If you’re just starting out in your career, you may not feel super confident heading into a job interview. For starters, you might not know what to expect of the interview process as a whole, and you may also be worried about how your lack of work experience may count against you or make it more difficult to answer questions.
The best thing you can do heading into any job interview is to do some prep work ahead of time. Use these tips to nail your job interview — regardless of how much or little job experience you have.
Bill Catlette, an executive coach and partner at Contented Cow Partners, said that preparation is key.
“Show up better prepared than anyone else,” he said. “Just as baseball players take batting practice before every game, prepare by answering — out loud — some of the questions you know you’re going to get.”
Some questions you should be prepared to answer include: What’s your backstory? What kind of role are you looking for? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
“Ask a friend who’s perhaps a little more seasoned in the job market to listen and comment on your answers,” Catlette said.
In addition to preparing answers for some common interview questions, you should also prep some questions to ask your interviewer.
“Asking questions is common at the end of an interview,” said Jill Chapman, senior performance consultant with Insperity, a provider of human resources. “To avoid being caught off guard, candidates should draft a list of potential questions to ask, such as specifics about the role, the corporate culture and development opportunities.”
Do Extra Prep Work for a Video Interview
If your job interview will be via Zoom, do some extra preparation to ensure you’re camera-ready well before the interview.
“Don’t wait until ‘show time’ to get comfortable with the technology,” Catlette said. “Take pains to achieve a good camera angle, have a pleasant and neat background, remain relatively still and don’t put your hands in front of your face. Practice audio on your own a few times to ascertain that you’re getting good, clear pickup.”
Do Your Homework
Another way to be prepared is to research the company you are interviewing with.
“Do as much homework as you can on any organization you apply to,” Catlette said. “What do they do? What are they best known for? Who are their competitors? What are their products or services? What has business been like for them lately? Who do you know that works or has worked there?”
If you do know someone who works or has worked there, seize this opportunity to give you a leg up during the interview rounds.
“Reaching out to current employees of the company to learn more about the culture, employee experience and business focus will help those candidates be more prepared for their interview, and leave a more favorable impression on the recruiter,” said Michelle V. Katz, director of talent and DEI at DailyPay.
Know That It’s OK To Not Have an Answer
Your interviewer may ask you a question that you don’t have an answer to.
“If you simply don’t have an answer to a question, say so rather than making something up,” Catlette said. “Don’t try to fake it.”
Practice Good Manners
Good manners can go a long way in the interview process.
“Don’t even think about being late for an interview,” Catlette said. “Be polite and considerate, no matter whom you are dealing with. And make it a point to send a post-interview thank-you note within 24 hours of the interview.”
Emphasize Your Soft Skills
You might not have every technical skill listed on the job posting, but having sought-after soft skills can make you a desirable candidate.
“Highlight and leverage the transferable skills that would most likely appeal to the organization to which you are applying,” said Katz. “Even if these skills were obtained in the microcosm of campus life, or in a less corporate setting such as a summer camp, the skills are still an important part of the candidate’s career journey.”
She continued, “Consider transferable skills around problem-solving, influencing without authority, working with others, innovating, communicating effectively or empathic listening, as those skills, in particular, are used in most work environments.”
Katz recommends preparing anecdotes about times you demonstrated the transferrable skills you want to highlight.
“This will help you more effectively tell your story and highlight the degree to which your experience may apply to the company,” she said.
Demonstrate a Willingness To Learn
Talking about your willingness to learn and grow can reassure the interviewer that you can fulfill the role’s duties, even if it requires skills that you don’t have yet.
“Show that you have a real understanding of what the job will ask of you and that, even if it’s not something you’ve done before, you have a clear sense of how you would apply your skills to it,” said Zoë Morris, Frank Recruitment Group, which specializes in IT recruitment. “If you don’t already have the skills for that particular position, show your interviewer your aptitude for learning.”
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