A Job Interview Preparation Guide For Job Candidates

Congratulations, you’ve been selected for a job interview. Your next challenge is to convince one or more people you are their best choice and will be an outstanding member of their team.

Whether you have 1 interview, 2 or 3… these 10 tips can help you prepare and put your best foot forward (as my dad would say), so that you get the job you want.

  1. Know The Job, Company And Their Competition

You’ve likely done some of this research already but now learn as much as you can. You want to be able to show how your strengths align with their strengths and needs. Read their website and look at their annual report for strategy information. What are their values (this is really important). Is there anything special about the department you’ll be joining or the people running it? Research the job, and formulate a strategy to stand out in that interview.

  1. Dress To Respect Your Potential Employer

Dress appropriately.

Don’t wear cologne or perfume. Many offices are scent-free now. If you smoke – don’t. There is no better way to make a bad impression than for a non-smoker to get a big whiff of the cigarette you just put out. Chew gum if you need the nicotine hit, but be sure you are not chewing during the interview.

  1. Arrive Early

If you live in a small town plan to arrive 20 minutes early. If you live in a big town with lots of traffic plan to arrive 1 hour early.

Arrive at the company about 10 minutes early. If you didn’t need the extra time because of traffic or to get through security, go to a coffee shop or find somewhere to relax. Use this time to review the organizations core competencies, mission, vision and values, what you want out of life and why this job is important to your career plans.

I once was part of an interview panel and a candidate arrived 20 minutes late and then blamed her dad for not planning for traffic. Not only were we not impressed she arrived late – we also noted she didn’t take responsibility to plan how to get to an interview on time. If she can’t take responsibility for getting to her own job interview would we really want her working for us? Nope!

  1. Speak To Everyone

During the interview avoid speaking with only one person. If different people are asking questions – focus on the person asking the question and then focus on each person as you answer. This suggests you are comfortable building rapport in a collaborative environment.

  1. Share Your Values

As you respond to questions, showcase your experience and values. If you don’t have work experience it’s no problem – that’s what a Behavioral Event Interview is all about. Talk about how you were a leader in a school club or learned about values and responsibility working at a summer camp or looking after your little sister. Demonstrate behaviors like:

  • Leadership
  • Creativity
  • Problem Solving
  • Resourcefulness Under Pressure
  • Collaboration

Speak about your accomplishments… not ‘the team’ you worked with. This doesn’t mean you take ownership of things you didn’t do – but speak to your accomplishments and what you’ve learned.

If you have samples of your work bring it along. Set it on the table and let them know you brought some samples of your work but wait for them to ask to see it. You don’t want to interrupt your own interviews with a sample show. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t look at it – this is their agenda not yours – there may not be time for them to see it at the end of your interview.

An interview is a micro-opportunity for a prospective employer to assess your abilities and your compatibility with the organization. It’s therefore important you show them what you can do, how you think, how you communicate with others and what your interests are. This will help them determine whether you’ll be a fit for their culture or business model.

  1. Share Short Stories

When you answer questions create excitement. Lead with your goal and any emotional, exciting, challenging parts – then finish up with results… the facts and figures.

For example: “My goal was to develop a national sales plan for our new recruits – a task that had been started before but never implemented. I soon learned that a large obstacle was getting senior management alignment. I decided to start small and only work on a program with 3 training courses and not the full 12. I believe that if I could get alignment and prove success on a small scale I would be able to use that energy to expand the program. It worked in under 2 years I was able to roll out the whole program with an 85% approval rate on budget.”

  1. Pause If You Need A Moment. Don’t Just Fill Space.

Most employers are looking for confident leaders that will challenge issues head-on – even at junior levels. This is great for Millennial and Gen Z populations because while they might not have lots of experience, they have confidence and ambition – a good combination.

The idea is to respond when answering questions – not react. React means you might just be filling nervous space with words; instead offer thoughtful and strategic response. Give yourself a few seconds to consider the question and how your experience and values can demonstrate helpful behaviour and/or knowledge. It’s how you present what you know and what you‘ve done that defines you.

  1. Know Why You Want To Work There… For When They Ask

Know why you want to work for that organization. Most of the time, candidates get asked that question… so be prepared. Speak to the value they bring to the community, how they innovate and how your goals and values align with theirs. Don’t list off all the things you want to accomplish – this sounds arrogant. Demonstrate you’ve thought about their mission and want to be a part of it.

  1. When Asked… Ask Important Questions

This is your chance to make a good impression and learn a bit more about the job so that you can determine if it is the right job for you.

When given the opportunity to ask questions, do… and make it more than about salary. Try to come up with a strategic question that references the organizational values, mission and/or goals. This should leave a good impression and that you know values and goals are important to personal and professional success.

Then – if there are things that are important for you (like work/life balance), ask about that – perhaps working from home options or flexible hours options.

  1. Thank All Participants And Follow-up.

Thank everyone for the opportunity to meet them, shake hands (as culturally appropriate), and gather business cards if you haven’t already.

Within the next few hours, send them an email to thank them again… this will help them remember who you are. If something stood out during the interview, mention it. Then, follow up that email with a written – posted note.

Good luck with the job interview.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

NOTE Post Publish Date: I recently found this additional resource that has a great message for people going into an interview. Check out ‘Every Extraordinary Employee I’ve Ever Hired Shared This One Trait,’ by Elvis Anderson

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

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