How To Prepare And Ace Your Job Interview

Finding a job is one aspect of life that most of us want to be prepared for. It could be a part time job during the summer in your high school years, a part time job while you’re looking for a real job that can help you pay the bills, save money and spend a little for fun or other pleasurable pursuits. Interviews will differ depending on the type of position, company or business that you’re hoping to be employed by, but in general, most interviewers will follow a specific pattern in doing their interviews in order to select the best candidate for the job. A job interview can be a nerve racking experience, especially if it is your first experience going for a job. It can cause you sleepless nights and panic attacks before or during the interview. You don’t have to worry because almost everyone going for an interview is feeling exactly the same. It’s also possible that you may undergo many job interviews before landing an actual offer. Failing an interview is not the end of the world, you just have to move on and go for another one or as many as you can until you get the job. Preparation and doing your homework about the job and the company is key to passing a job interview and getting ahead of your fellow applicants. First, let’s try to understand what a job interview is.

No handshake. Image courtesy of
No handshake. Image courtesy of

Job Interview Defined

By definition, a job interview is an employment-type test that usually involves a conversation between a job applicant and a representative of the organization that requires employment. Interviews are one of the most popular tools in selecting possible employees. Interviews can differ in structure, for example one interview might be an unstructured,  freewheeling conversation and another might be based on a concrete list of questions each applicant is asked.  Based on research, a structured interview is more useful compared to unstructured because these conversations are more often than not accurate in predicting which applicant posses the right skills and character for the job.

Before an interview, resume’s are evaluated in order to distinguish the most interested and qualified candidates or applicants. And from that lot, a smaller selection of candidates for interviews are made. Once the candidates are selected, they will be scheduled for the actual interview. Multiple rounds of interviews may be undertaken if there are many candidates or if the particular job position is a desirable one or includes challenging work. Often interviews are made over the phone where the employer asks basic questions and goes over information stated in the resume. If the candidate passes this stage, he or she will be scheduled for a face to face interview with the employer and then perhaps a final interview will be scheduled if successful. Once all candidates have been interviewed, the employer will select the most qualified or the best personality for the job and will begin the negotiation of the job offer.

Job Interview Stages

A normal interview sees the candidate meeting with between one to three interviewers as representatives of the employer or company. In most cases, the manager or supervisor of the prospective employee is also present during the interview. The interview can last anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours for more extensive or challenging positions. As mentioned earlier, there are different stages during a job interview. Let’s discuss.

1. The Pre-screening Interview

This begins from the time that a candidate applies for a job. Some employers do phone interviews or pre-screening procedures through online applications. The interviewer will usually ask for your resume, a cover letter or a recommendation letter. The interviewer can also require the candidate to:

–          Rate themselves in terms of job knowledge or specific skills

–          Answer any open ended questions

–          Respond to a personality assessment or a personality survey

Pre-screening phone interviews are usually done by the HR department that may want to ask the applicant questions that can help determine if the applicant is the right one to bring in for the interview

Image courtesy of Nanagyei
Image courtesy of Nanagyei

2. The Formal Job Interview

After passing  the pre-screening stage, the face-to-face job interview usually follows. At this stage, the interview is done in the employer’s office. In some countries, interviews are done in coffee shops and on occasion, done over lunch or dinner at a restaurant.  The main objective of a face-to-face interview is to see the candidate’s behavior. Qualities employers usually look for are the enthusiasm, the ability to think quick and professionalism. During this stage, the employer is narrowing down the list of potential applicants to a short list which commonly consist of the top 5 or top 3 applicants. The shortlisted applicants may go through a 2nd, 3rd and 4th interview before an employer has made their decision.

The goal of the applicant is to impress the employer with their knowledge regarding the position and how the applicant talks or speaks about their work experience and achievements. Take note that a firm handshake and eye contact will show the right kind of confidence.

3. Reference Check, Negotiations And Job Offer

The employer will surely check the candidate’s references before making a job offer. Prepare the key references in advance, specifically people the candidate has worked with; previous boss, a supervisor or a co-worker are good references as these people will be familiar with the candidate’s recent work contributions.

For negotiating the job offer, it is advisable to have it in writing so that the employer and the applicant are clear about the terms and conditions that are being presented. The start date, salary, job title, probation period if applicable and holiday entitlement should be explained clearly.

Job Interview Preparation And How To Ace It

Since the interview process is laid out, the candidate can now plan on how to make himself/herself be the best amongst other candidates. Preparation, research and confidence are most important in acing an interview. These are the things that you as an applicant need to know  before, during and after a job interview.

Do Your Research

Many hiring managers complain that many candidates know very little about the company they are applying to. Knowing little to no information may affect the impression you give the interviewer. Google the company’s website, learn their mission and be familiar with their products and services. If possible read some articles or press releases about the company on their website. This will give you an idea about how the business works and if you are in line with their business principles.

Image courtesy of Dell's Official Flickr Page
Image courtesy of Dell’s Official Flickr Page

Prepare A List Of Possible Key Questions

Do not underestimate the importance of preparation. It is the first and most important step before going through an interview.

Conversation Not An Interrogation

Don’t think of the interview as an interrogation, but a conversation. A natural flowing conversation will demonstrate your ability in interaction and listening. Once the interview shifts from a question and answer structure to a collaborative conversation, the dynamics of the interview will shift. A connection will happen and the nervousness will subside.

Know The Company’s Culture

It is to be expected that the question, “Why should we hire you?” will be asked. In this case you should take note that the answer needs to provide the interviewer with information about you and your ability to fit into the job description. Identifying the skills employers are looking for is very helpful. Use the company’s in-depth job descriptions, videos that they post and the social feeds that they use on Facebook or Twitter. You can get ahead of other applicants if your replies show that you understand the company’s issues.

Control Your Online Presence Or Footprint

An applicant’s web presence plays a major role in landing a job. You have to make sure that your online persona will promote your skills, professionalism and overall work attitude. A solid LinkedIn profile or a blog entry about your field of work can serve you well. Any personal tirades about a former office, co-worker or a previous boss are all red flags.

Dress Right For The Interview

Although the skills and qualifications are what employers are mostly looking for, a first impression still matters greatly. Wearing a clean, well-pressed, well-fitted set of clothes will make an impression. Depending on the position you’re applying for, a suit and tie or smart casual clothing can fit the part. Have a haircut if needed, shine your shoes and spray some cologne or perfume.

Image courtesy of johnhope14
Image courtesy of johnhope14


Practice And Plan Your Approach

Do a role play with friends, family or colleagues answering typical job interview questions. You don’t need to memorise your answers, but you should have a general strategy when it comes to answering common interview questions. You can prepare this by thinking about your workplace experiences and stories that describe your work accomplishments or show how you dealt with a tough work situation.

Showcase Your Personality

You need to demonstrate and show that you are the right one for the job. Be confident, appear poised and be friendly. Avoid appearing desperate. Being nervous is normal, but don’t let it control the flow of the interview; avoid being fidgety. Don’t say anything bad about your previous bosses or coworkers no matter how bad previous work experience or situations have been.

It may sound cliché, but be yourself, relax and answer the questions honestly. If you aced the interview, then congratulations. If you didn’t make it to that final interview, it’s certainly not the end of the world, move on and prepare yourself for another interview.


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