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How to Prepare for an Interview

find a job Jun 04, 2020

It was spring break during my senior year of college.

I was in Washington, DC for the very first time, walking (in heels) to my very first in-person interview for a “real job.”

I didn’t know what to expect—to be honest, I was more concerned with arriving to the correct place on time (I didn’t have google maps on my purple blackberry back then) than I was with the interview itself.

But once I arrived and sat in the fancy lobby, I felt nervous.

Was I wearing the right outfit? Could I explain why I wanted this job without stumbling over my words? I was about to find out… and that scared me.

(Spoiler: I ended up getting the job after a few tense weeks "waiting to hear back.")

**

If you’re prepping for an interview right now, friend, congratulations! I’ve been both the interviewer and the interviewee over the years, and today I’m sharing a few tips to help you feel as prepared and confident as possible.

(And no worries – I’m even including some tips on how to prep for Zoom interviews, given the current state of the world right now!)

Tip 1: Research the company

Spend some time combing through the company’s website. Watch their promo videos, read their mission statement, familiarize yourself with the names of the people on the executive team.

You want to make sure you can at least answer these two questions:

1. What does XYZ company do? (Are they a law firm? What kind of law do they practice? Are they a PR firm? What types of companies do they represent?)

2. What is the company culture like? (Buttoned-up and formal? Bring your dog to work everyday?)

Make sure you’re up to date on recent company news by reading through their press releases and any posts they might have on social media (Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook).

Tip 2: Read through the job description

Make sure you’re very familiar with what the job requires. Notice any areas where you might be a little weak – perhaps they ask for three years of experience writing for an agency, and you’ve only had one. Formulate an answer to a question they might ask about this “weakness" so you can show you're prepared, thoughtful, and a ready learner. 

Pay attention to any areas where you’re really strong. Perhaps the job description requires someone with intermediate skills in excel modeling and you have advanced skills. Make a note to bring this up during your interview, if appropriate.

Tip 3: Research the people who will be interviewing you

Not all companies share the names of their interviewers ahead of time, but if they do spend some time on the company website and LinkedIn to learn more about these people. See if you can find any points of connection (perhaps you went to the same college for your undergraduate degree), and make sure to share these points during the interview.

Tip 4: Develop a list of 5-10 thoughtful questions about the company and the job itself.

Keep these questions fairly high-level (you want to be asking about specific job responsibilities at this point, not salary or overtime).

Here are two examples:

DO ASK: I see your company has offices here in (TOWN) and also in (TOWN). How many employees do you have in total?

DON’T ASK: Are the vending machines free?

DO ASK: What are the markers of success in this job? If I were to be offered the position and accept, how would I know I was serving you well 6-12 months later?

DON’T ASK: Will I get my own office with a window?

If the interview is in person: Plan on arriving 10 minutes early. Dress professionally (see my blog post with some specific ideas if you need them) and make sure to bring a copy of your resume and nice notepad and pen.

If the interview is on Zoom/Google/etc.: Dial in 5 minutes early. Dress as you would for an in-person interview. Make sure you’re near a window (for good lighting) and that the “background” behind you is clean (no piles of laundry or distracting clutter – just move them to the side!). Feel free to get creative if you have to – I’ve been known to set up my laptop on my husband’s dresser and just stand during an interview. The background is neat (a bookshelf) and it’s right by a window).

After the interview: Send a thank you note to each interviewer right away. Express appreciation for the time they took to speak with you and mention that you’d be more than happy to answer any additional questions they might have.

Questions? You know I’m here for you! Email me anytime ([email protected]) or head on over to Instagram (@katie.haahr) to say hello. And if you’d like to receive my (totally free) weekly emails with tips to help you navigate all the “adulting” parts of life, I’d love to send them to you! Just click here to add your name to the list.

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