Prepare for an Interview

Prepare for an Interview

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  1. Learners will be able to research companies and roles prior to an interview.
  2. Learners will be able to respond to interview questions.
  3. Learners will be able to describe what it means to show up prepared for an interview.

After you’ve submitted applications for jobs, hiring managers will reach out to schedule interviews. While these might be in person or over a communication software like Zoom, preparing for them will follow similar steps. In this lesson, you’ll learn about preparing for interviews, from doing research, to practicing answering questions, to what you need to bring and wear.

When you prepare for an interview, what steps do you think are necessary?

Research the Company and the Role

Before you go in for a job interview, it’s important to learn as much as you can about the role you’re applying for. Not only does learning about the company help you determine if you’re a good fit for the role; it also helps you prepare to explain to your interviewer why you’re the best candidate. Here are a few ways you can gather information before your interview.

Review the Job Description

When companies list a position, they usually include a job description. As you read, pay special attention to details like duties and responsibilities, physical demands, and qualifications. Then, make a list of reasons you would be a good candidate for the position. Try it using the job description below from Indeed.

After reviewing the job posting, answer the following. 1. What are three reasons you would be a strong candidate for this position? 2. How could you bring up these strengths in an interview?

Research the Company

Once you’ve taken the time to review the job posting, you should also learn more about the company where you’re applying. Hiring managers are looking for candidates who can explain why they want to work for them, and knowing the company’s values is a great way to show your interest.

Try it! Visit the Aldi pages linked below, then answer the following. 1. What do you think Aldi values as a corporation? 2. What do you think Aldi would say makes them different from other grocery stores? 3. How do Aldi’s values align with your values?

By learning about the job and the company before you go in for your interview, you’ll be better prepared to answer the interviewer’s questions. Remember, they’re hiring you for a specific job, and it’s up to you to show them why you’d be a good fit.

Prepare to Answer Interview Questions

After you learn about the company and what they’re looking for in an employee, you can start to organize all the details you’ll need to answer interview questions. While all job interviews can look different, there are a few questions you should be prepared to answer.

A woman on screen with question bubbles around her

1. Tell me about yourself.

When you answer this question, remember the context - you’re interviewing for a job, not introducing yourself at a party. It’s appropriate to mention professional details, like where you’ve worked before, education, and other reasons you might be qualified. It’s also okay to mention one or two personal details that might make you memorable, but your focus here should be work-related.

Instead of: My name is Joann and I’m a Pisces. My favorite food is pizza, and I have seven cats.

Try: My name is Joann and I’m a certified welder. I studied Welding at Beaufort County Community College and I’ve been running my own business for the last four years. I also have a dog that I like to take on walks in my free time.

Try it! Tell me about yourself.

2. Why do you want to work here?

This is your chance to use all your research that you’ve gathered on the company and the position. Describe company values you identify with, and job tasks and responsibilities you’d be good at. Be specific, and make sure it’s clear that you know what you’re interviewing for.

Instead of: I just really need this job and the pay is decent.

Try: When I was looking at job postings, I knew I didn’t want to sit at a desk all day, so yours caught my eye. I noticed that there’s a requirement to be able to lift 50 pounds, which I am very comfortable with. When looking at your website, I also noticed that your organization has a commitment to being a more environmentally friendly company, which I liked.

3. What are your strengths/weaknesses?

You should be prepared to talk about your strengths - you should still have results from your strengths assessment in the first lesson of this course. Instead of just listing off a bunch of strengths, try to think of an example of a time that strength was utilized.

Instead of: One of my strengths is my love of learning.

Try: One of my strengths is my love of learning. Recently I’ve been trying to learn more about technology. I took an online course on Microsoft Excel and I even used it to create a budget spreadsheet for my family.

It can be harder to talk about your weaknesses than your strengths. It’s okay to answer this question honestly, but make sure you acknowledge that it’s an area of growth for you that you’re actively working on.

Instead of: My weakness is that I care too much about work.

