Prepping for a job interview can be stressful. It feels like there are a million things to think about: what to wear, what to bring, and, most importantly, what to say.
But if you know what to expect, you can walk confidently into any office and focus on making a lasting impression.
Job Interview Tips
Interview experiences may vary depending on what kind of position you’re applying for. For example, if you’re interviewing for a position in a creative field—such as writing, editing, photography, or graphic design—employers probably won’t hit you with the same exact questions that a computer programmer would face.
However, there are some universal pre-interview steps that you won’t want to skip, regardless of your field.
Research the Company
Even if you consider yourself a veteran in your field, you should always do your homework before showing up for an interview.
Research the company and find out everything you can about the position so you can get a feel for the type of candidate they’re looking for.
A little research will also give you some hints about the company culture, which can be helpful when deciding things like what to wear and how to interact with the team on the day of your interview.
You’ll want to show that you can easily fit in—if the boss walks around in khaki shorts and flip flops, a power suit might not be your best option. (Of course, you shouldn’t show up in khaki shorts and flip flops no matter what!) Aim for a step or two above what the employees wear to work every day.
Also look for recent articles or posts about the company. Keeping an eye on current events will give you some good talking points and show them that you’re genuinely interested in their work.
Most likely you’ll already be a bit jittery on the big day. The last thing you need is the stress of running late!
To avoid any frantic rushing and arriving breathless to your appointment, give yourself plenty of time. If you arrive early, you can use those extra minutes to review your resume or notes in your car or at a nearby coffee shop.
If you’re not familiar with the place, you may also consider trying a dry run of your arrival. The day before your interview, test out the commute by timing how long it takes you to arrive with traffic. Track down the exact building and office you need, so you won’t have to wander around asking for directions when it’s time for the real thing.
You’ll feel much more confident if you know exactly what to expect, and you can focus on your mental preparation instead of mundane logistics.
This is a solid rule for any kind of interview. Even if they seem harmless, little white lies about your abilities tend to reveal themselves pretty quickly once you’ve started a new job.
This puts you in a pretty awkward situation that can even cost you your new job and your reputation.
If you’re asked about a concept you’re not familiar with, be honest. Explain that you haven’t come across that yet, but you’re confident that you could learn quickly.
Then, try to shift the focus back to your other relevant knowledge and skills as best you can.
Don’t try to be too stuffy or formal. Your responses should be thoughtful, but if you try speaking in a way you’re not used to, you’re more likely to make mistakes and come off as insincere.
Remember that the interviewers are just people, too, so don’t be afraid to strike up a little conversation, especially if you can tie in any relevant hobbies or experiences.
This is a great way to break the ice and form connections right away. Having someone on your side never hurts!
Ask Your Own Questions
Job interviews are two-way streets, even if they don’t always feel that way. You’ll want to make sure that the job will actually be a good fit for both of you, so always come prepared with a few questions of your own.
Asking intelligent questions also offers you one more chance to shine. Your potential employer will be impressed by your initiative and your sincere interest in the position.
A few examples of questions you might ask:
- Can you tell me more about the day-to-day responsibilities for this position?
- What do you like best about working here?
- What do you think are the most important qualities for someone to succeed in this role?
- Where do you see this company in the next five years?
- Can you tell me more about the company culture?
- What’s the typical career path of someone in this position?
Always Follow Up
You should always follow up with a thank you e-mail or letter to show your appreciation for the interviewer’s time.
This is also one last opportunity to mention anything you might have forgotten during your interview, and to reiterate your interest in the position. You should send a personalized e-mail to anyone who interviewed you within 24 hours of your interview.
The Most Common Interview Questions
It’s hard to predict exactly which questions your interviewer will ask, but there are a few classic standards that you should be prepared for.
1. Tell me about yourself.
This one seems so simple—yet if you’re not prepared for it, it can be hard figuring out where to start.
You can start by offering a brief overview of where you are now—your current position, or what you do with your time if you’re unemployed. Then explain what got you there (you might reference your education, relevant past jobs, or even personal experiences). Conclude with a goal for the future, like what kind of work you want to do and why.
Your answer will show the interviewer how you handle open-ended questions and how well you can think on your feet, since there is basically an infinite number of ways to answer this question.
2. What do you think of our company’s current work?
This is where your pre-interview research can really come in handy. Your future employers will want to know that you’re at least vaguely familiar with their work, so come prepared with a few specific examples to discuss.
Be open and honest with your thoughts, without being too critical (if you really hated their work, you probably wouldn’t be applying there to begin with).
3. How do you keep up with industry trends?
Staying on top of industry trends shows employers that you are truly passionate about your craft and don’t just view it as a job.
If you read any relevant publications or know any important influencers, definitely mention that here.
4. How would your co-workers (or friends) describe your personality?
This question offers interviewers a sense of your self-perception and your soft skills so they can judge how well you’ll fit in with the office dynamic or company culture.
When crafting an answer, think about which soft skills would be most valuable to the organization. Are you dependable? Self-disciplined? Flexible?
To prepare for this question, you might ask some of your current or former colleagues how they would describe you. Identify patterns in their feedback and select the ones that best match the job description.
5. What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?
Everyone faces challenges at some point in their careers—the important thing is that you learn from them.
This question—along with the almost-interchangeable “What’s your biggest weakness?”—offers a chance to demonstrate your self-awareness and show how you overcome challenges.
Be honest when answering this question, but also try to turn negatives into positives when you can. You might discuss skills you have improved on, or explain what you learned from a past mistake or challenge and how it made you a stronger employee.
Your prospective employer will appreciate your honesty and your ability to learn from your experiences.
6. What are your hobbies?
If an interviewer asks you this question, they want to know how well-rounded you are and if you’ll fit well with the company culture. It’s also another way to get insight to your personality.
Your hobbies and interests make you unique. If you have any hobbies that overlap with the industry, or if you plan on continuing your education or professional development, definitely mention it here.
If you like to work on your fitness or do fun activities with your family, that will illustrate your ability to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
Employers are ultimately searching for extra bits of information here to give them an idea of what kind of person you are outside of work, so be honest (but thoughtful) in your response.
7. How are you different from the competition?
In most cases, you probably won’t know much about your competitors, but you can still answer this question by summarizing your most relevant strengths and any assets that might set you apart.
Highlight your most valuable skills and experiences and be prepared with specific examples of when you really rose to the occasion. If any of your achievements can be measured, provide numbers or data for solid support.
If you have any skills that might make you unique, like knowledge of a foreign language, now is your time to emphasize that.
8. Why should we hire you?
While you’re preparing for the interview, study the job description thoroughly and note any qualifications that you match. These are what you should focus on throughout your interview, but especially when answering this question.
But instead of just listing your every qualification that matches the job description, explain how you can add value. Reference specific occasions when you used your skills or knowledge to really shine.
Having studied the company, you should be able to explain how your unique assets could bring added value. Focus on what you will bring to the table, not on what they can offer you.
Ace Your Next Job Interview
Taking time to thoroughly prepare for your next job interview can help calm your nerves and ensure that you make a fantastic impression.
By studying some of the most common questions asked of job seekers, you can put your best foot forward and get a few steps closer to your dream job.
And if you’re interested in a career in publishing, take a moment to check out our current job openings here at TCK!
Do you have any tips for acing a job interview? Share them with us in the comments below!
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