Interview Preparation: Win Your Dream Job

Our staffing and recruiting experts at TeamBuilder Search have conducted thousands of job interviews. In addition, we have conducted thousands of post-interview debriefs with hiring managers. We have learned what successful candidates do in job interview preparation.

How Successful Candidates Prepare to Win

In the process of conducting post-interview debriefs, we’ve discovered the most common mistakes made during interviews. Interview preparation is a key step to landing your dream job. Follow the advice in this post to greatly enhance your chance of success. Here are 14 easy-to-follow tips to help you win your next dream-job:

1. Ask your recruiter what to wear.

Firstly, an important part of interview preparation is attire. If you are unsure of what to wear, then dress in layers. You can always remove a suit jacket if you find that you are overdressed. In the process of planning your attire, also remember to bring extra resumes and take notes. 

2. Show up early.

Being late for a job interview can end the opportunity. Showing up precisely on time can leave you flustered and anxious. Therefore, know where you are going ahead of time. Calculate drive time based on time of day. Know where you’re going to park and how long you’ll have to walk. If possible, drive by the location ahead of time.

3. Be prepared to answer “Tell me a little about yourself.”

This question is crucial to interview preparation. Avoid speaking too long or rambling about irrelevant things. Your interviewer should think, “Wow, this person is a really good communicator!” and “Wow, this person has all the basic things needed to be successful in this role!” Describe your career chronologically. For each position, share what you learned and the achievements you accomplished that are directly relevant to the role. Explain the reason for each move or promotion. Do not criticize previous employers. Bring prep notes to the interview, possibly in the form of an annotated resume. Your answer to this question should be between 90 and 150 seconds. It can be longer if you are a senior executive, but keep it under 3.5 minutes.

4. Be prepared to provide reasons for transitions.

Interviewers are focusing more and more candidates’ reasons for transitions. If you were promoted, then you’re missing an opportunity if you don’t talk the accomplishments that put you there. For transitions to new companies, be proactive in answering “tell me a little bit about yourself”. Include thoughtful reasoning behind each transition. It’s important to realize that employers hire people who are running towards opportunity and potential, not away from pain or negativity. Additionally, interviewers may want to dig into your reasoning behind a specific transition. Be ready for a deeper conversation about each transition. If you have multiple transitions in a short period of time, here’s our advice for keeping frequent moves from hurting your career.

5. Give specific answers with specific examples.

Vagueness creates mistrust in communication. Job interviewers need to believe that you can do what they ask. For this reason, provide specific answers. Specific examples clarify how your skills and successes are applicable to company needs. Also, never answer a question with just “no.” Instead, relate a similar experience. In addition to being specific, keep your answers to 60 seconds or less. However, the “tell me a little about yourself” question described above is an exception to this time frame.

6. Be prepared to discuss strengths and weaknesses.

For ideal job interview preparation, evaluate your strengths and weaknesses ahead of time. Become comfortable speaking about them. Be able to provide at least one specific, relevant example for each. Ensure that your strengths relate to the role. Talk about how you successfully manage the weakness you provide. Additionally, provide a specific example of a time you prevented that weakness from causing failure. In essence, demonstrate to the hiring manager that you can learn and grow.

7. Take accountability for past failures.

If your interviewer asks about your greatest failure, then focus on taking accountability. Don’t shift blame to others. Share what you learned from the experience. In addition, give an example of a time you used what you learned to avoid making that mistake again. Don’t shy away from this question. Like we mentioned in tip 5, hiring managers hire people who demonstrate that they can learn and grow. Hiring managers also hire people who take accountability. 

8. Choose an appropriate place for a phone or video interview.

You may participate in a phone or video interview prior to an in-person interview. The same rules apply as if it were an in-person interview. Firstly, choose a quiet place without distractions or offensive objects in the background. Check your sound quality. For a phone interview, put yourself in a professional frame of mind by dressing up. For a video interview, dress as you would for an in-person interview. Check that your webcam is at face-level.

9. Know the names, roles, and backgrounds of your interviewers.

When you’re invited to interview, you’re typically given the hiring manager’s name. You may be given the names of other leaders who will participate in your interview. Familiarize yourself with the names and responsibilities of each interviewer. Visit their LinkedIn profiles and research their professional social footprints. This helps you understand where questions come from and how to best respond. This research also helps you learn more about the organizational structure.

10. Prepare to ask insightful questions.

The questions you ask tell the interviewer what is important to you. Some interviewers make hiring decisions based on the questions a candidate asks. Thus, prepare 6 -10 questions ahead of time. Develop these questions by researching the company. Never ask a question that is easily answered on their LinkedIn profiles or company website. Additionally, do not ask about salary or benefits before an employment offer is made.

11. Prepare for the questions asked most often during job interviews.

For ideal interview preparation, prepare to answer the most popular interview questions. These include: Why do you want to work for us? Tell me about a time you exhibited leadership. Describe a time when you had to work as a team. Describe a time you had to work with a difficult person. Tell me about a time you overcame an obstacle. Tell me about a time you had success. Be able to provide a concise, specific story for each of these questions. Don’t talk poorly of anyone, and keep your answers under 60 seconds.

12. Here’s and easy one… Smile.

Smiling is an overlooked part of interview preparation, but it is the easiest way to exude confidence. Conduct yourself in a positive way. Don’t let your nerves get the best of you. Above all, don’t exhibit nervous laughter or giggle, as this makes conversation awkward for interviewers. 

13. Ask insightful questions.

Tell the interviewer why you are very interested in the role. Remind them how certain achievements and experiences prepared you for success in the role. Keep all subsequent questions positive. Ask, “Is there anything in my background or experiences that would keep us from moving forward? What are the next steps?”

14. Follow up with an email immediately.

Planning for your actions after the interview is a crucial part of interview preparation. Prepare to send a follow-up email. If you are working with a recruiter, ask them if the thank-you email should go directly to the hiring manager or through the recruiter. Companies expect a thank-you within 24 hours of your interview. In your email, thank the hiring manager or interviewer for their time and reiterate why you are a good fit for the role. 

In Conclusion 

Careful interview preparation cannot prepare for everything that might happen in a job interview. However, you can put the odds of success in your favor by taking intentional steps. If you are the best person for a role, then demonstrate that in the interview process. Follow these 14 tips to become a very formidable candidate in your next job interview.

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Written by Mark Whitman

Mark Whitman is the founder of TeamBuilder Search. Mark’s mission is to help clients recruit the top five percent of digital marketing executives, taking great satisfaction in helping clients out-recruit their competition. In the process of fulfilling his mission, he takes great care to help digital marketing leaders elevate their careers. People say Mark owns a recruiting and staffing company. He says he owns a life improvement company. To learn more about Mark visit our Leadership page.
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