So you have (or anticipate) a job interview and you’re wondering how to knock it out of the park, right? Depending on why you applied, a lot may be riding on this position.
Maybe you’re absolutely miserable in your current position. Maybe you need an increase in pay to pay off debt. Or, maybe you’re just ready to jump back into the workforce. Either way, you only get one shot to sell yourself in a job interview and it’s imperative that you leave your mark!
I’ve had my fair share of denials, but once I learned the tricks of the trade I was able to ace two major interviews. I confidently walked out of each one knowing that the position was mine…and I promoted both times!
Here are 5 tips on how to prepare for a job interview.
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Read the entire job description
It’s so tempting to skim through a job posting. We often go straight to the requirements, verify that we meet the minimum and click apply.
I’ve done it.
You’ve done it.
We’ve all done it.
STOP doing it.
You’re seriously doing yourself a disservice when you skip out on reading the entire posting. Why? The minimum requirements may not list everything you need to successfully carry out the job functions. Then, when you get to your interview you’re hit with a question you weren’t expecting!
The job description gives you a better feel for what your day to day will look like as you will know exactly what is to be expected of you in that role.
Write down all of your skills and accomplishments
As you receive recognition at work, be sure to document it. This will be your “bragging sheet” and can be kept on anything from a notepad to (preferably) a Word document.
When you write down all of your accomplishments and skills you’re jogging your memory on what you’ve done and how you’ve utilized your skills. This way, when you’re asked a question you’re not drawing a blank.
As you prepare for your job interview, you can easily weed out the skills and accomplishments you really want to highlight from those that do not pertain to the position.
Your list will also help when making practice questions. If you can’t think of many potential questions, write down the stories you feel would best showcase that you’re the right fit for the job. These should be stories in which you:
- Gave exceptional service
- Lead a project
- Learned a new skill
- Made an innovative improvement
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Make practice questions
It’s stomach-churning to get to into an interview and draw a blank. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen!
After you’ve read the entire job posting, you should have a pretty good idea of what questions the interviewer might ask you. You don’t have to wait until you get an interview to start writing these down. If you’re feeling ambitious, start working on your questions as soon as you hit submit. This way, your answers will already be prepared.
I did it before two big interviews, and I had plenty of time to perfect my responses!
Here’s how to make practice questions:
- Print out the job posting.
- Highlight all of the requirements.
- Read through the description (may be labeled as “duties” or “responsibilities”), highlighting everything you believe you will need to showcase during the interview.
Let’s look at a job posting I found for a USPS Distribution Associate.
A snippet of the description reads:
From the two highlighted responsibilities, you know that you will be handling purchases and returns, as well as informing customers about products. You can turn these duties into potential questions.
A snippet of the requirements reads:
You can turn each requirement into a practice question, or just the ones you believe are most important.
When you’re done, edit your answers at least once to clean them up and make them more precise.
Sidenote: Don’t be afraid to talk about a time in which an outcome wasn’t desirable. Maybe you failed or couldn’t help someone. Employers love to hear about what you’ve learned and how you would do things differently.
Answer your questions using the STAR technique
The goal of the interviewer is to hire the right person. An interview is like a test drive to see if you will be able to do the job and if you’re a good fit for the company.
You want to leave a major impact after answering each question that will hopefully leave them falling out of their seats (in their minds). Answers should be thorough and as specific as possible, describing what you did and the end result.
If the interviewer immediately asks additional questions after you respond, you can pretty much bet that your answer wasn’t as thorough as it should have been.
A good tip that I received from an HR rep is that they don’t want to pull teeth. Contrarily, they don’t want to listen to you ramble either. Like Goldie Locks, not too much, not too little—make it just right.
Using the STAR technique, especially when you have a behavioral-based interview, results in a thorough response that showcases your skills.
Situation. This is the background of your story. Start off by describing the who, what, when, where, and how.
Task. Describe your task/responsibility in the situation. Include any challenges or constraints you had such as a deadline.
Action. This is when you describe the specific actions that you took to complete the task. They don’t care about what your co-worker or supervisor did so stay focused on you!
Result. Wrap up your answer by giving the result of your efforts. Be sure to include the things that you learned and how those involved (team, customer, etc.) responded. If the outcome wasn’t desirable, describe what you would do differently next time.
Read your practice answers out loud
If you’re someone who gets nervous and stumbles over your words, reciting your answers beforehand will have you speaking with confidence. You can fine-tune your voice inflection and really make your answers stick.
To take it up a notch, record yourself when you practice your answers. I know, the sound of your voice makes you cringe, but I swear by this technique!
Pretend that your recording device is the interviewer, making eye contact as you speak. Your recordings make it easier to pinpoint what needs improvement and you can measure your progress by comparing videos. I did this to prepare for my first job big interview and was able to correct my lack of eye contact and tweak tone patterns to sound more enthusiastic. Worked like a charm!
Bring a portfolio of your work
Depending on the type of work you’re applying for, a portfolio that showcases your skills could be the one thing that separates you from other applicants.
A portfolio shows that you took the time to prepare for the job interview and are ready to prove your qualifications. It should include what you deem to be the most important work samples, along with a printed copy of your resume. This can be a binder, folder, or website.
For both of my job positions, I bought a portfolio and was actually told that I was the only one that presented copies of my work! I chose to use a hardcover binder and placed my papers into clear paper sleeves for extra protection.
Check out this post for additional help building your portfolio.
Knowing how to properly prepare for a job interview will make or break your chances of snagging the job you desire. Utilize these 6 tips and step into the room with confidence!