4 Interview Prep Strategies
Strategies to Help You Ace the Virtual Interview
Strategy 1: Understand What Employers Really Want to Know About You
It’s important to remember that employers are concerned about meeting their needs and solving their problems. Doing research to understand a company’s needs can help you identify and communicate how you can help them in the job you’re seeking.
In general, employers are looking for the best fit in terms of skills, experience, education, and company culture. Although you have no way of knowing the exact questions you’ll be asked, most questions fall into the following five areas:
- Who you are (e.g., “Tell Me About Yourself”)
- What sets you apart from the other candidates ( e.g., “Why Should We Hire You?”)
- Your ability to solve a problem they have (e.g., “Tell me about your experience with X”)
- Why you may not be the best fit for the actual job (e.g., “What are your greatest weaknesses?”)
- Why you may not be the best fit for the company culture (e.g., “Why did you leave your last job?”)
Preparing and practicing positive answers and success stories in these five categories will give you a good foundation for answering many of the questions that interviewers will ask. When you get a question, think about which of these categories the question falls into and what information you can provide to reassure the employer that you are a good fit.
Strategy 2: Know and Understand the Position You’re Applying For
Thoroughly reviewing the job description and understanding and researching the position you are applying for and its role in the company will give you a strong advantage and help you in communicating the matches between your experience and the open position. Research and try to find out before the interview:
- The name and job title of the person the position reports to
- Names and titles of employees that report to this position
- The top three challenges of the job
- The expected salary range for this position ( so you can develop your bottom-line salary figure as well your ideal salary figure.)
- The type of results employers want candidates to help them achieve by working in this position, such as
- Making money
- Saving money
- Saving time
- Making work easier
- Solving a specific problem
- Being more competitive
- Building relationships/ image
- Expanding business
- Attracting new customers
- Retaining existing customers
Knowing the key results employers are looking for candidates to achieve in the position can guide you in developing specific examples and success stories to share in your interview to demonstrate your qualifications.
Strategy 3: Be Clear on Your Competitive Advantage
Several outstanding candidates who have the same experience you do or perhaps even more experience than you do will be vying for this position. So, knowing (at least making an educated guess about) the employer’s major challenges and being able to speak to the unique value you bring to the position and the organization will be critical in helping you differentiate yourself from the other candidates.
Be sure to know and be able to articulate:
- Your biggest strength/qualification for this position
- What sets you apart from other candidates
- Anything unique or “value added” that you bring to the table
- Specific examples/success stories demonstrating your hard (profession/job-related) and soft (personal and interpersonal) skills.
Strategy 4: Be Ready to Answer the Questions You Don’t Want Them to Ask
Nothing will make you more confident than preparing and rehearsing your answers to those questions you “hope they don’t ask you.” Although no candidate is perfect or has a perfect employment record, be aware of and have answers ready for those potential red flags in your background and the likely objections an interviewer could have about your background.
Some areas to give some thought to and craft responses about:
- Anything that you fear might keep you from getting the job (e.g., lack of industry experience, lack of years of experience, over-qualification).
- Questions about shifts and gaps in your career path (e.g., Why do you have so many short-term positions? Why are you switching careers?)
- Questions purposely designed to uncover negative information (e.g., “What is your greatest weakness?” or “Tell me about a time a project did not work out.“
Having answers ready for these questions will help reduce much of the anxiety associated with job interviews.
Just remember that Interviewing is a skill, and the more interviews you go on, the better you'll get at it, and the closer you’ll get to the job that is the right one for you.