Job interviews are the equivalent of first dates. They are extremely stressful and can sometimes make you question your abilities and self-worth.

The good news is that, just as with a regular date, there are plenty of tips and advice that can help you make a good impression. Knowing how to prepare for a job interview, can take away some of the stress and make you feel more confident about your chances.

Here’s an essential checklist to keep in mind when preparing for an interview.

Research

Be well informed and not only will you have better answers to the questions the recruiter might ask, but you’ll also determine if the job actually suits you.

Read the job description carefully to get a clear understanding of the company, their expectations, their culture, and anything you might find relevant.

Does this job seem right for you? Can this job help you advance your career? Is the company’s culture congruent with your professional aim and your personality? What can you bring to this job and what can it bring to you?

List Out all the Skills, Abilities and Personal Objectives

Now, get deeper into what your best assets are and what you want to develop. Being clear on these and being able to name them is important. Once you understand what the job is all about, you need to focus on yourself. Make a list of your skills and then compare these with how well they match the job requirements. Prioritize what feels most relevant. You will have to play up your best assets.

Practice

Once you’ve finished your research, it’s time for practice. Knowing your best assets might not mean a thing if you cannot express them appropriately. Be ready to answer any question by reviewing all the common interview questions – we recommend simply googling “common interview questions” and checking out a few articles. Many interviews start out with you going through your background. This may seem repetitive since the hiring manager likely has your resume in front of them, but this is typically a good way for the interviewer to get the conversation going. You will then likely go through a series of questions that relate to both you and the position. Some of these questions will be very general and could apply to many different types of positions and some might be more job specific. If you are asked any negative questions, such as talking about a mistake you’ve made professionally or being asked about any flaws you have, it is best to own up to these things and talk about how you’re working on them or what you’ve learned from your experiences – never place the blame on someone else.

Be sure to research the company and the types of interviews they do. Some companies may utilize a presentation interview or another format that isn’t as common – you will typically be told if you’re needing to prepare something or if the interview will be out of the ordinary, but it’s best to double check so you’re not surprised.

Learn the STAR Technique

You want your answers to be sharp and relevant during the interview. To ensure you’re not getting sidetracked, use the S.T.A.R. technique to provide your responses. Present the Situation or Task, explain the Action you took and then present the Results you achieved. You can even elaborate here by concluding with what you’ve learned from the experience. For example, a common interview question is, “Tell me about a time you made a mistake.” In this example you will ideally use the S.T.A.R. technique to respond and then conclude with what you’ve learned from this mistake showing that you’re not likely to make the same mistake again.

Arrive Early

Being late to a job interview can simply take you off the list in a blink of an eye. The interviewer will dismiss you quickly, as you have just shown that you are disrespectful, disorganized, flaky or unable to follow through with commitments. To avoid being late because of an unexpected traffic jam, plan your day carefully. Allocate a generous amount of time for getting dressed up and commuting to the meeting place.

Come Prepared

Bring some interview essentials with you. These include a pen and a notebook, a couple of copies of your resume – ideally placed in a nice portfolio/folder of some sort, and any supporting documentation: reference lists, brag sheets, cover letter, etc. Be sure to write down some questions that you’ll ask at the end of the interview. Some interviewers will automatically eliminate candidates who don’t have any questions at the end. You’ll want these questions to pertain to the position and the company specifically as much as possible. Finally, dress presentably – if you know the office environment is casual you’ll still want to dress up a bit for the interview, for example, wearing khakis and a button-down/blazer. If the environment is business casual or business professional you’ll likely want to wear a suit. It is always better to be a bit overdressed than to be underdressed!

Be Confident, Listen and Ask Questions

Making eye contact and giving your full attention to the recruiter is essential. It will make you look trustworthy, intelligent and motivated. You might not give body language much credit, but it can reveal just as much as the answers you give. You might have a lot of experience and know everything there is to know about the company. But, if you are too timid or too outgoing, for instance, the recruiter might not consider you a good match.  So be confident yet considerate; listen and ask questions.

As mentioned above, write down what you’ve prepared, you want to bring along a list of relevant questions to ask during the interview. You wouldn’t want that research about the company to be in vain.

Job interviews are no piece of cake. They can be extremely stressful, especially if you have no interviewing experience, or simply haven’t interviewed in a long time. Follow these tips to ensure you land the job of your dreams.

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