This guide has been specially crafted to help you, the reader, through the entire job interview process: from prior preparation of interview questions, to the interview itself, and other post-interview tips.
The objective of this guide is to help you present yourself in the best way possible during interviews.
This can be best achieved by closely following this interview preparation process, step-by-step.
Are you ready to prepare for your interview? Let’s get started!
This is going to be a long (but definitely helpful) read, so you can choose to download the offline version of this guide here:
I was having a phone interview with an E-Commerce company, and everything was going pretty smoothly. My strengths and weaknesses, check; Potential contributions, check again.
I thought I was well prepared for most of the commonly asked interview questions!
That was when the interviewer suddenly asked:
“Have you tried using our platform?”
Looking to impress, I confidently answered ‘Yes’.
Naturally, she then followed up by asking about my most and least favourite parts of the platform.
This question definitely caught me off guard. I had only used the platform once, and that happened many years ago!
I spewed out generic characteristics of good E-Commerce platforms, but she saw right through it.
Needless to say, I failed to advance to the next round of the interview.
To help you avoid this tragedy and other pitfalls, this guide has been specially written to share my strategies and tips to prepare for in an interview.
I hope that through this guide, you can learn from my mistakes. You will go to the interview prepared, and leave the interview proud and confident of your performance.
1. Preparing for the Interview
Preparation is key.
This tip might sound obvious, but it may surprise you how many people overlook this.
There is a famous saying that goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.
This is especially relevant in the context of job interviews.
A large part of interviews is to show how you are the best fit for the role applied. A best fit then requires a match between two aspects:
- The company and its job role
To demonstrate this match, you need to have a good understanding of both aspects.
If you don’t even have a good understanding of either of the two, how can you show that you are the best fit?
Without a strong preparation and knowledge of the company, other tips and tricks would be of no help.
So in case you did not get that the first time, Preparation is key.
Here’s how you can best prepare for an interview:
1.1 Company background knowledge: Experience the company first hand
As candidates prepare for an interview, you often will focus on your own achievements, skills and strengths.
Sometimes, you simply forget to consider the company you have in mind. This is a cardinal sin!
Remember how you need to have a match between the company, and yourself?
You should definitely not neglect the company you are interested in.
Keeping this in mind, how can you better understand the company?
What better way to understand a company than to experience the company’s product/service offerings!
Whether it is a retail storefront, online-based business or any other business that allows you to try their offerings, try it!
As you try the company’s offerings, take down notes of your reflections of the experience: What you liked and disliked about the products and experience, what you think can be improved, areas that you are especially curious of, etc.
This will give you a good first-hand experience to share with your interviewer.
The interviewer will also be able to feel your authentic interest in the company.
Company background knowledge: Secondary research
For larger companies, or Business-to-business companies that you might not be able to experience their offerings first-hand, no worries!
With the wealth of information available online, you can also do secondary research to find out everything you need to know.
Go through the process of learning about different parts of the business through online secondary research. This can include:
- The vision, mission and values of the organisation
- Their core products/services
- Their key value proposition against other competitors
- Latest news and offerings of the business
- General industry news and trends
- Other areas of the business relevant to the position you are applying for
It is definitely useful to demonstrate during the interview that you are up-to-date with the company and industry’s news, to show a keen interest in this role that you are applying for.
By understanding their key value proposition and industry trends, you can engage in a more meaningful conversation with the interviewer. This will clearly show your knowledge and effort put into the interview.
With a comprehensive understanding of the company, you can also better understand how your interests and values align with the company’s values.
Now, you can show that you are a great fit for the company culture!
Special Tip: A very useful way to find all these knowledge about a company is to read the company’s Annual reports! The report will encompass many of the information mentioned earlier, and even the company’s future goals.
1.2 Self Knowledge
Remember how we mentioned earlier that the 2 key points of interview preparation are to understand the company, and to understand yourself?
Now that you have a good understanding the company, make sure that you have a good understanding of yourself as well.
You might be thinking, “Why do I need to prepare for this? Of course I know myself very well!”
But do you, really?
Your work experience
First, you need to be very clear about your past work experience and its different details. Some experiences might have been months, or years back, and your memory of them might now be fuzzy.
As you prepare, take time to reflect upon your past work experiences, what you have accomplished, how you accomplished them, and what you have learnt from them.
It is not enough to simply know what your past achievements and highlights were.
When sharing your experiences with potential employers, they tend to scrutinize details and processes.
For example, they might want to know:
- What were the exact steps that led you to achieving the particular accomplishment?
- What were some of the challenges you had leading to the achievement?
- What was your thought process and framework?
Hence, it is critical to first have a thorough understanding of your own experiences.
Your skills and traits
Besides your job experiences, another important area you need to be absolutely certain of are the skills you possess and the traits you have.
After going through years of schooling, training and work experience, what are some of the skills you have picked up?
This can include hard skills such as Adobe Photoshop, technical skills such as AutoCAD, or soft skills such as communication and leadership.
Think about the different skills that you possess, and how they might be relevant to the company you are applying for:
Do the skills you have match what they are looking for?
