Congratulations! You scored an interview. But the excitement of the opportunity may fade as you realize you need to prepare to make the best impression possible. Here are five steps to help you get ready for a big interview:
- Know the organization and the role.
One of the most common mistakes job seekers make is entering an interview with little or no knowledge of the organization. In addition to getting an understanding of the role for which you are applying, it is important to familiarize yourself with all the products and/or services the organization provides. Make note of quick facts such as when the company was founded, the overall mission, values, and the clients they serve. As you go fact finding, check out the organization’s social media channels to get a feel for the corporate culture. Research company reviews on websites such as Glassdoor or Indeed to gain insight on the interview process and what you may need to do to prepare.
- Research all the interviewers.
When you schedule the interview, be sure the recruiter gives you all the names of the individuals on the interview panel. Smaller companies may have a “Meet the Team” or “About Us” page with biographies of their employees. This may even provide some insight into the organizational structure of the team and ideas on skills and experience you may want to highlight in your responses during the interview. In the case with larger organizations, LinkedIn is your source for researching company employee backgrounds.
- Prepare questions that demonstrate interest and insight.
Many job seekers prepare for questions that may be asked of them, but neglect to think about what questions to ask. Conducting research on the organization and interviewers also helps you formulate smart questions that demonstrates your interests and your knowledge of the organization and team. Remember the interview process is a two-way street, so be sure use your opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview to make a lasting impression.
- Plan your outfit and hairstyle ahead of time.
Employers do not expect applicants to be fashionable or trendy (unless it is part of the company culture), but your appearance will be the first thing observed. If you keep a high maintenance hair style, be sure you are on schedule with your hair stylist to style or trim your hair for a neat and simple look. Try on the outfit you plan to wear to ensure it is clean, wrinkle free (or dry cleaned), and fits well to avoid wardrobe malfunctions the day of the interview. Beyond your wardrobe ensemble, avoid any potential distractions such as large jewelry, cologne, or perfume.
- Practice your responses, but do not sound rehearsed.
Avoid clichés at all cost. You want to not only sound original, but genuine, in your responses. Even if you have prepared good answers to tough, common interview questions, take your time in delivering your responses. Review your resume and be prepared to elaborate on its content and respond to any questions it may be prompt such as employment gaps and length of your work history. Also brainstorm and prepare notes on career stories to pull from when addressing situational questions so you do not spend too much time trying to recall the details. You can use tools such as Quinncia and InterviewStream to help you practice and record your interview responses, and can share with colleagues for feedback.
Once you have done all you can to prepare, relax and visualize a positive outcome. It does not guarantee a job offer but, you will feel better knowing you put your best foot forward.
For additional career guidance throughout your professional journey, visit CareerQuest to use its career tools, connect with an advisor, find a mentor, and more. As always, your UMUC Career Services team can be reached by calling 240-684-2720 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cathy Francois, MBA, GCDF is a career advising specialist and adjunct instructor at University of Maryland University College and a certified Global Career Development Facilitator. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Florida and a Master of Business Administration from Kaplan University. Cathy’s career began in advertising sales and customer service, after which she transitioned into higher education, working as an admissions advisor. She also served as an academic advising and career services for over seven years. Cathy has a passion for helping people succeed and uses her diverse experience and interpersonal skills to bring a personalized approach to career coaching.