Try: Sometimes, when I am in a hurry to meet a deadline, I can lose sight of small details. Lately, it’s been really helpful for me to organize my tasks ahead of time and make checklists to ensure that everything meets the standard of quality I expect from myself.

Try it! What is your biggest weakness?

4. Tell me about a time...

Behavioral interview questions where you’re asked to describe a specific situation are very common. While your experiences will vary, it’s important to be thorough in your response, and describe not just the situation, but also how you responded to it and what you achieved. The STAR Method is one strategy you can use to answer these questions.

  • Situation: Think about the who, what, when, and where.
  • Task: Describe what needed to be done and what you were responsible for in the situation.
  • Action: How did you complete the task or solve the problem?
  • Results: What did you achieve by taking action in the situation?

When answering these questions, keep in mind that you’re sharing your ability to respond to certain situations, not airing grievances about previous employers. Share stories that highlight you and your strengths.

For example, tell me about a time when you made a mistake at work:

My first job out of high school, I worked as a cashier at a clothing store, and one day, a woman came in to buy over $200 worth of gift cards. She wanted to pay with a Visa gift card, but it wouldn’t swipe and I had to manually enter the number. Even though the transaction seemed suspicious, I did and she left with the gift cards. Later on, my manager asked me about it, and I learned that I had fallen for a common scam. I felt terrible about not knowing better, but I was honest with my manager and took responsibility for not asking for help when I needed it. The experience taught me that you’re not expected to know everything at a new job, but it’s important to know when to ask for help instead of just trying to do everything yourself.

Try it! Tell me about a time when you led a team.

5. Do you have any questions?

When you are interviewed for a job, it’s also your chance to ask any questions you might have about the position or the company. At the end of the interview, it’s common for the hiring manager to ask if you have any questions for them. You should prepare two or three open-ended questions ahead of time, although you might think of new ones during the interview. Here are some examples of questions you could ask.

  • What is a typical day like in this role?
  • What do you like most about working here?
  • What skills do you think are most important to success in this role?
  • Does the company provide any on-the-job training or continuing education?

Show Up Prepared

By doing your research in advance, you’ll be ready to answer questions, but it’s important to make a good impression from the moment you walk in the door. Here are a few ways you can put your best foot forward.

Be On Time

Showing up on time for an interview is a great way to show the interviewer that you’re serious about the job. For an in-person interview, make sure you know where you’re going. Look up directions ahead of time, and think about any traffic patterns that could be a factor. When planning your transportation, be sure to err on the side of caution - it’s better to be early than to make a hiring manager wait.

If your interview is over the phone or a video call, make sure the technology works ahead of time. Organize any links or numbers the interviewer sends you in advance so you can find them easily the day of your interview, and give yourself plenty of time to log on.

An alarm clock, a digital clock, and a watch

Dress for Success

Putting effort into your appearance is another way to show the interviewer that you’re serious about the job.

While the dress code may vary depending on the position, you should always display good hygiene when interviewing for a job. Brush your teeth and shower before the interview, and make sure your clothes are clean and free of holes and wrinkles.

An easy way to figure out how formally you should dress is to think about dressing one level above what you normally wear for work. If you work in a casual field where you might normally wear jeans, consider wearing business casual attire, like khakis or dress pants and a nice shirt. If you work in a more formal environment where you would wear business attire, you should consider wearing a suit for the interview. The graphic below shows a few options.

Interview clothing guidelines for business professional and business casual settings

Be Mindful of Your Body Language

Finally, when you show up for your interview, think about your non-verbal communication. Before you ever say a word, your posture, gestures, and facial expressions send a message. Even though you might feel nervous, here are a few tips to project confidence from the time you walk in the room.

  1. Be aware of nervous habits: It can be hard to avoid nail chewing, bouncing legs, and hair twirling in a stressful situation, but do your best to avoid the behaviors during your interview.
  2. Think about your posture: Keeping your shoulders back and your chin up can help you look more confident. It can also keep you from looking like you don’t care.
  3. Use your body language to show you're listening: Put on a friendly, open expression, lean forward, and nod when appropriate so the interviewer can tell you're interested in what they have to say.
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