How to Prepare for the Job Interview

A job interview is one of the most drawn-out and intimidating ways of making first impression. However, it's also your opportunity to get on an employer's good side, which can give you a distinct edge over even those applicants whose credentials are better than yours. To prepare for a job interview, use these pointers.

Step 1

Research the company's profile and background. Start by looking into their future goals and plans; conducting the interview with this in mind will make you seem like a good long-term investment. You should also be ready to talk in depth about the industry, the organization, and the position you are applying for. Use the company's website, their annual report, and newspaper/business magazine articles to gather as much information as possible.

Step 2

Think of questions to ask your interviewer. Participating actively during the interview gives a good impression of your level of interest in the job. It's a good idea to come prepared with at least three thought-provoking questions to ask your interviewer. (Avoid asking anything that could be easily answered through a quick Internet search, or you will simply come across as lazy.)

  • Ask questions that reflect your interest in future prospects. "Which are new markets the company is planning to explore in next couple of years?" or "What are the chances for professional growth in this job opportunity?" both show that you want to be on the same page as the people you'll be working for.

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  • Ask questions to bond with the interviewer and project your enthusiasm. Inquire about his/her position and background or how long (s)he has been with the company.
  • Ask questions about what is discussed during the interview itself. Though you may be tempted to respond to everything with an "Absolutely!" or a "Sure thing!" to show how competent you are, this will actually make it look like you're not listening. Show that you are paying attention by asking for more details whenever something isn't clear. (Avoid asking questions for the sake of asking, though, or it'll seem like you can't keep up.)

Step 3

Anticipate questions from the interviewer. It's best to prepare for a wide variety of questions by thinking about your own career goals, long-term plans, past successes, and work strengths, but you should also brace yourself for the deceptively simple questions that most employers like to throw at their interviewees.

  • "What's your biggest weakness?" is a classic canned interview question that many people dread. Answering this question is a bit of a tightrope walk: while you don't want to be too honest ("I have a really hard time staying motivated"), you won't fool anyone by trying to spin an obviously good quality into a weakness ("I just can't bear to do less-than-outstanding work!"). Instead, think of a genuine issue you have as well as ways you have managed to work with/around it ("I'm not naturally a very organized thinker, but I've become very organized on paper and in my personal space as a result").
  • "Where do you see yourself in five years?" is another common question that can take you off guard if you don't see it coming. Your panicked reaction might be to blurt out, "Working diligently for you, of course!" but unless you are actually trying to get a job in your chosen career, this probably isn't a good strategy. If you're going after what will clearly be a short-term job - or even one that lasts only several years - be honest about what your greater aspirations are (ex. going back to school, starting your own business); ambition is a very desirable trait in an employee - to say nothing of honesty.
  • "Why do you want this job?" is so straightforward it can throw you for a loop. If you're going into a field you care about, you will have a much easier time answering this. However, if, like many people, you're just trying to make ends meet, you can answer the question by using it as a way of highlighting your skills ("I shine in fast-paced, high-pressure situations and would love to have the opportunity to cultivate my talents here").
  • "Why did you leave your last job?" is a common question that shouldn't be hard to answer provided that you didn't have a major blowout with your previous employer. If you did, be honest (without being bitter or laying blame, as this will make you look ungracious and hard to work with) and try to put a positive spin on things.
  • Don't be afraid to admit that you don't know something. While you definitely want to seem knowledgeable, don't lie to make it seem like you know something you don't. You probably won't fool your interviewer, and admitting to not knowing something is much more impressive than lying during your interview. If need be, just acknowledge that you do not know the answer but will find out more about it and let them know afterwards.