In today’s dynamic professional landscape, a job interview can be a nerve-wracking experience for many job seekers. Understanding what to expect in a job interview can make the process smoother and improve your chances of landing that new job.
What is a job interview like today?
The modern job interview landscape has evolved dramatically, influenced greatly by recent global events. The COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, catalyzed a shift towards remote work, significantly impacting how interviews are conducted.
Previously, in-person interviews were the norm; today, however, the first interaction with a prospective employer might be through a phone or video call. Even as the world adjusts to the “new normal,” these remote interactions remain a fundamental part of the hiring process.
Additionally, today’s interview process is more holistic, with an increased focus on behavioral interview questions, which allow employers to understand not just a candidate’s skills and knowledge, but their attitude, values and how they perform day-to-day tasks in a work setting.
Companies, especially in industries like tech and finance, are investing more resources into human resources departments, ensuring they have well-trained professionals who can spot talent that aligns with the company’s culture and goals.
How do you prepare for a job interview?
When it comes to job interviews, preparation is key. Understanding the hiring process, practicing common interview questions and being ready to showcase your skills and career goals can make the difference between a good interview and a great one.
Here are a few interview tips that can help you get prepared for your job interview:
Do your due diligence
Firstly, understanding the job description and company culture is a good place to start. This entails reviewing the job posting in detail and researching the company.
For instance, if you’re applying for a project manager role, knowing the day-to-day tasks, required skills and common questions related to this position can be beneficial.
Leverage social media
Next, you should use social media platforms and the company’s website to gather more information.
Understanding a company’s mission, values and the work they do can not only help you determine if the company aligns with your professional goals but also equips you with valuable insights that can come in handy during the interview.
LinkedIn plays a key role here. A well-updated LinkedIn profile can make a strong first impression even before the interview begins. It allows recruiters to learn about your work experience, your skills and any endorsements or recommendations you’ve received.
Create a cover letter
Having a compelling cover letter can also set you apart. It’s a chance to share your story, highlight experiences from your last job or even showcase projects or certifications relevant to the job.
Even if you’re a high school student with limited professional experience, sharing stories about team projects or roles where you demonstrated relevant skills can be advantageous.
Practice, practice, practice
One way to get ready is by conducting a mock interview. Practice answering common questions and speaking about your work experience, project management skills and career goals. This can help you feel more confident and comfortable when the real interview comes. After all, practice makes perfect.
Prepare responses for common interview questions like “Tell me about yourself” or “Why do you want to work with us?” Remember, your responses should be authentic and relevant.
For instance, if the question is about why you want the job, speak sincerely about what attracts you to the position and the company. It might be the company culture, the team members you’d be working with or the opportunities the role provides for growth and learning.
By doing your homework and practicing beforehand, you’ll be better equipped to handle the interview and make a lasting impression.
What happens during a job interview?
The interview process can vary by company and position, but it typically involves several stages.
Initially, you might have a phone interview with a recruiter or a human resources professional. This preliminary screening is a chance to review the job description, discuss your qualifications and ask initial questions.
Following the phone interview, you could be invited for an in-person interview or a video call, particularly if remote work is part of the company’s work environment. This interview is usually more in-depth and might involve the hiring manager, potential team members or senior executives.
You’ll be asked a variety of job interview questions, ranging from behavioral — such as “Tell me about a time when you handled a challenging situation at work” — to problem-solving ones — such as “How would you approach this particular task?”
At some point during the interview, the topic of salary expectations might be broached. It’s a delicate subject, but it’s important to be prepared. Research typical salary ranges for the role and take into consideration your skill set and relevant work experience. Be honest, but also be prepared to negotiate.
When responding to interview questions, consider using the STAR method — situation, task, action, result. This technique helps you structure your responses effectively, providing the interviewer with a coherent narrative that demonstrates your abilities. For instance, you describe a situation you faced, the task you were required to complete, the action you took and the result of that action.
How can you make a good first impression at a job interview?
First impressions play a crucial role in how you’re perceived during a job interview.
Non-verbal cues are equally as important as what you say. Body language and eye contact, for instance, can convey confidence and engagement. Stand tall, maintain eye contact when speaking or listening and offer a firm handshake if it’s an in-person interview. Avoid crossing your arms or fidgeting, as it might make you appear nervous or disengaged.
The way you dress also contributes to the first impression. Your attire should match the work environment. If you’re uncertain, it’s better to err on the side of being too formal than too casual. Research the company’s dress code, if possible, to get a sense of what is appropriate.
What can you do during an interview to further impress the interviewer?
During the interview, showcasing your skill set and relevant work experience is essential. Discuss your accomplishments and how they align with the job requirements.
Be sure to offer specific examples — this could be a project you managed successfully, a problem you solved or an initiative you spearheaded that led to positive results. Be ready to talk about any certifications or special training you have that are relevant to the role.
Keep in mind that the interview is a two-way conversation. While the company evaluates your fit for the role, you should also take the opportunity to decide if the company and the role are the right fit for you.
At the end of an interview, you’ll often be asked if you have any questions. Use this opportunity to ask about the company culture, the role’s day-to-day responsibilities or the team dynamics of the groups you’ll be working with. This not only helps you gather information about the company but also demonstrates your enthusiasm for the role and can help you stand out as a proactive and engaged candidate.
What happens after a job interview?
Once your interview concludes, the process isn’t over just yet. After your first interview, the hiring manager may reach out to discuss follow-up questions and answers.
You could be invited back for another round of interviews, particularly for higher-level roles or at larger companies. This stage might involve meeting additional team members or senior executives.
Then comes the potential job offer and negotiation phase. Should the company decide you’re the right fit, they’ll extend a job offer. This typically includes details about the position, compensation package, benefits and start date.
It’s essential to take some time to consider the offer rather than accepting or declining right away. Look over the specifics carefully and think about whether the role aligns with your career goals, whether the salary meets your expectations and whether you see yourself thriving in the company’s work environment.
Regardless of the outcome, it’s vital to keep your job search active until you’ve formally accepted an offer. Job opportunities can fall through for any number of reasons and having other options can help mitigate any disappointment or stress.
Preparing for success
Preparing for a job interview might seem daunting, but with the right approach, it can be an opportunity to showcase your skills and fit for the role. Remember, interviews are not only a chance for the employer to learn about you but also an opportunity for you to learn about the company and role.
Keep in mind that every interview, whether it leads to a job offer or not, is valuable experience. Each one is a chance to practice your interview skills, learn more about various industries and roles and meet professionals who could become part of your network.
Regardless of the outcome, approach each interview with preparation, professionalism and a positive attitude.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to ace a job interview, then check out some of the other guides available at Entrepreneur