role for which you’re interviewing. The task can seem daunting, but with some career coaching help you will be able to successfully answer any type of question with ease.
- Pack additional copies of your resume and references list. You could end up being in a one-on-one interview or in a group interview setting. It is always best practice to be prepared.
- Plan ahead for travel. If you use taxi services or are a commuter, I recommend planning the route of travel you will take in advance with the expectation of encountering delays. Also, plan to navigate alternative routes or ways to get there just in case.
- Practice interview questions. You are sure to be asked common interview questions and some more obscure ones. One of my easier interview preparation tips is to enlist a family member or friend to act as an interviewer, though to make it a little more challenging, get an acquaintance to act as the interviewer to induce authentic situational stress. This could simulate what the actual interview may feel like and help you feel better prepared.
- Get a good night of rest before the interview! This will ensure your mind is alert, will decrease your stress levels, and will have you ready to take on the interview. Try to get a full 8 hours!
The Big Day – Interview Preparation Tips
- Review the job posting. Reading the job posting before the interview is a great way to refresh your mind and better prepare yourself. Take a copy along with you to ask questions as needed.
- Dress to impress. Professional, clean attire gives the impression that you take care of yourself, and in extension, that you will take care of the company.
- Arrive early. Being on time is crucial, but it’s the expectation. Exceed a potential employer’s expectation by showing up early and prepared. Arriving 10-15 minutes early is adequate.
- Act professionally. Etiquette is a good thing to practice. Keep your phone on silent and out of sight as soon as you walk into the business. Without the distraction of your phone before the interview begins, you have the opportunity to interact with employees (network) and observe the running work environment.
- Smile and breathe. Practice deep breathing. This will calm nerves and make it much easier to navigate through the interview. Smiling shows friendliness and helps to make you feel more confident.
- Bring a notebook and pen for notes. Note-taking is crucial in all types of settings and shows that you are interested during the interview. This also gives you the opportunity to come up with new questions to ask the interviewers.
- Ask the interviewers questions! Nothing says “I am interested in this job” more than an interviewee that asks questions. Some examples could be, ‘What does this company provide that makes it stand out compared to its competitors?’ ‘How do you show appreciation for your employees?’ and ‘What type of work environment do you strive to foster?’ Avoid asking questions about salary or benefits, as this can portray you having more interest in those areas versus the actual position. If you are offered the position, then that would be an appropriate time to discuss salary and benefits. This is one of the most underestimated interview preparation tips but it could be the difference that sets you apart from the rest of the other applicants.
- Say thank you! Appreciation goes a long way, and thanking someone will never go out of style. The employer liked your resume and gave you the opportunity to present yourself.
- Take personal identification to the interview. In some cases, you may end up absolutely wow-ing the interviewers on your first interview and an offer for the position is made on the spot. You should make sure to always bring identification material such as a driver’s license and social security card to fill out paperwork as needed.
What to Do for Your Post-Interview
- Follow-up post-interview. If you have not heard back from the company one-week post-interview, contact them to see where you currently stand in the hiring process or send a simple “thanks for the consideration” email. These small steps show that you are actively pursuing the position and show commitment to the company.
- Write a thank you letter. This is an extension of saying thank you from the in-person interview and really drives home the gratitude you have for the opportunity.
As a Certified Life and Career Coach and with over two decades of Human Resources experience, I stand ready to work with you and get you back on track to achieving all of your life and career goals.