If not, do you have related skills or experiences that can also show that you are up for the job?
Besides skills, another key area that employers are looking out for are traits.
Traits are intangibles that can determine whether you are a good cultural fit with the company. Some common traits that companies look for include:
- Being detail-oriented
- Being a team player
- Having perseverance
Take time to also reflect upon the traits you have, and whether they are the right fit with what the company is looking for in a candidate.
After having a complete understanding of both the company and yourself, you are now well equipped to prepare for the interview questions!
1.3 Interview Questions: The Preparation
With a good understanding of both yourself and the company, are you now good to go?
Well, not quite. Before the interview, you need to take some time to prepare answers for the common interview questions.
Here, a common concern surfaces: “But why? Doesn’t this make our answers very forced and fake?”
Now, think back to your days in school.
When you were younger in school, did your teacher make you revise past year papers before each major exam?
Before you went for any competitions, did your coach make you practice over and over?
This is no different.
It is only smart to have prepared for questions that are commonly asked.
This helps you give you a more confident and comprehensive answer, and helps to leave a better impression as well!
As you prepare for your answers beforehand, it also helps you to evaluate your own achievements and past experiences, and how you can best highlight them to convince the interviewer.
It is a no loss proposition: Great if similar questions are asked during the interview, but no harm done if they are not asked too!
Now that you recognize the importance of preparing for interviewing questions, here are some common interview questions that you can prepare for:
Interview question 1: Tell me more about yourself.
This question is a MUST-PREPARE. Almost every single interviewer likes to start off with this question, so take advantage and prepare hard for this.
In the past, you would probably have started by rattling off all your past experiences in different roles till date.
This can be ineffective as it is not relatable to the interviewer. Instead of simply listing your experiences, try to tell a story with your experiences so that the listener can better understand.
For example, if you had experience in multiple industries, you could paint a story of being a high-performer that has been open to new learning opportunities in different areas.
Special Tip: Try to find an overarching theme from all your past experiences.
Another important thing to note is that you have to relate your experiences back to the company and the role you are applying for.
Remember, it is not all about you.
After highlighting a previous job experience, try to evaluate how the experience and skills gained can be applied and translated to this job you are applying for.
Ultimately, the interviewer does not want to just know all about you, but rather why you are a good choice for the role.
By showing a clear link, it shows that you have prepared and understood your potential contributions, and helps convince the interviewer that you are a good fit.
Interview question 2: Why are you interested in this job/position?
This is another common question. Interviewers want to know why you are genuinely interested in the role, outside of plain practical reasons.
This interest tends to come from 2 main factors:
i) The Company
This is where your previous research on the company all comes in handy.
With good understanding of the company, you can give examples of how they have previously executed strategies that you are excited about. This shows how you have gave thought over the company’s issues beyond the surface level.
You can also talk about the culture of the company, and how the company culture resonates with you. Try to give examples of areas that are unique to the company, and how you will be a good fit for their culture.
ii) The Job Role
You will also need to have an excellent understanding of the job role.
You could be interested because the role was a good fit with the skillset you currently possess. Here, you will have to emphasize the skillsets you have, and how they are a natural fit with the job requirements.
Another reason the job would have sparked your interest is probably if it was challenging and exciting in the long run. You will have to demonstrate your passion for the growth opportunities, and how you have been pursuing different opportunities in your career.
Interview question 3: Why should I hire you/ How can you contribute to the company?
This is a question many interviewers have at the top of their minds.
They are essentially looking for reasons why you will be a great hire for them, and how you can benefit the company. As such, they will often ask this question, but in different forms.
This is a question where you can really promote yourself through your response.
Here are a few areas you can focus your answer on:
- Your skillset and how they solve the company’s problems
- Your traits and personality and how they fit with the company’s culture
- Your experience and track record and how they can translate into performance
Your expertise will typically come from one or more of these factors.
For example, you can answer something along the lines of:
“In my past jobs, I have demonstrated that I have the necessary skillsets A, B and C that the company is looking for.
While I might not have an extensive experience in this particular industry, I have shown leadership and excellent track record in my previous jobs.
Hence, I am confident that my skills and traits can translate into a strong performance and contribute to your company”
Special Tip: Remember to focus on showing how these factors can help you contribute to the company! Don’t ramble on about yourself!
Interview question 4: What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Finally, this is a question less commonly asked nowadays, but also important to prepare for.
Preparation for this question allows you to have an honest self-evaluation and prepares you for any other question that might come..
To prepare for this question, reflect and focus on a few strengths and weaknesses that you have. Next, evaluate why you think you have them.
- For each strength, be sure to back it up with past stories and experiences that can demonstrate that you truly possess this strength.
- For each weakness, try not to focus solely on the weakness itself, but how you acknowledge the weakness and try to improve on the weakness.
Preparation for this question is crucial as it gives you an honest look at all your past experiences, and equips you with stories and anecdotes that can also be used in answering other unexpected questions.
With these commonly asked questions in mind, you can start preparing for them by noting down your answers, or at least the main points.
Next, make sure to rehearse yourself answering these questions out loud. This helps you gain more confidence and be more fluent in your delivery during the actual interview.
