Practical Ways to Best Prepare for the Job Interview
Written by HRCap, Inc.
February 2, 2023
During a job search, candidates inevitably face many obstacles, including multiple job rejections. In a 2022 Joblist survey, successful job seekers were those that applied for 11 to 15 jobs and received 6 to 10 rejections. Of these survey respondents, 27% shared that one of the most successful ways to improve the job-seeking process is to “prepare better for interviews.”
With only a select few getting to the interview stage, it is important for candidates to understand that job interviews are a process, not an event. They must consistently prepare and aim to do well leading up to, during, and following a job interview. To make the most of the opportunity, job seekers should follow these 14 tips to ace the interview.
14 Practical Tips to Ace the Interview
1. Create a Polished LinkedIn Profile
Job seekers should have an updated LinkedIn profile with a well-written introduction and detailed bullets highlighting critical keywords under each position. They must check that their work experiences, duration, location, and titles align with the respective content on their resumes. This is important as many hiring managers check for consistency and alignment with submitted resumes and applications. Job applicants should request skill endorsements and reference letters on LinkedIn to increase their chances of being viewed in strong search results and getting looked for as Top Talent on LinkedIn.
2. Maintain a Professional Online Brand
Candidates should be mindful of what type of posts or photos they have on any social media platform because 70% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates during the hiring process. Employers may potentially disqualify the applicant’s candidacy given any content that may be considered unprofessional, inappropriate, or not reflective of the corporate brand and culture.
3. Research the Company and Its Industry
Many candidates review the company website, but that’s not enough. They must conduct more thorough research on the company and the respective industry to better understand how the company is positioned in the market and how the industry is evolving. The candidates can use this information to provide insightful responses and to seem more knowledgeable during their interviews. Vital information job applicants can research is the company’s mission statement, vision, and history. They can then integrate such intel and insight gained into their answers to demonstrate commitment and genuine interest in the company.
4. Learn about Each Interviewer
Candidates should research information on the interviewers and know their titles, professional backgrounds, and relevant press release coverage of their work. Job applicants can use this information to find talking points and properly address the interviewer, which may set the tone of the interview. Depending on the job function, each interviewer will come to the interview with different objectives and perspectives.
5. Carefully Review the Job Description
Understanding the job description is key to knowing what employers are looking for in an ideal candidate since 90% of top-performing job descriptions include clear responsibilities and duties. Before even applying, job applicants must polish their resumes to include relevant keywords or required skills mentioned in the job description.
With a clearer understanding of the job requirements, candidates can prepare concrete examples to demonstrate immediately applicable skills or transferable relevant skills for the role.
6. Rehearse Common Interview Questions
Job seekers should always practice preparing answers to common interview questions that could come up based on the job description. Candidates can look up company-specific questions through forums or review sites, like Glassdoor, which provides other job applicants’ feedback on the interview process.
Some commonly asked questions you can prepare for are the following:
Why do you want to join this company?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Can you walk me through your career?
If you could change one thing about your work experience, what would it be?
What has been your greatest achievement?
7. Expect Even the Unexpected Questions
Occasionally, hiring managers may ask an unexpected question, such as “how many tennis balls can you fit in a limo?” or “how would you fight a bear?” Rather than getting frazzled, it is important to stay calm and understand why interviewers may be asking these types of questions. Interviewers ask such questions to assess a candidate’s adaptability, problem-solving, and communication skills. With this in mind, applicants should stay composed and take their time to thoughtfully answer these questions.
8. Frame All Answers with STAR
We highly recommend that candidates elaborate on their answers by using the STAR framework. The STAR framework stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result and is best used to answer behavioral questions, such as “Tell me about a time you faced conflict with a coworker. How did you handle it?”
Situation: Provide details of a scenario or examples related to the question.
Task: Describe the responsibility or role of the job applicant for the specific example.
Action: Explain what actions were taken to resolve or handle the situation.
