This blog post is the fourth of a 5-part series titled “What You Need to Know to Crack the Interview.” Our career expert, Sadie Guzman, will explore the job search process from start to finish to make sure you are fully prepared to land your next career opportunity. Haven’t read the first blog yet? You may find it here.
What You Need to Know to Crack the Interview
Picture this: You have been applying to jobs for a while now. You’ve received some rejections and have been ghosted by a few companies. But, finally, you get your first interview email! You are equally excited and nervous, and that’s perfectly normal. This blog will break down how to approach the interview process to set you up for success. From preparing ahead of time to the steps to take post-interview, we’ve got you covered.
Before the Interview
The first thing to do when preparing for an interview is research. You will want to research:
(1) the company
(2) the industry
(3) the people who will be interviewing you
(4) the salary
Go beyond just the company’s website and look into their social media, their new developments, and if they have been in the news. You can use tools like Glassdoor, Comparably, and LinkedIn to conduct your research. You will also want to research the industry you are entering, especially if it’s new to you, and know what’s happening in the company’s line of business. Make sure to learn a little bit about the people involved in the interview process, too; most of the interview comes down to connecting with your interviewers, so you will want to be as prepared as possible. Good recruiters or interviewers are looking for people who would be good “cultural adds” to their company, people they could see themselves working alongside. When you think of this, it helps take the pressure off; and it’s a great reminder to relax and just have a conversation with your interviewer.
Now let’s talk about something that makes many people uncomfortable: money. Before any interview, you should be prepared to discuss your salary expectations. To be prepared for that, you will need to do your research. Figure out the average salary for the role you are seeking and where you will be based. A tool I recommend is Payscale, as it allows you to input your degrees, years of experience, and more. Based on that information, it will provide you with how much you should expect to make for the role you are seeking. Your interviewer will most likely ask what your salary expectations are in the first interview. If they don’t, it’s perfectly fine to ask the salary range for the role by the end of the first interview. Old advice stated that you should wait for the interviewer to bring it up, but your time is too valuable to wait until the final interview to hear the salary range. Why waste your time only to find out that it’s not within the range you had in mind? It’s better to know such an important factor upfront.
After you have completed your research, it’s time to start preparing for questions. The best way to predict what the questions will be about in the interview is to look at the job description. Go line by line and examine what types of questions they could ask you based on the qualifications they are seeking. This is a great way to start your preparation!
Of course, you will probably get asked many of the traditional interview questions, like: “Tell me about yourself,” or “Why do you want to work here?” So, make sure to prepare for these common interview questions as well. You will also want to spend a large amount of time preparing for behavioral-based questions. Recruiters use these questions to learn about how you handled situations in the past and to predict how you will handle them in the future. An example of a behavioral-based question is, “Tell me about a time when you led a team.” For these types of questions, you will want to focus on the S.T.A.R. method, which your interviewers will be looking for in your responses. S.T.A.R. stands for situation, task, action, and result. You will use this to guide your story, mainly focusing on the action and the result. This method helps you stay on track, keeps your answer concise, and helps your interviewer follow along.
You will also want to review your resume. You should know your resume from top to bottom without having to look at it. This is important, as you will want to provide different examples from your experiences instead of just repeating the same stories. Try jotting down examples as you prepare, such as all the times you have worked in a team, big projects you are proud of, your strengths, times you failed, and more. If you can recall and use different relevant examples for these and other similar scenarios, you will have great content for your interviews.
Finally, as you prepare for your interview, you will want to think about your appearance. It’s always better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. Typically, you will want to wear a two-piece suit unless the company or culture dictates otherwise. If you have a virtual interview, you will also want to ensure you have a quiet, distraction-free environment, good lighting in front of you, and a clean background.
During the Interview
The best thing you can do during the interview is be confident. This is, of course, easier said than done. Whatever you need to do to make yourself comfortable before the interview, make sure you do that! Maybe you will want to listen to your favorite music right before or go for a run. If you set yourself up to feel at your best, you will perform at your best.
Trying to connect with your interviewers is important as well. As mentioned previously, interviewers look for people who will fit within their company; everyone wants to work with friendly, warm individuals. Call your interviewers by their names, make a joke, smile, laugh, and just have a cordial conversation. At the end of the day, they won’t remember exactly what you said, but they will remember how the conversation felt.
When your interview is almost over, make sure to ask a few questions you want to know the answers to. These could be about the company culture, what projects you would be working on, or the career progression for the role. Having a list of five questions you could ask is always a good idea. The last question you will want to ask is what the next steps are in the interview process, which is very important! Let’s say the recruiter states that you will hear back within a week. If you still haven’t heard back after the week has passed, you can follow up. Knowing the timeline helps you understand what to expect but also helps to keep the recruiter accountable, giving you the opportunity to ask for updates as needed.
After the Interview
Phew, the pressure is off! Just make sure to follow up with a thank-you email within 24 hours after your interview. Don’t send it right away, as that can come across as too pushy or desperate, but as long as you send it within 24 hours, this will help your application. Make sure to mention something you enjoyed learning about or discussing in your interview. The company may be conducting many interviews, so this can help keep your candidacy top of mind.
You can also connect with the recruiter on LinkedIn. Even if you don’t end up landing the role, they might keep you in mind for future opportunities within the company.
After you’ve sent your thank-you email, all there is left to do is wait. Most people critique their interview performance, but you probably performed better than you gave yourself credit for. Just be confident, and remember: You gave it your best shot, and that’s all you can control. The rest is up to your interviewers and a little bit of fate. In the final blog of this series, we will discuss the steps to take after you land the job.
Sadie Guzman is a Corporate Recruiter and has over seven years of experience supporting job seekers to achieve their career goals. She is passionate about hiring trends, recruiting best practices, and demystifying job search myths. She considers herself an advocate for those seeking employment. In her free time, Sadie loves traveling, spending time with her husband and Pomeranian, and playing in an adult kickball league!
Connect with Sadie on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sadieguzman/