You’ve put time and effort into your job application, perhaps polished your resume and crafted a well-constructed cover letter that won you a coveted interview. Now is your chance to show why you are a great candidate and how you would fit into your potential team. If you do your homework, you’ll be prepared for anything the interviewer throws at you.
1. Study the job description.
Get in the right frame of mind by reminding yourself what the job entails and reading the employer’s mission statement, if there is one. Make a list of reasons why this job might be right for your career journey, such as the skills, experience and network you would gain. Focusing on how this job will help you achieve your career goals is a good way to get excited about the role—even if it’s not your dream job. This will help you articulate why you want the job and convey enthusiasm during the interview.
Think about what makes you the best candidate for the job. Look at your resume and choose which parts of it meet the requirements of the job. Write down examples of how you handled specific projects or problems in your previous work experience, at school, or elsewhere in your life that show you have the skills the employer is looking for. As you work on your job description and mission statement, make a list of your proudest accomplishments that can be used as examples. If you suffer from imposter syndrome, this can also help you understand why you are the right person for the job.
2. Prepare to address gaps in your experience.
Make a list of anything in your background or resume that makes you feel nervous and prepare explanations for gaps you may have in your experience. “If there’s something that scares you, sit down and … think about how you’re going to present it in the best possible way,” says Pamela Skillings, CEO of BigInterview.com, an interview training website.
If there is an empty time on your resume when you were not employed, think about what you earned during that time. Perhaps you learned important life skills or experienced personal growth that you can present as assets. For example:
- If you travel, you could talk about what you learned from exploring new cultures and how you would bring those insights into your work.
- If you are caring for a child or loved one, you can discuss how the experience has shaped you and given you new perspectives.
““If there’s something that scares you, sit down and… think about how you’re going to present it in the best possible way.”“
Be prepared to address any gaps in your knowledge or experience. If the job description mentions something you’re not completely familiar with, read up on the topic until you feel comfortable discussing it at length. If the job description has requirements that you don’t have direct work experience with, think about what you’ve done at work or elsewhere in your life that shows you have the necessary skills. If a job requires previous management experience and you’ve never been a line manager, you may have led a project, mentored and trained colleagues, or filled in for your boss while they were away.
If, after carefully considering your work experience, you still have a gap that you can’t fill, admit it and be prepared to talk about how you would learn that skill on the job.
“Redirecting and Reframing. Point out some of the positives that will ease any worries,” Ms. Skillings says.
3. Practice answering the interview questions in advance.
Explore some of the leading interview questions you may be asked.
“Practice is key,” says Ms. Skillings. “A lot of smart people don’t do it because they feel uncomfortable, but it makes a huge difference.” Practicing speaking up for yourself is important at every level of your career. Even senior executives who are “great communicators” sometimes struggle to speak up for themselves, she says.
You’ve already compiled a list of all the reasons why you’re a great fit for the role. Now is the time to synthesize and communicate them. If you can’t find someone to practice with, do it in front of a mirror or record a video of yourself. If you don’t like to talk about your own accomplishments, focus on communicating, clearly and effectively, why your skills and experience meet each role requirement. Practicing helps you identify anything that might distract from the essence of what you have to say.
Top tip: Watch how you present yourself. If there’s anything you don’t feel completely comfortable with, now is the time to look into it. If this is your posture, practice sitting up. If you notice a distracting habit, such as playing with your hair or fidgeting, pay attention to it and try to avoid it. Find an alternative place for your hands, for example on the table.
Be authentic. A May 2020 study found that people who behave authentically during a job interview do better overall than those who try to meet the interviewer’s interests and expectations. That’s because it takes a lot of mental energy to try to be someone you’re not, which ends up increasing anxiety and can ruin your efforts to create a positive, authentic relationship with your interviewer.
4. Prepare for your final job interview.
Write down some thoughtful questions and be prepared to ask them during or at the end of the interview.
Plan how you will appear at the interview. Keep your outfit classic, clean, and comfortable so the focus remains on what you’re saying, not what you’re wearing.
To combat nerves, visualize a successful interview. Many top athletes use this technique before a big match to focus and reaffirm their positive outlook. Some CEOs also believe that the technique helps them achieve their goals.
5. Keep the conversation going after the interview.
Sending a thank you email after the interview can set you apart from other applicants. This is also your opportunity to reiterate why you would be great for the role.
If your interviewer agrees and you get a job offer, congratulations first! Then pause and assess whether the offer meets your expectations. Do your research, know what’s important to you—from salary to vacation to other benefits—and resist the offer. Use our guide to the dos and don’ts of successful negotiations.
- Attitude: The New Psychology of Success In this book, Carol S. Dweck describes the power of attitude to unlock success in work, school, and life.
- Biginterview.com This website offers video training and tools to practice AI-driven virtual interviews.
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