Welcome to the real world! Whether this is your first interview or your 100th, there’s always room for improvement. I cringed at the thought of interviews while I was looking for my first job, and instead of calmly explaining why I would be the right fit, I would panic and sit there quietly. Now that I’ve changed my approach, I actually get excited about interviewing at a new place. In fact, I just landed my dream job as the marketing coordinator for a physical therapy clinic. Here are my best tips on how to nail your next interview:
1. Research the company and the people
Don’t go into a job interview without planning ahead. Researching the company shows you care and are truly interested in the job. Learn about the history of the company, its goals, and the office culture. You can most likely find that information on their website and social media pages, although make sure to check websites like Glassdoor to get the inside scoop.
Once I know who I’m interviewing with, I look them up on LinkedIn to learn about their role at the company, their educational and professional backgrounds, and see if we have anything noticeably in common. It’s important to make a personal connection with the people who are interviewing you, especially since they’re looking for people who fit in with the culture. When you find something in common, mention it in-person and then reiterate it in your thank you email. For example, I learned that the person interviewing me also came from a nonprofit background. In my thank you note, I said that it was encouraging to see someone transition from nonprofit marketing to for-profit marketing, a move I was personally looking to make.
2. Prepare answers to questions you know you’ll be asked
Tell me about yourself. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? The simplest and most obvious questions are sometimes the hardest to answer. Be prepared to talk about your education, work history, biggest accomplishments, career goals, and personal goals.
I like to think of five career achievements that I’m proud of, and then I use those to answer various questions. When they ask me what my greatest strength is, I can point to one of those answers. I can say, “My greatest strength is my event-planning ability because I planned a gala all by myself that raised double our expected proceeds.” Whenever possible, explain your answers and back them up with proof.
3. Prepare specific suggestions to show them you’re thinking about the company
During one of my first interviews for a big internship at Disney, I was told that I didn’t appear like I was engaged in the conversation because I wasn’t sharing my ideas or talking about how my background could be applied to the company. I took that lesson to heart, and ever since then, I try to bring interesting and thoughtful ideas to the table.
Coming in with specific questions or suggestion has changed my interview game. For example, I work in marketing, so at my last interview I came in with pictures of the company’s Facebook posts and offered suggestions for how to improve them. They sent me a link to their employee newsletter, so of course I studied it like a textbook and was prepared to give feedback when they asked me what I thought.
As an outsider, you might not have access to a lot of information, but merely reading through the company website can help you come up with ideas. Employers want to know that you will have valuable input, and sharing your thoughts and suggestions will prove you would be an asset to the team.
4. Look and feel your best
First impressions are so important. Before an interview, I always get my nails done and put a lot of thought into what I’ll wear. You don’t have to go to the extreme of buying a new outfit, but make sure you look nice. Getting a good night’s sleep is vital, but I know it can be hard to relax the night before an interview. So, I make sure the day before is a calm one without many responsibilities, that way I can fall asleep more easily. For me, a cup of coffee before the interview is just enough to perk me up and have me ready to go.
5. Stay calm
I always plan to arrive early enough so that I can have a minute alone in my car to breathe, say a quick prayer, and give myself a final pep talk before I go in for an interview.
During the interview itself, I try to remember that the people interviewing me are people too, and the interview is really just a conversation. I’m trying to get to know them and the company, just like they’re trying to get to know me. That’s why I find interviews fun, because you get to meet new people and learn from their experiences. The calmer you are, the more you will enjoy the conversation, and the better the interview will go.
Try these out during your next interview to help you stay calm, cool, and confident, and show your future employer why you’re awesome!