Practise makes perfect. As you get more familiar with your answers, you will be able to deliver them more naturally and fluently.
1.4 Interview preparation: Asking good questions
This is another part of the interview that you must prepare for. Interviewers always end the interview by asking if you have any questions for them.
This is almost like a trick question, as you should always have questions prepared to ask.
When you ask good questions to the interviewer, it reflects a few things about you:
- You show genuine interest in the company, and have pondered over company and industry related issues.
- You are well prepared for the interview and have put in effort to research information about the company and industry.
- You show strong critical thinking skills.
As discussed at the start of this post, you should have done extensive research on the company. This can be through trying out the company’s offerings, or secondary information search on the web.
With a good understanding, you should be able to ask thoughtful and targeted questions in a few categories: the job role itself, the team or company that you will be working with, and the industry at large.
The following are some general questions that you can take and use in your interviews, but they are by no means exhaustive. Feel free to adapt the questions to the job you are applying for.
Try to ask questions that you have genuine interest in knowing the answers to, so that you can have a more fruitful conversation with the interviewer.
- What are the skills and attributes expected from an ideal employee?
- What challenges are an employee in the role expected to face, and how can one best overcome them?
- Do they have any latest developments related to the job or responsibilities you might be involved in?
- What is one pressing issue that the team/company is facing that the new employee can help manage?
- How is the team/company culture like in its day-to-day work environment?
- How are certain industry-related trends and developments affecting the company?
- How is the company managing and adapting to these developments?
2. During the Interview
If you have followed all the steps above, you should be well prepared for the interview. Congratulations!
Now comes the big day: Interview day! Here are some more tips to help you perform well on the interview day itself.
This is extremely important, as there is almost no excuse to be late for the interview.
In fact, try to be early for about 15 – 30 minutes, to give yourself some buffer time. You never know what may happen on the way!
I once went for an interview at a location I was unfamiliar with. With many similar looking buildings around, it was incredibly confusing and hard to find the correct office building!
Another time, it started raining halfway during the journey that forced me to take a huge detour to prevent myself from getting soaked.
Moral of the story?
Being early is always better than being late, so plan to arrive early to prevent any unfortunate situations. Being early can help you get better acquainted with the company itself too!
Interview attires can vary from company to company, so there is no hard and fast rule to this.
Smaller companies and startups may be more casual, so a smart casual attire could suffice. A more formal work attire would be more suitable for interviews at larger corporations.
That being said, a safe rule of thumb is that it is always better to overdress than underdress.
So if you are unsure, dress more formally to be safe!
Be sure to also check every detail of your personal grooming: Your nails, hair and facial hair for males, makeup and hair for females, and any other areas that interviewers might notice.
Remember, every detail counts!
2.3 Delivery of Answers
Finally, the interview itself! Having prepared so much for the interview, how can you best deliver your answers to perform well?
First, while you have prepared tremendously, don’t just memorise and recite your answers! Your interviewer can tell if you have memorized a script and are just trying to recite it word for word. This can put off interviewers and come off as unauthentic.
Instead, while you want to be extremely familiar with your past work experiences and main points for the answers, try to deliver them in a natural, confident and conversational way.
This sounds difficult, but the key is to prepare extensively. With much preparation, you will have internalized the stories you want to tell and they will come out naturally during the conversation.
Special Tip: It is also always easier to remember stories, so make use of stories and anecdotes wherever suitable to demonstrate your skills and experiences.
Another key area to note is that you should always show your contribution potential rather than simply engaging in self-promotion.
Sometimes you might get carried away with talking about your achievements that you forget the purpose of the interview.
The interviewer doesn’t want to know how great you are.
The interviewer wants to see how you can fit with the company, and how you can contribute!
So show it clearly through your answers, by highlighting to the interviewer about different areas of the company that you can contribute to.
Remember. To. Smile!
Interviews can certainly be tense and nerve-wracking. Many overly nervous interviewees might look too serious or formal to the interviewer.
To mitigate this problem, rehearse! You can rehearse your answers in front of a mirror, to see for yourself and remind yourself to reveal appropriate smiles during parts of the answer.
Another area to take note of is your body language and expressions.
During your rehearsal, you want to simulate answering in a real interview as much as possible. Thus it is important to smile appropriately and do appropriate hand gestures even during the preparation of your answers.
This way, during the interview itself, you will also be deliver your answers in a natural manner that interviewers can feel more comfortable with.
3. After the Interview
After the interview, you should be happy and relieved, and rightfully so! Give yourself a pat on the back!
But it is not all over yet.
Within 24 hours, remember to email the interviewer and thank him/her for the interview. Remember that the interview is not a given and you should be thankful for having the opportunity!
You can also drop some subtle reminders regarding the interesting topics you guys talked about during the interview, to help him/her recollect some memories of this specific interview. This also helps to differentiate your interview from the other candidates!
If you have reached this part of the guide, congratulations! You have now successfully received all my best job interview strategies and secrets.
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I wish you all the best for your upcoming interviews, and don’t forget to share this post with a friend to give them a hand too!