The number one secret to interview success is pretty simple. In fact, it’s only one word: preparation. You might be thinking well, duh. Of course I need to prepare! However, I’ve been doing interview coaching for over 20 years and I’ve heard from hiring managers that many candidates go into interview situations completely unprepared. And that’s because there is a LOT that goes into getting ready for your big interview. In fact, a recent study showed it takes an average of five to ten hours to prepare for an interview.
But you don’t need to do all the preparation all at once. My advice is start preparing early; like way ahead of your interview date. If you wait until the night before your interview to prepare, chances are you are not going to be well prepared. And even more unfortunately, you will also likely be sleep deprived.
Read on to learn about the main areas of interview preparation and how to master the number one secret to interview success:
Tip#1: Study the employer
Candidates often spend so much time rehearsing answers to questions they forget to research the company in depth. Fortunately, we live in the 21st century and every single employer has a website (if the company you’re targeting does not have a website that’s a big red flag, by the way). Read about the organization’s mission, values, goals, projects, and any mergers or other important changes on the horizon. Recent press releases will also give you up-to-date information about the company.
Be ready to talk about why your values and goals are a fit for the company. The employer is also going to want to know why you are interested in working for them specifically. If you don’t have an answer for this question, you are going to appear unprepared.
It’s common knowledge that interviewing takes practice. However, you want to make sure you practice enough and that you also practice using different methods. For example, you can start out by typing up or writing answers to the most common interview questions. This is a great way to make sure you’re not rambling and that you answer the question (you want to keep your answers to two minutes or less).
Next, practice answering these questions in front of a mirror or someone you trust. I also recommend for my clients to record themselves answering interview questions. I know this can be a little awkward at first. However, it’s great for catching those pesky non-verbal mistakes we all make like slouching, twisting your hair, biting your nails, etc. It’s also great for noticing when you say things repeatedly like “um” and “you know” (I’m a big culprit of this one, I’ll admit)!
Tip #3: Plan your outfit
When you think about interview success, you probably don’t immediately think about your interview outfit. But picture this scenario: it’s the night before your big interview. But you aren’t sure what you are going to wear. You look in your closet. Your only two suits are wrinkled, lying in a messy heap in your laundry basket and smelling like old cheese. Don’t panic. This is not going to happen to you as long as you plan ahead!
If you don’t have any interview-type clothes, start shopping at least two weeks before your interview. If you already have a nice, professional pant suit, dress, etc., take your outfit to the dry cleaner at least one week before your interview (I suggest even doing it two weeks ahead if possible). It’s also important to make sure you have nice, polished, professional shoes to wear. Bottom line: you don’t want to leave your outfit planning for the last minute!
Tip #4: Gather your materials
Candidates often forget this step when preparing for an interview. Make sure you have extra copies of your resume (find out the number of people who will be interviewing you so that you know how many copies to bring). I also recommend bringing a professional portfolio case or binder with plenty of paper and a pen so you can take notes during the interview (this will help you write your thank you letters after the interview)!
Make sure to go over any instructions from the recruiter or your contact for the interview to ensure you’re not forgetting any details.
Tip #5: Plan the logistics
Logistics are another important part of mastering the number one secret to interview success. This is SO important. Make sure to allow yourself plenty of time to get to your interview. Then give yourself another cushion of time to allow for traffic or any other unforeseen circumstances. Another little trick to be prepared is to drive to the interview location the day prior if you have the chance. Thay way, you already know where you are going. Personally, I get stressed when I have no clue where I’m going.
I have good news for you. The number one secret to interview success is easy to nail if you plan in advance! Make daily and weekly to do lists so that you know what you need to do to be prepared, and you will be sure you’re not forgetting anything.