If there was ever a time to be prepared, an interview is it.
No, really. You cannot wing this.
There are rarely if ever, second chances when it comes to the interview process. Even if you’re just one of those people who seems to pull stuff off. Even if you have a super dynamic personality that usually carries you through situations like this. Even if you’re well-connected and know someone on the panel. There will always be others you will meet for the first time.
You cannot rely on your charm to carry you through questions like, 'What specifically drew you to this company?' and 'What do you consider to be the biggest challenge facing mid-sized accounting firms like ours?'
See? If you’re not prepared for an interview with each individual organisation it will show. And when it shows, most employers will write you off as a time-waster quicker than you can drop the name of your dad’s contact.
Start by researching the company you’re meeting with. Read their online bio and blog, check out any white papers they have published, and read industry-specific articles that mention them or their products.
Key questions include:
Try to mention as many of these aspects as you can then connect yourself with them in a meaningful way. For example, 'I noticed that you’ve been voted a top place to work for women. I really admire that focus and would love to be part of it.' Another example is, 'Business Insider reported that you grant employees 20 percent creative development time each year. I love the idea of working towards my own projects and connecting them to ongoing innovation within the company.'
Knowing about an organisation and its initiatives will also help you ask the right questions at the end of your interview.
Read the job description carefully. Most employers will list the skills they’re after and the requirements of each role. These are not simply to pad out the copy section of the ad. Addressing each of these is critical for the successful candidate.
Whether you’re working on a spreadsheet or going old fashioned with a pen and paper, this part is super easy. Just create one column where you list the skills required for the job (quite literally, the points included in the job ad). Once you’ve listed these, create another column that details your personal assets and experience and how they specifically fulfil each of the requirements.
Even if you don’t have a lot of work experience, think about instances in which you showed responsibility or leadership. Perhaps you made use of an application that helped you organise information for a club or society. Maybe you balance your personal budget with the latest money-saving app. Get creative. Think about how babysitting your siblings prepared you to work with a team or negotiate with difficult personalities. Perhaps that time you had to get from Mexico City to LA when your flight was cancelled taught you to think on your toes and take responsibility.
If an employer asks you to describe a time when you demonstrated a particular skill or experience, you’ll be ready.
Most employers want to know that you fit the skill and behavioural requirements for the job. But you know what else they want in an employee? Conscientiousness. Diligence. A show of excitement for the job.
You might fit the role in every single way, but so might a few other candidates. Showing zeal, a passion for the specific company and the way they do things, is the ultimate deal-breaker for many employers.
An eager candidate spends an extra 30 minutes reading articles online about their target company. They can mention particular initiatives, industry awards, product launches, even that time the dev team won the company’s Amazing Race event. Chances are, the managers you’re talking to are really proud of those things and will appreciate the shout out. It also shows that you’ve gone above and beyond to get to know the company and that you’ll be an asset, not simply for the job you’re hired for, but within the wider organisation.
Now that you know how to sound like you know what you're talking about, time to tell your story like a boss.