Landing that job interview is just step one on the road to new job success. Once your resume and cover letter have proven that you’re a worthy competitor, there are a few things you can do to prep before stepping foot into your interview that might help put you a step above the rest of the competition.
1. Research your interviewer … not just the company
Understanding the initiatives, goals and successes of the company where you’re applying to work is important, but it’s equally as important to do some background research on the person (or people) who will be interviewing you, especially if one or more of them will be your direct supervisor(s) or people you’ll be working closely with on a day-to-day basis. Remember that your job credentials on paper are what got you in the door — now it’s up to you to prove that you’re someone this person will want to work with day-in and day-out. Find out what jobs they’ve had in the past, what awards or achievements they’ve accomplished and anything else you might be able to bond with them over. (“You volunteered as a Big Sister for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program? So did I!”) Any little thing you can do to help your interviewer remember you from the slew of other people they’re likely interviewing will be a positive for your chances.
2. Spend some time coming up with smart questions
We all know that the portion of the interview where your interviewer asks if you have any questions is important, but it’s not just having questions that’s important, it’s the type of questions that you ask that can set you apart. Be thoughtful and deliberate in what you say. You’ll want to ask questions that convey your thorough research into the background of the company and what your position would be, as well as how you can help move the company forward (“I’ve noticed that the social media accounts for our company are only updated once a day. I was in charge of social media for my last job, and I’d love to help build out a schedule to increase engagement.”), as opposed to what you’ll be getting out of the job, solely (“What time are employees expected to show up in the morning? Do we work long hours?).
3.Prepare your look
It’s not enough to assume you’ll wear your best outfit on your interview — while it’s always appropriate to dress your best, you’ll want to try to fit in with the corporate atmosphere, as well. If you’re applying for a job at a food start-up, perhaps showing up in a tie and jacket won’t be necessary. See if you can find photos online of the office or employees of the company out at events to get a feel for how the workforce dresses, then plan to match that, but perhaps with a little added flare to stand out.
4. Make extra copies of your resume
Don’t assume that just because you’re meeting with three people you’ll need three copies of your resume. If things go well, you never know who else you might be meeting at your interview, and it’s always best to come prepared with extra resumes and business cards for a couple extra people.
5. Consider who your references will be and reach out to them
You’ll want to curate your list of references ahead of time so you aren’t stuck on the spot if you’re asked to name some during your interview. Be sure to include a mix of past bosses (to prove you’re both responsible and someone who’s worth staying in contact with even after you’ve left a gig), as well as former co-workers and colleagues who can vouch for what a great team player you are. It’s a good idea to reach out to these people ahead of your interview, as well, to let them know that you’ll be listing them as references and to give them a heads up that someone could be calling.
6. Ask if you can bring or prepare anything ahead of time
Never assume that an interview will take on the traditional form, and there’s nothing wrong with inquiring ahead of time whether there’s anything in particular you can bring with you or if there’s anything you’ll be asked to do. For example, if you’ll be spending a couple hours at the interview because they expect you to put together a mock front-page of the newspaper you’re applying to be an art director for (it happens), it’s a good idea to know that up front.
7. Come up with the “essence of your work self”
When it comes to interviews, specifics are always best. In that case, ahead of your interview spend some time thinking about your top two or three favorite work stories or accomplishments that best illustrate the skills you want to get across during your meeting. Then find a way to back them up with specific data and numbers to really drive home your point. (Going back to our previous social media example, you might say, “At my previous job I took on the role of social media editor along with my other duties, and I was able to grow our Twitter audience from 400 to 10,000 in a matter of one year.”)
8. Visit the building
This might seem silly, but showing up even five minutes late to an interview because you didn’t realize what a maze the parking garage was or that there was construction downtown can really look bad. If you take just a little time the day before your interview to actually scope out how long it takes to get to your interview, where you’ll park, and whether or not there’s a sign-in process to get to the right floor (don’t forget your ID if you need it to get in!), you’ll feel much better the day of.
If you’ll be heading out on an interview soon, you might also want to check out this piece about 6 interview mistakes people often make and how to avoid them.