A big interview can be stressful – there’s no sugar coating that.
However, interviews can also be an opportunity. Interviews allow you to highlight your skills and show off your personality!
The problem is, how can we show off our personality if we’re too nervous to loosen up? And this is where preparation is key. Preparing for an interview on your own and also with a friend or family member is recommended. In my experience, the best interviews I’ve had were the ones where I was most comfortable.
Big Sister Blog is here to help you figure out how to nail that next interview! Follow along to learn my top 7 interview tips that helped me secure summer internships at Mattamy Asset Management Inc. and Grant Thornton LLP.
1. Brainstorm potential interview questions
In my opinion, this is the most important step in nailing your interview. Whenever I have an interview coming up, I always prepare potential questions and think of how I might answer them. You can even google “interview questions“, and you will find list after list of potential questions an interviewer may ask.
I would recommend making a big google doc, or even using blank paper, then just writing out a bunch of questions. After you’ve compiled a thorough list, you can go through each question and think of how you might answer. Maybe add a point or two below each question.
For example, imagine this is the potential question: “Tell me about a time you failed. How did you deal with the situation?”. I would write this question down along with 20-30 others, and then brainstorm some answers. I would recall the many times I have failed and jot down 1 or 2 of those scenarios under the question. Not in detail – just a few words about the situation. I might write “group project in first year”, “working at my summer job”, and “forgetting to save a file”. The goal is not to memorize these answers, but to help your brain recall these situations when thinking on the spot.
Sometimes in interviews, we blank if we get nervous. Taking the time to think of the best answers well in advance eliminates this risk. This will get your brain flowing with ideas. Even if you are good at communicating and present yourself well, having an expectation of the questions coming your way, and how you will answer them, helps you relax.
2. Do your Research
Now you have some questions in your mind. You’re ready to think on your feet. But, you need to make sure you know your audience.
Do your research on the company, the role, AND your interviewer.
Take a few minutes to learn about the company. Go to their website, read about their goals, company culture, and mission. Educate yourself on some of the initiatives and work they have done. This will help you answer the question “why do you want to work for this company?”.
Next, look into the role a bit more. Obviously you have an idea about the role – you did apply for it. But look into it a bit more. When your interviewer asks you “Why did you apply for this position?”, you need to be able to answer. Study what the interviewer is looking for in a candidate, and make sure you showcase those aspects of your personality.
Finally, look into your interviewers. This is so important, and sometimes overlooked. But you need to know your audience! Your interviewer might work in Human Resources, or maybe they are your potential boss/manager. This will in fact change the interviewing style. Although you don’t want to explicitly say “I saw __ when I looked you up online”, it is good to have some background information. Look at their Linkedin profile to find their role at the company, what they’ve worked on, how long they’ve been there, and even where they went to school. Knowing what you have in common, or alluding to one of their interests, could give you a step up in your next interview.
3. Prepare a mock interview
The next thing you can do to ace your interview is ask someone to roleplay a mock interview with you.
Have a friend, family member, or someone you trust ask you some questions. They can ask off your list of questions you already created, or they can think of their own.
It is important to pretend this is the real interview as best as you can. This will be a waste of time if you don’t take it seriously. Don’t be shy to answer the questions how you would in front of the interviewer. In my experience, I would get nervous to mess up in front of people I knew, so I wouldn’t ask for help. What I didn’t realize was that I was more nervous practicing my answers in front of my friends/family than an interviewer I didn’t even know. If you can answer these questions well in front of someone close to you, then you know you will be ready.
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Negative feedback, although upsetting to hear, is what we need as humans. Sometimes we don’t notice these flaws or mistakes. If your friend or family member can point out any weaknesses, you can work hard to avoid those same mistakes in the real interview. This is the time to make mistakes!
When finding someone to practice interviewing you, try to find someone who has interviewed before or is also practicing for interviews. If you have a classmate also interviewing for new jobs, then you can practice being the interviewer and the interviewee. Listening to their answers might even give you inspiration for your own. As the interviewer, you will also be able to understand what answers to look for, which will further improve your interviewing style.
4. Dress to impress
From the moment your interviewer sees you, they are in one way or another judging you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does emphasize the importance of making a good first impression.
If it’s in-person, do your best to dress professionally head-to-toe. I usually opt for business casual. starting with the shoes, this means cute flats or small pump heels. For bottoms, tailored dress pants or a long skirt. Typically neutral colours are best. On the top, I usually go for a nice neutral coloured blouse, layered under a cardigan or blazer. You could also try a simple dress layered under a cardigan or blazer. Add a cute belt if you want.
If its virtual, make sure your zoom square is professional. Dress the part (at least shoulders and above) and set up your computer in a place with good lighting. Try to limit any background noise if possible. Check your speakers – make sure they can hear you. Ensure you know how to join the call well in advance, and make sure your camera and audio are connected.
These tips will ensure that before you even say your first word, you make a good impression.
5. Be yourself & smile
Being yourself is one of the best tips for interviewing. I cannot emphasize it enough. Trying to be someone else will show through. You have to show off your true personality.
You will be most comfortable when you are yourself. This is your chance to show off who you are. If you answer your questions truthfully you will be more comfortable. Just remember, you were invited to the interview because you were a good candidate. Remember that and be confident. Look at the interview as an opportunity to showcase how great you would be for the role.
6. Ask your interviewer questions
In the interview, make sure YOU ask questions too! Whether it’s at the beginning or the end, your interviewer will almost always ask if you have any questions. Make sure you think of some questions you want to ask.
If your interviewer asks “do you have any questions for me?”, and you don’t have any, you will look unprepared. Show that you are interested in the role, your interviewer, and the company in general. Here are some of my go-to questions for the interviewer:
- Can you tell me more about the role? The team I would be working with?
- What is a typical day like on the job?
- What is your favourite part about working at *company*?
- How long have you worked at *company*? Why did you come to this company?
- Is there any other questions you have for me?
- What are the next steps?
Feel free to think of your own too. Google “Questions to ask in an interview” for inspiration. Put your own twist on them and make them your own.
7. Follow up after the Interview
After the interview is over, follow-up via email within 24 hours. Your interviewer might not reply, but they will likely appreciate your note. The email will keep you in their mind even after the interview is over.
Be brief in your email. Make the subject line “Thank you for your time” or “Following Up”. If you write an entire essay, odds are, they won’t read it. They are busy people. Thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you. Tell them you enjoyed the conversation. Even mention some of the unique topics brought up in the interview to recall their memory. Finish the email with “I’m looking forward to hearing from you”.
Be brief, be kind, and be prompt.
Now that you have the basics down, it’s time to get ready for the big day! Remember, you will improve with practice. Whether it’s a mock interview, or just doing more interviews over time, you will get better. It will become easier.
Always remember. The interviewer is looking for the best candidate for the job. This is your opportunity to prove that person is you. Be yourself, show off your skills, and do your best to be well-prepared. These tips will help you shine through in the interview, and hopefully secure that job!