The Ultimate Interview Prep Guide: 25 Steps to Ace Your Interview
Congratulations – you got the call and you’ve landed the interview! Now it’s time to show and prove!
Interviews are nerve wracking but acing one is not complicated. Interview success boils down to four factors: (1) Preparation and Reconnaissance; (2) Personal Impression; (2) Corporate Compatibility; and finally (4) Subject Matter Knowledge.
Our four-part Ultimate Interview Prep series breaks down the nitty gritty of a successful interview process so that you can give it all you’ve got and, if they’re smart, get hired!
Interview Preparation and Reconnaissance.
- Pull Yourself Together. Please, take the pressure off of yourself. Relax and be practical; the job market is competitive and you will live to interview another day if they are not smart enough to hire you. Having said that, you made it through the first stage and most candidates did not – they are interested, so you are going to give it all you’ve got!
- “Interview and Forget It.” Say it again, “Interview and Forget It.” Say it again like you mean it! This is your new interview mantra, from this day forward. You should be excited, but you should also be strong enough to let it go when the interview is done so that you have the mental energy to hammer out more job applications. Your goal now is to have a successful interview – to show up, impress and leave nothing on the table. Whether you receive an offer or not is out of your hands once you shake the hand to leave. Have a successful interview, leave the building, pump your mental fist, and say to yourself…
- Recon Your Interview Peeps. They’ve called and/or emailed to invite you to interview. Under no circumstances should you ever walk into an interview blind without knowing who you are interviewing with. Many employers will proactively provide you with your interview contact information, but if not, be sure to ask.
Simply ask “May I ask with whom I will interview please so that I can be as prepared as possible?” Did you see what you just did? One, you demonstrated that you interested enough to ask who you are meeting with; two, you demonstrated courtesy; and three, you let it be known that you care about being prepared. You continue to impress!
So, you have the name of you interviewer – now what? You are on a mission to uncover who this person is. Where did they graduate from? How long have they been with the company? Have they published articles – what’s their viewpoint? Do they do volunteer work? You are on a reconnaissance mission to demystify this person who may hold a bit of your future with the company in their hands. Get busy on Google and recon, recon, recon! The more you know about the person who is charged with drilling you with questions, the less anxious you will be when you meet them. You may also find some common interests that could benefit you during the interview (more on corporate compatibility in Part III of the Ultimate Interview Prep Guide Series). You might even discover something that lessens your interest in working for or with this person…
- Connect. Take a look through LinkedIn and your Alumnae resources to spot anyone with whom you can connect who currently or formerly works at your prospective company. Contact them with a courteous email and ask if they have a moment to chat about the organization because you are preparing for an interview. This will boost your confidence and ability to demonstrate that you are a good fit, and who knows, your contact may even put in a good word for you (but don’t ask them to).
- Recon Your Interview Location. Some of the stress associated with an interview comes with the lack of familiarity with the physical environment within which you will interview. So, conduct a dry run. If possible, visit the interview location on the day of the week and time of the interview. Time yourself, so that when the day comes, you are confident about your commute. Step inside of the building. Is it secured access? Is there building security where you have to check in? Take a look around, soak it in. Notice how people are dressed? Is it clamoring or quiet? Do you like the vibe? Get comfortable, you will be back soon to show them what you’ve got!
- Thank You Very Much. We’ve noticed that handwritten and timely thank you notes get people’s attention. Distinguish yourself with something that is really easy to do – send a personal, handwritten thank you delivered by old fashioned snail mail. It will be much appreciated and not forgotten soon. Your thank you will be your last “…and this is why you should hire me” reminder. It matters. Your local convenience store has reasonably priced boxed thank you cards – choose either white of cream with either black or blue lettering. You can also order personalized note cards as well from a stationery store. Have the cards almost completely written, addressed and stamped. Finish them off after the interview to add an interview specific touch, and drop it in the mail on the same day you interview and before you get home. Now, “Interview and Forget It.”
- The 48-Hour Rule. Do not, repeat, do not wait until the day before your interview to lay out your clothes, shoes, accessories, hard copy resumes, etc… If something can go wrong, it will and you need to give yourself enough time to adjust without panicking. Two days before your interview, settle on your outfit, get your hair cut, etc… Print two hard copy resumes – sure you submitted yours electronically, but you’d be surprised by how many hiring staff still ask for one. A hard copy will also help you if you are asked to complete an application on site.
Remember, there are no secrets to success, preparation and hard work are key. Prepare and work hard through every stage of the interview process and you will have done everything possible to maximize your chances of getting hired. Part II of the Ultimate Interview Prep Guide – Personal Impressions, next.
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