“Congratulations, we would like to schedule a time to speak with you about your skills and background.”
Hopefully in the instance you receive messages like this one, you’ve opened up a tab in your browser and you’ve immediately begun looking at the company website (again) and started scouring various other sites to find some information on how to prepare for this upcoming interview.
Regardless of whether conversation comes naturally to you or you’re an experienced interviewee who has polished answers to all the “classic” questions—preparing for your interview is crucial for making a great impression and ultimately receiving an offer.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you prepare for every step of your interview process:
Know HOW to describe past experiences
Although you might remember all the places you’ve worked, projects you’ve been a part of, and different tasks you’ve completed, it’s important to sift through that information and pick relevant experiences. Through prep work at home, you can determine which accomplishments deserve mentioning, and practice describing them succinctly and out loud. By doing this, you can avoid rambling and sharing superfluous information about irrelevant day-to-day tasks or your use of inapplicable technologies or skills.
What constitutes as relevant information:
- Any previous tasks accomplished that are similar to the job duties of this new role
- Any leadership positions held, whether you’ve led teams or led projects
- Any measurable accomplishments or projects in which you’ve had greater impact
- Any situation in which you’ve streamlined a process
- Any accomplishment, beyond base duties, that led to a long-term effect
- The STAR method also offers a great template for organizing responses.
Non-verbal communication is key
A phone screen cannot demonstrate non-verbal communication skills. Preparation for an initial phone screen does not negate the necessity to also prepare for in-person or video interviews.
Self-Awareness goes a long way!
- Eye contact is pertinent. This includes blinking too much or too little, shifting gaze often, and certainly lacking eye-contact altogether. Eye contact with every single person in the interview room is vital as well.
- Hands can speak loudly, too. I don’t just mean if you’re the type to wave your hands around; be wary if you’re the type of person who sits and rubs their hands together or keeps their hands too stiff and clenched, etc. Playing with jewelry or watches or suit cuffs can be distracting as well.
- Hair can get in the way of conversation. You don’t want to be constantly brushing hair out of your face, or even touching it at all during an interview. Make sure your hair is styled in a way that will avoid distractions.
- Be cognizant of shaky feet and bouncing knees. Moving your legs and feet can be distracting during an interview both for yourself and the other people in the room. If you tend to bounce your knee when you’re nervous, be sure to practice delivering responses with your legs in a relaxed position.
Gracefully flow between multiple rounds and group interviews
Oftentimes, interviewing for a position may require meeting with different people at different times or a group of people all at once. Here’s what you should know about each situation:
- Second interview with a single hiring manager: This meeting is a continuation of a conversation in process. It’s important to be able to allow and help facilitate a smooth extension of that ongoing discussion.
- Follow-up interview with a different hiring manager: In this situation, you’re meeting with a completely new stranger and beginning conversations from scratch with that particular individual. Prepare as you did for the first interview, and as if this is a new interview altogether—introduce yourself and speak as if this person does not know you, because they don’t. Do not assume notes were shared from the previous hiring manager and discussed you as a candidate. Go in with a fresh start. You can still ensure continuity in conversation between both managers by saying things along the lines of, “I discussed ____ with [the first hiring manager], but also wanted to share with you that I ____.”
- Group Interview: An interview with multiple hiring managers is not the same as interviewing with one person alone. Ability to introduce yourself and make eye contacts with multiple parties will be key. If one person asks the question, direct answers to them, but also make sure to address your answer to everyone in the room.
Prepare for casual interviews
An interview over lunch or in any other “chill/relaxed” environment is still an interview, nonetheless. Preparation and a list of questions are still necessary for enabling organic, relevant, and productive conversations.
Rehearse with friends or a recruiter
If you’re working with a good recruiter or career professional, you should be able to review your resume with them and practice some form of mock interview so that they can give you feedback on how you present yourself and in which areas you can improve.
If you’re not working with a recruiter, there are other ways to practice interviewing. Friends, family, or roommates are great sounding boards and can ask you some questions as well to hear how you’ll respond. You can specifically ask them to listen to your fillers (pauses, “um,” “uh,” “so yeah,” “like”), to watch for non-verbal communication style, or to even practice shaking hands.
And if all else fails, recording yourself and playing that video/voice recording back (cringe, I know) to identify areas that need improvement will help as well.
Get a good night’s sleep!
Saying these things aren’t meant to scare you if you’re currently preparing for interviews. At the end of the day, you made it this far (whether you’ve secured a time-slot for your first interview or you’ve scheduled your ninth interview in the nine-step interview process). After you put in some good prep, make sure to also take some time for self-care, relaxation, and a good night’s sleep!