Updated: Feb 28, 2021
By Komal Patel
So you’ve written your cold emails, networked like a pro and you’ve landed an interview. First of all, congratulations! This is a pretty big deal, even if you’re feeling anxious, nervous, or straight-up scared out of your mind. The best thing you can do before an interview is practice, prepare, and put your best foot forward. What does all of this mean? I’ll break it down for you.
Practice Interview Questions
Practice really does make perfect, or in this case, it makes you comfortable with your stories and answers to common interview questions. If you can, practice in front of a few different friends, acquaintances from networking, and even your family. Ask them to find standard and unusual questions to throw you off - better to stumble now than during the interview!
Common interview questions include:
Tell me about yourself
Tell me about a time that you disagreed with a superior
What type of leader are you?
Why do you want this job? Why at our company?
Here’s an in-depth guide to how to answer these types of questions, as well as many others: www.themuse.com/advice/interview-questions-and-answers
It’s always helpful to have different stories or experiences that you can draw on in different circumstances. For example, I like to talk about The Mentorship Spot when I’m talking about my leadership ability, but it’s also a great example to use if someone asks me about working in a team or a time when something didn’t go as planned. The best way to nail down your stories is - you guessed it - practice them! Personally, I found practice interviews far more useful for structuring my experiences than writing them down beforehand or trying to answer lists of questions. Just be careful not to bring up the same experience more than twice in an interview, otherwise you run the risk of sounding repetitive.
Structuring Your Responses
The most common way to structure your response to an interview question is the STAR model, which outlines the Situation, Task, Action, and Result in each of your experiences.
Here’s a helpful resource that breaks down the STAR model:
And here are a few extra tips before we move on:
Keep your response between one and two minutes; any longer and your interviewer will start to zone out
Don’t spend too long on the Situation and Task, just give the necessary information for the interviewer to understand the context of the experience
Dive deep into your Actions. Why did you do what you did? What was going through your mind? How did these lead to your results?
Try and incorporate some numeric data into your results. Maybe you increased efficiency of a process by 30%, raised $1400 for a fundraiser, or something else. Using numbers makes your example more concrete and believable.
Preparing in Advance
Practice can be ongoing, but preparation for each interview should be specific and tailored. Learn everything you can about the role, company, and your interviewers so that you walk into the interview informed and ready to impress. The more homework you do, the more of a personal connection you can make during your interview.
Questions to guide your research:
What does the role entail? Do you have any questions about it?
What is the company vision or mission? Try to incorporate this into your answers.
Has the company been in the news recently? What for? You can bring this up in your interview and ask about how your interviewers were personally affected in their roles at the company.
What aspects of the company can you relate to? Maybe they have a great diversity policy or donate to your favourite charity.
Who are your interviewers? Find them on Linkedin and on the company website to learn more about their background and interests. You might find something relatable, which makes a great conversation point during the interview!
Put Your Best Foot Forward
After all of your preparation and practicing, it’s time to think about how you’ll present yourself during the interview. Make sure to show up (in person or virtually) five minutes in advance and dress in professional or business-casual clothing. Try to get enough sleep the night before, so that you don’t accidentally mess up or forget a crucial detail in the stress of the moment. Finally, watch a funny show, dance around your room, or do something else right before your interview so that you’re excited and enthusiastic! This can make all the difference between an okay interview and a great one. At the end of the day, remember that your interviewers are human, and they’ll respond to your excitement and politeness. The more conversational you can be, the more engaged they’ll be in you as a candidate.
There you have it, the nuts and bolts of practicing, preparing, and putting your best foot forward for an interview. Good luck!
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