It’s a new year, with so many new possibilities. If getting a job, or a new job, is on your radar, make sure you know exactly what to expect when you get an interview! If this is your first time finding a job or you have been out of the job market for a while, it’s easy to forget how an interview is really conducted. Let’s make sure you’re ready!
First and foremost, your perspective about your interview will help frame your performance. If you view your interview as a conversation between two people, you’re on the right track! Your interviewer could be an expert in the field, the manager of a restaurant, or simply someone who works in human resources! Therefore, it is important to always remember that you and your interviewer are simply two (sometimes more) people having a conversation.
How an interview is conducted will depend on what job you apply for. However, there are some pieces that you can count on for each and every interview! It usually goes a little something like this:
Sometimes, preparing for an interview is the most difficult part. With anxiety about the interview, uncertainty on how you will perform, what questions will be asked, and so forth, it’s no wonder you don’t want to think about it! However, walking into the room (or Zoom), feeling confident is one of the most important things you can do. There are so many things that you can do to get ready. Whether it is the night before or the morning of, here are some different things that will help you for your interview!
Whether in person or virtual, what you wear to an interview can really dictate how you will perform. If you dress well (comfortably and appropriately), you will feel better about your future performance. This confidence will shine through! Your interviewer will see your confidence and be more confident in hiring you. Clothing is seen as a sign of respect, as well. Show your interviewer that you respect them and yourself! Opt for breathable clothing (goodbye, sweat stains) such as cotton underneath a professional top, such as a blazer. You can’t go wrong with pants and a blazer, no matter what your style! Learn how to dress for success with our blog. Set your clothes out the night before to make sure they are clean and ready to go.
Getting adequate sleep is important, whether you are interviewing or not! Make sure to get lots of rest the night before your interview so that your brain stays as sharp and focused as possible. Avoid alcohol and coffee the night prior, and set as many alarms as you need to to make sure you get up in time to relax and get ready for your interview. Try putting on some soothing music that will help your brain get to rest, or try a white noise soundtrack! Sleep is essential to giving your brain all of the power it needs to perform well, so whatever your strategy is, make sure you get some good rest – sleep tight!
Brain food is essential before an interview! Whatever food makes you feel full and focused, make sure to have that on hand. Coffee or tea the morning of your interview is also a good choice, but make sure not to drink too much to avoid the jitters. Superfoods like berries, spinach, and avocado can go well with any breakfast or meal. Try to stay away from too much sugar to avoid a sugar crash later on. Definitely avoid anything that might make your stomach hurt or give you any trouble later on! (We’re looking at you, dairy.)
Some people say that you can’t really prepare for an interview, because you don’t know what questions will be asked. Believe it or not, this is wrong! You can absolutely prepare for an interview and anticipate how it will be conducted. All you need to do is practice! Practicing common interview questions will help you get ready for difficult questions quickly and confidently. There are multiple parts to an interview. Depending on the job you are interviewing for, there will likely be an introduction phase, a behavioral phase, and a competency phase. Make sure you are familiar with all common interview questions in each category.
Another way to prepare for an interview other than answering questions and getting ready is to do your research. If you understand more about the company – their missions, values, goals, and culture – you set yourself apart from the rest of the candidates. By demonstrating your ability to go the extra mile, the interviewer or hiring manager is more likely to remember you and your interview. A simple online search of the company will tell you everything you need to know. From the way they present themselves online or on social media to deeper factors of their company culture, you’ll know so much more! During your interview, bring up some of these items that you researched so that you can share what you know.
Waiting for your interview to start can be very nerve-wracking. Take this time before your interview walks in (or before you jump on the call) to go over your resume, take some deep breaths, and try out some power poses! Your interview could be conducted in a variety of ways, so think about some of the scenarios beforehand, so you know what to expect. When your interviewer walks in, stand up! Make sure to shake their hand and make direct eye contact.
The first part of your interview will just be introductions. Remember, you are interviewing the company and the position just as much as they are interviewing you! Don’t forget this as your interview is conducted.
After the initial introduction, the interviewer will likely ask you questions to get to know you a little bit better. Some of these questions may include “tell me about yourself” and “what are your strengths and weaknesses?” They may seem like difficult questions to answer, but don’t worry! The interviewer is trying to gauge what you are like and if you might be a good fit for the company. If you think of this part of the interview as simply getting to know the other person, like a conversation, you’ll appear more confident during your answer.
By simply getting familiar with some of these introductory interview questions and how we answer them, you’ll feel so much better about your interview while it is conducted. Read up on the most common questions, and develop a cheat sheet for what you want to say to some of these questions.
Here are some other introductory interview questions that you can prepare for!
Body language is another really important part of any interview. Your body language says as much about you as your resume, if not more!
Try to make eye contact with the interviewer as much as you can. This is one of the really hard parts of an interview! However, making eye contact actually instills trust and respect in the person you are speaking with, so it is important to practice and remember to do so.
Sit up straight, pull your shoulders back, and take a deep breath. This is how you should be sitting throughout your interview! Sitting with good posture during your interview will allow for deeper, calmer breathing and appropriate blood flow to your brain.
Do your best not to fidget during your interview. If you do need to move around and get the blood flowing, take a few sips of water, breathe in deeply, and stretch your legs under the table. Avoid touching your face or hair or moving around in your seat too much.
Of course, your body language isn’t the only thing that really matters! Practice speaking professionally with other people around you so that you can avoid saying “um” or pausing for too long. It’s a great way to develop good practices and break bad habits!
You should also avoid using slang words or abbreviations when you are speaking professionally. For instance, saying “lol” out loud is probably not the best thing to do!
How your interview is conducted depends largely upon what kind of job you are applying for. This section of the interview is sometimes referred to as the “behavioral” phase. That means the interviewer is trying to gauge how you will behave in certain situations. If you are applying for a job in the service industry, for instance, at a restaurant, the questions your interviewer asks will be geared towards your behavior as an employee in a restaurant.
The behavioral part of an interview sheds light on your – you guessed it – behavior! Think deeply about some of the situations you have been in before and how you behaved before, during, and after them. Understanding your own behavior is the only way that you can share it with someone else.
One of the best ways to highlight your best behavior is using the STAR method. The STAR method outlines your Situation, Task, Action, and Result in any given circumstance. By exploring these key steps, you will be able to show your behavior by telling a story rather than just describing it.
Here are some more behavioral-based interview questions for you to explore:
Competency is a fancy word for “what can you do?” Simply speaking, competency-based interview questions determine if you are qualified for the position! During the interview’s competency portion, you might be asked questions that shed light on what you have done in the past and if you have the right skills for this new job.
When answering these questions, think about your skills and what you can do. Go back and read the job description! Ensure that you know the key buzzwords, and mention them. For instance, if you are interviewing for a position at a restaurant, some of the buzzwords might include things like time management, working under pressure, dealing with difficult people. This will show that one, you understand the job description and two, you are qualified for this job!
We’ve provided some of the questions that might be asked during this section of the interview. Think about how you might answer them and how it will demonstrate that you have the skills they are looking for!
After your interview is conducted, you’re going to feel a lot of relief! Being able to move on from that stressful moment is great. However, you are not done yet! It is very important to make sure that you follow up with your interviewer after the interview itself. Within two weeks after your interview, send a note to the interviewer to follow-up with the results. Whether you got the job or not, you want to know!
A simple email is a great way to follow-up after your interview. However, adding a thank-you note specifically is essential to fully and successfully completing your interview. A thank you note should either be a handwritten note, delivered to your interviewer in person or by mail, or it can also be a detailed email thanking them for their time. No matter how your interview is conducted, it is very important to thank the interviewer for their time.