Job Interviews. The mere thought of them has most people breaking out into a cold sweat. It’s not nice being judged on a good day but when there’s a job opportunity on the line, it gets even more difficult. Are you making a good impression? Are you selling yourself enough without going over the top? Have you used enough technical terms? How much detail is too much detail?
Thinking about these questions has sent almost every one of us into an anxiety spiral on more than one occasion. However, detailed planning for different scenarios can have a calming effect. Analyze the job listing to understand what the company’s perfect candidate looks like and where there are overlaps with your skills. Research potential interview questions, technical and behavioral, and prepare your answer accordingly.
In short, what you should make for yourself is a hybrid between a cheat sheet and a script to overcome interview anxiety.
#1. Analyze job listings
The first step is to understand what your target company is looking for. This involves reading the job listing and extracting important skills. More often than not, companies explain in the job listing what their most sought-after quality is. Mark this down as the main theme you need to highlight during the interview.
After that, write down the skills; break them down into hard and soft skills. Once you’ve eliminated the duplicates, start to think of examples for each skill. When’s a time where you had to lead a team? What are some good projects that you delivered?
It should be noted that it probably won’t be possible to think of examples for all the skills given and that’s okay! The job listing describes the dream (sometimes unrealistic) candidate. If you can’t meet 100% of their requirements, don’t worry.
#2. Prepare for technical questions
Sometimes there are jobs that have specific technical requirements. “Needs to have expertise in Microsoft Excel,” or “Knowledge of C++ desired.” If it’s a program or technical skill you’re already familiar with, go through the program to refresh your memory.
On the other hand, if it’s a program/skill you’re not familiar with, try your best to build at least a beginner-level understanding of the program. Read up on the skill, see if you can get some practice in, and sign up for a beginner’s course. (Udemy and Coursera are your friends!)
#3. Prepare for behavioral questions
There’s seemingly no shortage of behavioral questions you can be asked in an interview. You can be asked anything from why you want to leave your job to talking about your leadership style.
Collect at least thirty behavioral questions, grouping them together under different headings to help you remember them better. Google questions specific to certain positions, making use of multiple resources, including my favorite, Glassdoor. Build a nice collection of questions for certain job positions — a repository that keeps growing when you want to apply to a new open position.
After following these three steps, you will wind up with a decent sized document where you’ve got the main skills most companies look for and the variety of questions you can be asked. The next step is to start answering the questions.
#4. Prepare a rough draft
In your first draft, just write your answers out. Don’t think about your answer too hard at first. You just want to get the information out in the first draft. Revisit your answers after a day or two with a fresh pair of eyes. Compare your answers with the list of skills that you have and see if you’re touching on the key skills in your answers. Perform a quick test to see how long each answer is. If it’s longer than two minutes, you have to trim it down. If it’s between a minute and a minute and a half, there may be room for improvement, but it’s decent in terms of length.
#5. Finetune your answers
This part of the process is where the bulk of your time should go. You want to answer the question appropriately while highlighting your contributions. This means a lot of iterations have to be made for different questions. Work on your answers over the course of a few days; practice them aloud in front of a camera so you can judge your eye contact and body language. Hand-writing your responses should help you greatly in remembering them.
The reason you should go through this detailed level of preparation isn’t that you’re attached to your documentation process. Rather, the act of creating and finetuning the cheat-sheet/script document helps you retain your answers for core questions. This, in turn, minimizes your panic before you have to walk into an interview.
This level of preparation is crucial for the first interview you have during your job search. After every interview, revisit your notes to see where you could have improved and what answers weren’t as well received as you had hoped. Before every subsequent interview, review your notes briefly to touch upon your responses. By the second or third interview, the delivery of your responses will likely be much more natural.
Are there any specific interview questions that you struggle with?
Let us know in the comments and we’ll help you answer it. You can also purchase our interview coaching services here.