So You Got a Job Interview - What's Next?

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By Alison Green

You finally got the call you've been waiting for: an invitation to interview for a job you're really excited about. What do you need to do now to ensure you ace the interview?

Here are four steps that will position you as strongly as possible to wow your interviewer:1. Research the company. It's important to get familiar with the company you'll be interviewing with. Understanding the context your interviewers are working in will help you have a more intelligent conversation.

This doesn't mean simply memorizing facts about the company; there's not a lot of utility in that. Rather, you're looking for the answers to questions like these:
  • How does the company see itself? What would its employees say makes it different from its competition?
  • What is the company most known for?
  • Has it been in the news lately? If so, for what?
  • What are the company's biggest current initiatives, projects, products or clients?
  • What info can you find about the company's culture and values?
  • Roughly what size is the company?
  • Who are the company's key players? What kind of backgrounds do they bring to their roles?
If you come across as someone with a baseline understanding of these basics about the company, your interviewers will much more easily picture you in the job. Conversely, if you don't seem to know any of this information, they're likely to wonder how interested you really are and whether you even really understand what they do.

2. Get really, really familiar with the job description and how you fit it. Too often, candidates go into interviews without a solid understanding of what the role they're applying for is all about – even when the job posting makes it pretty clear. Before any interview, you should go through the job posting carefully, line by line, and think about how your experience and skills fit with each responsibility or qualification. Also consider what supporting evidence you can point to as evidence that you'd excel at each.

When doing this, don't be alarmed if you're not a perfect fit; people regularly get hired without being a 100-percent match. Your goal here is just to get yourself thinking about the ways in which you are a strong match, so those thoughts are fresh in your mind and can be turned into answers in your interview.

3. Practice your answers to likely interview questions – and then practice them some more. Most candidates don't practice for interviews nearly enough – but when candidates do, it generally results in a much more polished, effective interview. You can do this by thinking through the questions that you're likely to be asked, writing out answers to them and practicing your answers out loud.

Here are seven questions you're likely to be asked, so at a minimum you should prepare for these. You should also assume that you'll be asked to talk about times in the past that you've demonstrated some of the role's key skills or responsibilities, and you should spend some time thinking about stories from your past that will illustrate how you excel in those areas.

Plus, if there's a question you're especially nervous about, such as salary expectations or why you left your last job, don't just hope that topic doesn't come up. Instead, decide exactly how you're going to answer it, and practice that answer out loud over and over and over. The more you practice, the better you'll get, and the more comfortable you're likely to feel when you're in your interview.

4. Create a list of questions of your own. Remember, interviews are two-way streets, and you should be evaluating the job and company just as much as your interviewer is evaluating you. Figure out ahead of time what information you need in order to evaluate whether this job is one you'd be happy in, write those questions down and take them with you to the interview.

Good questions at this stage are often those that clarify details about the role itself and ask about the office culture. You should also always ask about the next steps in the hiring process and the employer's timeline for getting back to you.

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search and management issues. She's the author of "How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager," co-author of "Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results" and the former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management.
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