Result: Then conclude with the outcome that was reached as a result of the actions taken.
Using the STAR network fully paints a fuller picture for the interviewer and sheds light on the candidate’s thought process and communication skills.
9. Always Dress Professionally
Whether it is a virtual or in-person interview, candidates must dress professionally to show they are serious about applying for the position. First impressions aren’t everything, but they do certainly matter and can set the tone for the rest of the interview session. Dressing inappropriately is also a red flag for most companies. In fact, 71% of employers wouldn’t hire someone who doesn’t follow the appropriate dress code.
10. Remove All Possible Distractions
Candidates must create an environment that would be conducive to a smooth interview that will not distract either the candidate or the interviewer. Avoid wearing too much perfume or cologne that can be overbearing for others. When it comes to virtual interviews, candidates should be in a quiet location with a clean background, stable internet connection, optimal lighting, and no distractions.
Interviewees should also silence or turn off their phones because 67% of employers would not hire a candidate who responds and reacts to their cell phones. We also recommend closing out of all tabs and muting any notifications during virtual interviews.
[Related: 5 Essential Virtual Interview Tips]
11. Be Aware of Body Language
At the actual interview, job applicants should demonstrate that they are confident, focused, and undistracted during the interview through their body language. In a 2017 Harris Poll, when asked about the biggest body language mistakes that interviewers make, the hiring managers pointed out the top three as “failing to make eye contact” (68%), “failing to smile” (38%), and “playing with something on the table” (36%).
12. Prepare Thoughtful Questions for the Interviewers
Interviews are a two-way process. It is crucial to have well-thought-out questions to ask the interviewer at the end of the interview if prompted to do so. Having questions ready shows that the job applicant is truly interested and engaged in the role. Candidates should ask questions about the role that may not have been addressed during the interview or request more insight into the company culture and interview process.
However, job applicants should not ask questions on the topic of salary and benefits unless brought up. Interviewers may see these questions as an indicator of the job seeker’s motivation. We encourage candidates to save these questions and ask them directly to the HR or recruiters instead, who are more privy to such information. Candidates should use the time with the hiring managers to build rapport and gain more meaningful insight into the role and opportunity.
[Related: 7 Questions to Ask After an Interview]
13. Leverage Strategic Note-Taking
Before taking notes, candidates should ask the interviewer if it would be alright if they took a few notes during the interview. After getting permission, they should take notes with a physical notepad and pencil and refrain from using a laptop or other device.
Taking notes can help job applicants refer back to important points they want to ask questions about or highlight in their follow-up emails.
That said, job seekers should only take notes if it is helpful; if note-taking is distracting or takes too long, then they should take mental notes of important parts of the conversation.
14. Send Personalized “Thank You” Letters
On the same day of the interview, job applicants should carefully write up a sincere “thank you” letter thanking the interviewer for their time, referring back to specific points in the interview, verbalizing interest in the job opportunity, and explaining why the interviewee is the best candidate for this opportunity. It is very common for job applicants to write a generic “thank you” letter. They must ensure that the letter is personalized and double-checked for any grammatical or spelling errors.
If the interviewer did not provide an email address, job candidates should ask the recruiter or hiring manager to kindly forward the “thank you” letter to the interviewer.
[Related: “5 Thank You Letter Tips [HRCap Career Development”]
We find that even after following these tips, many job applicants still have a challenging time landing the right position. Instead of applying endlessly and getting no responses, we recommend that all candidates pause to take a pulse check on the current job market, reflect on their personal goals, and reevaluate the direction of their job search.
It is possible that applicants need to refine their job search or strategically tailor their resumes to highlight more relevant skills that will make them more marketable.
At HRCap, we continue to take intel from the job market and insights from client organizations to provide meaningful career coaching and resume review services to guide professionals in their job search and long-term career development.
Source: HRCap, Built In, CareerBuilder, Inc., Joblist, The Muse
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