Going for a job interview soon? After sending tons of resumes to companies, you are probably very excited to land this interview opportunity.
But now you might be stuck at the thought of: “How do I even start preparing for the interview?”
This guide has been specially crafted to help you through the entire job interview process: from prior preparation of interview questions, to the interview itself, and other post-interview tips.
The objective of this guide is to help you present yourself in the best way possible during interviews, and give you the best chance to ace them!
Are you ready to prepare for your interview? Let's get started!
Writer’s note: Be sure to stick till the end of the article for a bonus interview checklist.
I had always thought that writing resumes and cover letters were the toughest parts of a job application. This was until I had this encounter at a job interview:
I was having a phone interview with an E-Commerce company, and everything was going pretty smoothly. I thought I was prepared for most of the commonly-asked interview questions and delivered them well.
Towards the end of the interview, the interviewer suddenly asked:
“Have you tried using our platform?”
Looking to impress, I confidently answered ‘Yes’.
She then followed up by asking about my most and least favourite parts of the platform.
This question definitely caught me off guard. While I have indeed used the platform, I had only used it once, and that happened many years back!
I spewed out generic characteristics of good E-Commerce platforms, but she saw right through it.
Needless to say, I failed to advance to the next round of the interview.
To help you avoid this tragedy, among other pitfalls, this guide will share my strategies and tips to prepare when going for an interview.
Through this guide, you can learn from and avoid my foolish mistakes. You will go to the interview prepared, leave the interview proud and be confident of your performance.
Let’s get started.
Preparation is key.
This tip might sound obvious, but it may surprise you how many people overlook this.
There is a famous saying that goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.
This is especially relevant in the context of job interviews.
The main purpose of interviews is to show how you are the best fit for the role, which then requires a match between two aspects:
To demonstrate this match, you need to have a good understanding of both aspects.
Without a strong preparation and knowledge of the company, other tips and tricks would be of no help.
So in case you did not get that the first time, Preparation is key.
Here’s how you can best prepare for an interview:
As you prepare for an interview, you often will focus on your own achievements, skills and strengths.
Sometimes, you might simply forget to consider the company you have in mind. This is a cardinal sin!
You should definitely not neglect the company you are applying for. Remember how you need to have a match between the company, and yourself?
Keeping this in mind, how can you better understand the company?
What better way to understand a company than to experience the company’s product/service offerings!
Whether it is a retail storefront, online-based business or any other business that allows you to try their offerings, do conduct offline primary research on the company.
As you interact the company’s offerings, take down notes of your reflections of the experience: What you liked and disliked about the products and experience, what you think can be improved, areas that you are especially curious of, etc.
This will give you a good first-hand experience to share with your interviewer.
The interviewer will also be able to feel your authentic interest in the company.
The above advice might not work for larger companies or business-to-business companies, as you might not be able to experience their offerings first-hand.
With the wealth of information available online, you can also do secondary research to find out everything you need to know.
Go through the process of learning about different parts of the business through online secondary research. This can include:
It is definitely useful to demonstrate during the interview that you are up-to-date with the company and industry’s news, to show a keen interest in this role that you are applying for.
By understanding their key value proposition and industry trends, you can engage in a more meaningful conversation with the interviewer. This will clearly show your knowledge and effort put into the interview.
With a comprehensive understanding of the company, you can also better understand how your interests and values align with the company’s values.
Now, you can show that you are a great fit for the company culture!
Special Tip: A very useful way to find all these knowledge about a company is to read the company’s Annual reports! The report will share most of the information mentioned earlier.
Now that you have a good understanding the company, make sure that you have a good understanding of yourself as well.
You might be thinking, “Why do I need to prepare for this? Of course I know myself very well!”
But do you, really?
First, you need to be very clear about your past work experience and their details. Some experiences might have been months or years back, and your memory of them might now be fuzzy.
As you prepare, take time to reflect upon your past work experiences, what you have accomplished, how you accomplished them, and what you have learnt from them.
It is not enough to simply know what your past achievements and highlights were.
When sharing your experiences with potential employers, they tend to scrutinise details and processes.
For example, employers might want to know:
Hence, it is critical to first have a thorough understanding of your own experiences.
Besides your job experiences, another important area you need to be absolutely certain of are the skills you possess and the traits you have.
After going through years of schooling, training and work experience, what are some of the skills you have picked up?
This can include hard skills such as Adobe Photoshop and AutoCAD, or soft skills such as communication and leadership.
