Over the past fifteen or so years, I’ve interviewed probably hundreds of job applicants. Some have been in person while others have been phone screens to weed out potential duds. I’ve even volunteered to help friends by mocking interviewing them. If there’s one thing that truly astounded me in each of these job interview situations, it was how many of these people barely did any preparation (and some did none at all).
Preparing for a job interview is more than just plugging the company’s address into your GPS. I spend a good chunk of both my job interview classes and my audio program discussing preparation. I once had an attendee ask me during a class when we’d get to the “important stuff” — in other words, how to answer questions. He said he didn’t care about preparation — he didn’t need to prepare. I asked him if he had many job interviews and he told me he had a lot. We then had a somewhat heated exchange about preparation.
A week after he took my class, he emailed me an apology (both for his comments in class and on his feedback form). He told me he prepared as I told him he should just so he could prove me wrong but then got an offer at his next interview. Preparation is that important when it comes to job interviewing.
So here are five things you must do when you prepare for a job interview:
Job Interview Preparation Tip 1: Read Your Resume
This sounds so basic yet so many people fail to do this. I remember once asking someone about a project they listed on their resume. His reply was “wow that was a long time ago. How’d you know about that?” I replied that it was on his resume and he seemed surprised. Would you hire a person like that?
Job Interview Preparation Tip 2: Visit the Company’ Website
Another no brainer, right? I used to work for a dot com and I was amazed at how many people would waltz in and admit to not looking at the website that we were hiring them to work on — even though the site was listed in the job description. It makes you wonder what kind of interest they’ll have once they have the job.
Job Interview Preparation Tip 3: Read the Job Description
Again, you’d think people would do this, but they don’t — or they just read it quickly. Sometimes it’s not their fault because they go through a recruiter that arranges the interview and then verbally provides an overview of the job. If this is the case, ask for the job description. The recruiter should be able to provide it. If not, check the company’s website or call their staffing or human resources department and ask them for the information.
Job Interview Preparation Tip 4: Practice
At the very least, make up some potential questions and practice answering them. It’s impossible to anticipate every question you’ll be asked but with a little bit of effort (following the first three tips) you can anticipate some. If you’ve been on interviews and struggled with answering some questions, then try working on them. It’s a great place to start and you’ll probably come up with some additional ones.
Job Interview Preparation Tip 5: Research
You’ll want to come across as informed so if you’re not familiar with the company or industry, do some research to learn about trends, big news and top stories in those areas. I am a huge fan of using libraries for this purpose and your local reference librarian can point you in the right direction to make the most efficient use of your research time.
As someone who has been guilty of not doing enough prep work for an interview, I can tell you that it’s a feeling that’s similar to forgetting to play your lucky numbers the day they come up in the lottery. It only takes an hour or two to properly prepare for most job interviews (some circumstances require more prep work). If you need more detailed instructions on how to properly prepare, please feel free to check out my job interviewing audio program.
James Feudo owns the Boston Web Design Agency JVF Solutions and loves blogging about personal development and communication in his spare time.