How to Prepare for Your Job Interview

How to Prepare for Your Job Interview!

Are you ready?

You’ve updated your resume and cover letter.  You’ve done the online application.  You let your references know that you were looking at this position.  And you finally landed the job interview!  Congratulations!

Now what? 

Exactly.  Preparing for a job interview is almost more work than just applying for the job.  You want to get it, don’t you?  Then you need to go above and beyond all the other candidates and prepare as best you can for that interview.  Because you want to sound like you know what you’re talking about.  You want them to know that you are competent and ready to do the work.  You want to answer all the questions correctly and impress people.

And you need to know that you are interviewing for the job that will suit you the best.

Because landing the job that will become your vocation – getting yourself into a career that feeds your passion – isn’t easy.  And it also isn’t automatic.  The job for which you’re interviewing might have the perfect title and the perfect salary.  But are you certain that it’s the perfect employer?

That’s why we gotta research!  There may be questions during your job interview you can be better prepared to answer.  You may learn something about the company that surprises you.  It will be important to understand what comes with the position besides the salary.  And guess what?  This research project is easier than ever because of the internet.

But you knew that already because you are reading this blog and not a library book.

Carve out enough time between scheduling and attending the job interview to do your research.  You may need to skip happy hour with your friends, or save all your shows for streaming or the DVR later.  Are you ready?  Let’s go!

Research Topic #1:  What does the company stand for?

Mission statement!  Find the mission statement which could be on a home page, could be on an “about us” page, or could be on a welcome message from the President or CEO.  Charles Schwab has an amazing page dedicated to this, and you can view that here.

Chico Bag has a page dedicated to Core Values, which is another way to get to know what a company stands for.   You can view that page here.

Research Topic #2:  Organization Chart

This may be a little harder to find, but many companies have some sort of organization chart or company structure description on the website somewhere.  Why do you want to know this?  You would like to see where you fit in the overall scheme of the company.  If you are really at the bottom of the ladder, it helps to know that going in to the interview; but the job you are pursuing may be higher up the ladder than you thought!   Is the organization top heavy?  Are there many layers between you and the CEO?  How many of “you” will there be, anyway?  Just one?  Or thirty?

(If you can’t find an organization chart on the website, this could be a question you ask when it’s your turn.)

Research Topic #3:  Benefits

Go to the employers human resources section and look up the health and welfare benefits that are offered.  You may find nice little bonuses or factors you need to take into consideration.  One of my employers covered insurance for me as the employee, but didn’t cover my spouse in the manner.  I had to pay for his benefits outright, and the cost was more than I’d expected.  Those things matter, especially when you are looking at the value of your compensation package.  You can also find things like vacation, sick time, floating holidays, and which federal/state holidays are recognized by your potential new employer.

Research Topic #4:  What is that company proud of?

This should be something featured all over the home page – what they are known for, how innovative they are, how famous their scientists and researchers are, etc.  You want to land a job there, so you should insure that you can share how you can contribute to all these major successes of the company.  How can YOU support those famous scientists, or contribute to the innovation?

Research Topic #5:  Who’s the Boss?

This is another thing that may be hard to discover on the web page.  The job posting may suggest who the position reports to, so if you can find that and then search that job title on the employer website, that may get you some intel.  If you have read my book or have followed my other posts, you may already know I believe strongly in cultivating a positive relationship with your supervisor.  I agree with Tom Rath in WELLBEING that having a good boss is just as important as having a good doctor.  Again, if you can’t find that on the web, then make sure you are able to ask the question during your interview.

Research Topic #6:  Speaking of Questions….

Once some of your research is complete, you’ll want to begin preparing the questions YOU want to ask during the interview.  I will admit that I’ve been spoiled – in the majority of my higher education positions, I have been given the full job interview itinerary as well as who is sitting on the panel.  This has given me opportunities to ask different populations of staff different questions.  The questions I would ask the Dean are completely different than what I would ask a panel of student leaders.  Be inquisitive, because you really want to know this stuff.  But don’t be pushy.  Preparing twenty questions might be a little bit of overkill, but this is your chance to interview them as well.  If I only have time to ask one question, this is my favorite:

“What do each of you enjoy the most about working here; and what is one thing you would change if you could?”

In my years of job searching and interviewing (remember, I have taken 9 jobs at 9 different colleges over a 20+ year period…), I have found that this one question lets me know a good cross-section of the things that make employees happy as well as the things that bother them.  And if I hear the same thing more than once, I mark that down.

Research Topic #7:  Who do you know?

You may very well know someone who knows someone who works at this company or previously worked at that company.  Find out if this is someone you can contact to ask some questions.  They may not want to share things with you, and that’s okay; the level of disclosure could also tell you something about that employer.  If they are willing to share and very open about it all, then most likely they had a good experience with that company.  They may also tell you outright that they did not have a good experience with the company.  But keeping details close to the vest would be a slight red flag for me.

For one of my interviews I had done a good amount of research and knew of the person who would be my supervisor.  But this person was not active in my professional association, so I asked around.  I wanted to know how this person’s peers thought of the management style and support of that supervisor.  The information was helpful and I was well prepared for that interview.

Research Topic #8:  Relocating

This should have been clear in the job description OR of course you knew ahead of time that while you live in New York, you applied for a job in Chicago.   If you are relocating, what does that experience look like?  Do you feel confident that you can find housing?  Can you afford a certain kind of housing based on your salary?  Are you able to learn on the position description if relocation expenses are covered, or partially covered?  AND – if they are paying the expenses for your job interview – like flying you from New York to Chicago and putting you up in a hotel – you will want to know if you are responsible for repayment later if an offer is made and you turn it down.

I feel confident that I’ve covered a good amount of suggestions that will get you up and running to prepare for that interview.  As you are doing your research, you may even come up with other things that belong on this list!  If you do, please share them.

What I didn’t cover in this post?  Anticipating what questions will be asked of your DURING the interview.

That will be a post in itself!

What concerns do you have about preparing for the interview?  Let’s hear them!


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