Knocking Your Job Interview Out of the Park: Part I
Interview Bootcamp Part I: Preparing Ahead of Time
If you’ve graduated from college – congratulations! If you’re still in school and just working over the summer, smart move. Still, whether you’re a graduate or a student, chances are you’re feeling a little apprehensive now that it’s time to start applying for jobs. Almost everyone feels some trepidation as they approach the application and interview process, and that’s okay. By the end, you’ll view interviews as an opportunity to prove yourself and wonder what you were ever worried about.
The Separation is in the Preparation
Super Bowl champion quarterback Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks is renowned for his work ethic and his fervent belief that “The separation is in the preparation.” As it turns out, this mantra applies just as well to the interview process as it does to reaching the highest level of football.
You see, when approaching an interview or any other stressful situation, you have a natural tendency to focus on the things you can’t control. You can’t control if the interview is on a Monday and the hiring manager is in a bad mood, or if it’s at 4:30 pm on a Friday and they rush you through it to start their weekend. You can’t control the questions the interviewer asks or the resumes of the other applicants, and ultimately, worrying about these and other things that are outside your control is counterproductive.
Instead, you want to turn your focus to the things that are in your total control. The following four tips will help distinguish you from the rest of the applicant pool, but only if you do them. Fortunately, whether or not you do is entirely up to you.
1. Do your homework
And no, this shouldn’t happen when you’re stuck in traffic on the way to the interview or during a hasty bathroom break halfway through. Take the time to sit down beforehand in a relaxed setting and do your research. Since you’re applying for the job in the first place you’ve probably already perused the company website, but it can’t hurt to take another, more in-depth look.
You may be surprised by what insights you can glean into how a company functions just by looking at their “About Us” section. The picture of their ping-pong table in the break room and their photos of casual Friday’s might tell you that they’re a laid-back crowd that doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Of course, you might also benefit from doing research on a site such as Glassdoor. Current or former employees might have mentioned that the ping-pong table is just for show.
2. Check out profiles of the team
Similar to the above tactic, do some surface level research of the company’s employees. Don’t be creepy about it – unless their personal social media profiles feature their employment prominently, they’re probably off limits. Still, reading the bios on the company website shows attention to detail, and you might find you have something in common with a team member, whether it’s an alma mater or a favorite hobby.
These connections might seem small, but they’ll help interviewers remember your name and face over the next few weeks. Your interview will probably be easy for you to remember, but if the company is looking to fill a highly sought-after position they might go through stacks of hundreds of applicants over the course of several months.
3. Know where to go
You left a couple minutes early planning to make a good impression, but when your GPS informs you that you’ve arrived at your destination, you’re on a huge corporate campus with tons of buildings and airport-sized parking lots everywhere – and you have no clue where to go. In the same way it can be tough to find certain classrooms on your first day of college, getting to the interview room is rarely as smooth as you’re hoping.
Driving to the interview location a few days ahead of time will allow you to plan out your route and give you one less thing to sweat over. If the job is in another city (or you’re reading this post the night before the interview) a quick search on Google Earth will at least give you some idea of what to expect when you pull into the parking lot so you can plan accordingly.
4. Get a good night’s sleep
At the risk of sounding like your mother, it’s incredibly important to approach interviews and other high-pressure situations well-rested. At the same time, it’s easy for students who are used to being night owls to overlook this step. There are books on the importance of sleep, YouTube videos about the effects of sleep deprivation, and articles all over the web about why getting enough sleep is critical to performing at your best.
Not surprisingly, a dark room is the ideal place for sleep, but the National Sleep Foundation has other useful advice, such as turning the thermostat below 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep is essentially the last thing you can do to set yourself up for success before an important interview, so save that Netflix episode for tomorrow, put your phone on silent and call it a night. To make it easier to fall asleep, print out a few extra copies of your resume, pick out what you’re wearing, and pack your things the night before so you’re completely ready.
The interview process can be stressful but preparing ahead of time will give you the confidence you need to make a good impression. There’s one other thing you should prepare for to be successful in the business world – prepare for rejection. Hearing “no” isn’t just a remote possibility, it’s virtually guaranteed. You might need to apply to a hundred jobs to get an offer, but true leaders know you’ve only failed if you stop at 99.
When you’ve internalized these steps, you’ll be ready to walk into any interview for any job. For what to do when you’re in there, check out Part II about how to ace the interview itself.