Think about the different skills that you possess, and how they might be relevant to the company you are applying for:
Do the skills you have match what they are looking for?
If not, do you have related skills or experiences that can also show that you are up for the job?
Besides skills, another key area that employers are looking out for are traits.
Traits are intangibles that can determine whether you are a good cultural fit with the company. Some common traits that companies look for include:
Take time to also reflect upon the traits you have, and whether they are the right fit with what the company is looking for in a candidate.
After having a complete understanding of both the company and yourself, you are now well equipped to prepare for the interview questions!
With a good understanding of both yourself and the company, are you now good to go?
Well, not quite. Before the interview, you need to take some time to prepare answers for the common interview questions.
Here, a common concern surfaces: “But why? Doesn’t this make our answers very forced and inauthentic?”
Now, think back to your days in school.
When you were younger, did you revise past year papers before each major exam?
Before you went for any competitions, did you go through an endless amount of practice?
This is no different.
It is only smart to have prepared for questions that are commonly asked.
This helps you give you a more confident and comprehensive answer, and helps to leave a better impression as well!
As you prepare for your answers beforehand, it also helps you to evaluate your own achievements and past experiences, and how you can best highlight them to convince the interviewer.
It is a no loss proposition: Great if similar questions are asked during the interview, but no harm done if they are not asked too!
Now that you recognise the importance of preparing for interviewing questions, here are some common interview questions that you can prepare for:
This question is a MUST-PREPARE. Almost every single interviewer likes to start off with this question.
Most candidates start by rattling off all their past experiences in different roles till date. But this can be ineffective as it is not relatable to the interviewer.
Instead of simply listing your experiences, try to tell a story with your experiences so that the listener can better understand.
For example, if you had experience in multiple industries, you could paint a story of being a high-performer that has been open to new learning opportunities in different areas.
Special Tip: Try to find an overarching theme from all your past experiences.
Another important thing to note is that you have to relate your experiences back to the company and the role you are applying for.
Remember, it is not all about you.
After highlighting a previous job experience, try to evaluate how the experience and skills gained can be applied and translated to this job you are applying for.
Ultimately, the interviewer does not want to just know all about you, but rather why you are a good choice for the role.
By showing a clear link, it shows that you have prepared and understood your potential contributions, and helps convince the interviewer that you are a good fit.
This is another common question. Interviewers want to know why you are genuinely interested in the role, outside of plain practical reasons.
Your interest tends to come from 2 main factors:
This is where your previous research on the company all comes in handy.
With good understanding of the company, you can give examples of how they have previously executed strategies that you are excited about. This shows how you have gave thought over the company’s issues beyond the surface level.
You can also talk about the culture of the company, and how the company culture resonates with you. Try to give examples of areas that are unique to the company, and how you will be a good fit for their culture.
You will also need to have an excellent understanding of the job role.
You could be interested because the role was a good fit with the skillset you possess. Here, you will have to emphasise the skillsets you have, and how they are a natural fit with the job requirements.
Another reason the job would have sparked your interest is probably if it was challenging and exciting in the long run. You will have to demonstrate your passion for the growth opportunities, and how you have been pursuing different opportunities in your career.
This is a question many interviewers have at the top of their minds.
They are essentially looking for reasons why you will be a great hire for them, and how you can benefit the company. As such, they will often ask this question in different forms.
This is a question where you can really promote yourself through your response.
Here are a few areas you can focus your answer on:
Notice that all the answers should link back to the company and/or the role.
For example, you can answer something along the lines of:
“In my past jobs, I have demonstrated that I have the necessary skillsets A, B and C that the company is looking for.
While I might not have an extensive experience in this particular industry, I have shown leadership and excellent track record in my previous jobs.
Hence, I am confident that my skills and traits can translate into a strong performance and contribute to your company”
Special Tip: Remember to focus on showing how these factors can help you contribute to the company! Don’t ramble on about yourself!
Finally, this is a question less commonly asked nowadays, but also important to prepare for.
Preparation for this question allows you to have an honest self-evaluation and prepares you for any other question that might come..
To prepare for this question, reflect and focus on a few strengths and weaknesses that you have. More importantly, reflect upon the evidence that supports your beliefs.
Preparation for this question is crucial as it gives you an honest look at all your past experiences, and equips you with stories and anecdotes that can also be used in answering other unexpected questions.
With these commonly asked questions in mind, you can start preparing for them by noting down your answers, or at least the main points.
Next, make sure to rehearse yourself answering these questions out loud. This helps you gain more confidence and be more fluent in your delivery during the actual interview.
