How to Ace Your Next Interview — Part 1: The Prep
In my role as Applicant Care Associate in our Nairobi office, I’m here for candidates from start to finish of their applications — answering questions over phone and e-mail, and always making process improvements to make sure the Shortlist platform is candidate-friendly.
Shortlist helps candidates find and apply to great jobs, and the best-fit candidates advance to interviews with employers. We’ve written a practical guide for job seekers like you, to make sure you put your best foot forward and feel prepared and confident for the big day! In this post, I’ll share tips for the first step of acing your interview — the preparation. Stay tuned for the second and third posts in the series, about what to do during and after your interview!
Congrats on landing an interview! Now, what do you do?
Have you showed up to an interview unprepared and actually thought you could ace it freestyle? I totally have, and the second I sat in front of the panel of interviewers, I realized it was probably the worst idea I’ve had in my entire career.
Here are seven tips for you to feel fully prepared and confident for your next interview:
1. Read, research…stalk!
Whatever you’d like to call it, do what you need to do to make sure you have a thorough understanding of what the organization is all about. Here are some questions to consider as you research:
- What is the company’s mission and vision?
- What are the company’s products or services? Who are their clients or customers?
- What’s their latest project/product launch/offer?
- What is the company’s work culture? Will you be successful in that work style?
- Have they won awards or been honored for some of their work?
Hosting interviews takes a ton of time and effort on the company’s part, and nothing turns off an employer more than a candidate who shows that they never took the time to learn the basics. It won’t matter how good you are on paper and how well you have presented yourself, you will lose points if you don’t have a solid understanding of their organisation. So do your research! Remember:
“Opportunity does not waste time with those who are unprepared.”
― Idowu Koyenikan
2. Understand the necessary skills and key responsibilities of the role
During the interview, you must be able to show the employer that you have the necessary skill set required for the role. One way you can approach this is thinking through instances where you have utilized them in your previous work experience. If you’ve never done them before, think through how you would approach these new responsibilities.
Also note the responsibilities that the role would involve and provide examples of instances where you have engaged in similar tasks.
If you’re applying for the role from outside the industry or are pulling off a career switch, make sure to thoughtfully identify transferrable skills and emphasize them during the interview. For example, if you’d like to move from administrative work to an operational role, you could explain how needing to be extremely organised in your past jobs would serve you well in an operations position.
We design our job descriptions to thoroughly explain the role to applicants. Make sure you know the JD from front and back, and have thoughtfully considered how you match the must-haves.
3. Prepare some questions in advance
Most interviewers will give you an opportunity to ask questions at the end of your session. To avoid becoming flustered and having to make up questions on the spot, prepare them in advance, and write them down. Some example questions might be:
- I was excited to read that [element of their work culture] is a major part of your company culture. How have you experienced that during your time here?
- How could i grow and evolve in this role in a way that would support the Organization?
- What is the biggest priority for your department/company right now? Any challenges?
Just remember — don’t ask questions that can be found on the company’s website. If you followed step one, you’ll already know everything there is to know 🙂
4. Plan what to carry
Ensure you have at least four copies of your CV with you, as you might not know what type of interview you will be having (it could be one-on-one, a panel interview, or something else entirely). It may seem unprofessional to the employer if you come empty-handed, assuming they will have made copies on their end.
You should be sure to carry a pen and notepad to note down information or questions that come up during the session.
5. Get your mind in the right place
Before the interview, take some time to self-reflect and consider how you want to frame your past experience, strengths, and weaknesses to the employer. Know your personal and career journey inside out. Prepare your examples and references. And be authentic!
Even though you might be nervous, be sure to get a good night’s sleep! You do not want to find yourself distracted, tired, or yawning!
6. Look your best to feel your best
The right candidate should be hired based on their skills and potential, not their appearance. However, taking the time to look professional and polished can boost your confidence and help you feel at ease on the big day.
Pick an outfit that is comfortable and fits well. Try to learn a bit about the company’s office culture when choosing your interview outfit. In certain industries like finance and consulting, most offices follow a business dress code, and you should as well. But for smaller companies or startups, it’s possible that they have a much looser dress code in their office. If you show up in a suit and tie for a job at a startup in a coworking space, it could indicate that you don’t have a clear idea of their company culture and expectations.
7. Be on time
Always purpose to begin your journey to the interview location early (even earlier than you think you need to!). Look up the location in advance or if need be, call the organization to confirm to avoid the mishap of missing the location.
If for some reason you are running late, call the interviewer or contact person at the organization and inform them, letting them know when they can expect you. You are better off calling in advance rather than showing up late without having communicated.
If you are unable to make it to the interview or are no longer interested in the position, ensure that you communicate this to the employer immediately upon receiving an interview invitation. Maintaining your professionalism in this kind of situation is always appreciated.
We hope that these tips will be helpful for you as you prepare for your next interview — you got this!
We would love to hear from you! Share your tried-and-true interview tips in the comments, and please let us know what other career-related topics you would like to learn about.