Practise makes perfect. As you get more familiar with your answers, you will be able to deliver them more naturally and fluently.
This is another part of the interview that you must prepare for. Interviewers always end the interview by asking if you have any questions for them.
This is almost like a trick question, as you should always have questions prepared to ask.
When you ask good questions to the interviewer, it reflects a few things about you:
As discussed at the start of this article, you should have already done extensive research on the company, be it through primary or secondary research.
With a good understanding, you should be able to ask thoughtful and targeted questions regarding: the job role itself, the team or company that you will be working with, and the industry at large.
The following are some suggested questions that you can take and use in your interviews, but they are by no means exhaustive. Feel free to adapt the questions to the job you are applying for.
Be sure to ask questions that you have genuine interest in, so that you can have a more fruitful conversation with the interviewer.
After preparing extensively, now comes the big day: Interview day!
Here are some more tips to help you perform well on the interview day itself.
This is extremely important, as there is almost no excuse to be late for the interview.
In fact, try to be early for about 15 – 30 minutes, to give yourself some buffer time. You never know what may happen on the way!
Example 1: I once went for an interview at a Central Business District location I was unfamiliar with. With many similar looking buildings around, it was incredibly confusing and hard to find the correct office building and took me much longer than expected.
Example 2: Another time, it started raining halfway during the journey that forced me to take a huge detour to prevent myself from getting soaked.
Moral of the story?
Being early is always better than being late, so plan to arrive early to prevent any unfortunate situations. Being early can help you get better acquainted with the company itself too!
Interview attires can vary from company to company, so there is no hard and fast rule to this.
Smaller companies and startups may be more casual, so a smart casual attire could suffice. A more formal work attire would be more suitable for interviews at larger corporations.
That being said, a safe rule of thumb is that it is always better to overdress than underdress.
So if you are unsure, dress more formally!
Be sure to also check every detail of your personal grooming: Your nails, hair and facial hair for males, makeup and hair for females, and any other areas that interviewers might notice.
Remember, every detail counts!
Finally, the interview itself! Having prepared so much for the interview, how can you best deliver your answers to perform well?
First, what you should not do: Don’t just memorise and recite your answers!
Your interviewer can tell if you have memorised a script and are reciting it word for word. This can put off interviewers and come off as inauthentic.
Instead, while you want to be extremely familiar with your past work experiences and main points for the answers, try to deliver them in a natural, confident and conversational way.
This sounds difficult, but the key is to prepare extensively. With much preparation, you will have internalised the stories you want to tell and they will come out naturally during the conversation.
Special Tip: It is also always easier to remember stories, so make use of stories and anecdotes wherever suitable to demonstrate your skills and experiences.
Another key area to note is that you should always show your contribution potential rather than simply engaging in self-promotion.
Sometimes you might get carried away with talking about your achievements that you forget the purpose of the interview.
The interviewer doesn’t want to know how great you are.
The interviewer wants to see how you can fit with the company, and how you can contribute!
So show it clearly through your answers, by highlighting to the interviewer about different areas of the company that you can contribute to.
Remember. To. Smile!
Interviews can certainly be tense and nerve-wracking. Many overly nervous interviewees might look too serious or formal to the interviewer.
To mitigate this problem, rehearse! You can rehearse your answers in front of a mirror, to see for yourself and remind yourself to give appropriate smiles during parts of the answer.
Another area to take note of is your body language and expressions.
During your rehearsal, you want to simulate answering in a real interview as much as possible. Thus it is important to smile and do appropriate hand gestures even during the rehearsal of your answers.
This way, during the interview itself, you will also be deliver your answers in a natural manner that interviewers can feel more comfortable with.
After the interview, you should be happy and relieved, and rightfully so! Give yourself a pat on the back!
But all is not over.
Within 24 hours, remember to email the interviewer and thank him/her for the interview. Remember that the interview is not a given and you should be thankful for having the opportunity!
You can also drop some subtle reminders regarding the interesting topics you guys talked about during the interview, to help him/her recollect some memories of this specific interview. This also helps to differentiate your interview from the other candidates!
If you have reached this part of the guide, congratulations! You have now successfully received all my best job interview strategies and secrets.
As promised, here are the important interview checklist of questions to ask yourself during the interview preparation process:
I wish you all the best for your upcoming interviews, and don’t forget to share this post with a friend to give them a hand too!
If you have any other questions, feel free to drop them in the comments below and let’s discuss!