Let's face it: job interviews can be time consuming, nerve-racking and downright stressful.
Your application goes through the initial screening stage and then the games really begin.
You will spend on average 4 to 6 hours going through the different stages of the evaluation process which typically includes conversations with a team of people you will potentially be working with, should you get the job.
And by conversations I mean a series of questions designed to assess not only if you're right for the role you've applied for but also if your work style matches the company's way of working.
But it's unfair to perceive job interviews as a one-way evaluation street. During the course of these conversations, you have a chance to assess whether the job (with everything that it includes and entails) is also the right fit for you.
Therefore, it's not enough to just be able to show that you can do the job. You have to be prepared to demonstrate how you work while making sure that you gather all the information that you need from your interviewers in order to decide if you would say yes to a potential offer.
If it sounds like a lot of work, it's because it really is!
However, after having interviewed hundreds of job applicants for probably hundreds of roles that I've hired for, I have discovered that there is a basic structure that applies to almost all interviews.
This interview preparation break-down will help you:
Prepare for any interview you have lined up regardless of role
Feel more confident and in control during the interview
Gather all the information you need to make a final decision
Interview Part 1: What you can do
This is what I like to call "the factual part" of the interview. You will be describing your past experience by using examples and specifics such as data and success metrics.
How to prepare for Part 1:
Don't just say it, show it: here is where your examples will come in handy. Have a look at the job description of the role you applied for and have one example ready for each bullet point. The examples are not just used to show that you've done the job but that you've done it well - so make sure that your accomplishments are clearly demonstrated. In other words, don't just say you were responsible for reporting at your department but explain why you were so good at it by describing a situation where your reporting skills really shined.
Use your own success metrics: what were the KPIs in your last role? When you received positive feedback, what was it for? These 2 points can help you provide quantitative evidence that you are good at what you do. Make sure that you have the data to back it up and show that you know what you're talking about.
Interview Part 2: Who you are
You are so much more than just your job. Along with your experience, skills and capabilities you also bring to the table your personality, viewpoint and values. This is the part of you that should truly remain uncompromised during the evaluation process and it is incredibly important for your future employer: whether you are a good fit for the particular environment could mean how productive and engaged you will be while working there.
How to prepare for Part 2:
Your areas of improvement can be a motivation for hiring you: Knowing your strengths and being able to showcase what you're good at is extremely useful at a job interview. However, nobody is perfect and that is absolutely understandable and positively expected. Don't be afraid to be honest about what you would like to improve - the right employer will want to help you grow in those areas and the more opportunities for said growth they provide for you, the more motivated you will be to stay on with them for longer.
People relate with people, not data and numbers: The more you share about yourself the easier it will be to create rapport with the hiring team. When you talk about your interests, your hobbies and what makes you tick you make it easier for others to open up to you and share more information about themselves. It's then much easier to build connections and check whether you align well with the people you will potentially be working with.
Interview Part 3: Where you thrive
Company culture will create the environment where you will thrive and perform at your best or the dreaded place you want to escape from every morning when you wake up to go to work. Hence why it is so important to have a clear understanding of the type of work environment you are prepared to enter.
This is the part of the interview where you should really focus most of your questions on and be the most mindful of.
How to prepare for Part 3:
Know exactly what you're looking for first: Unless you are very clear on the type of company culture that really brings the best out of you, it will be very hard to make an end decision on that offer you're getting. Take the time beforehand to think of some of the characteristics of your ideal work environment such as communication style, team structure, learning opportunities, meetings culture etc.
Read between the lines: There are certain standard ways to get an idea on what the company culture is like such as asking about retention and absenteeism rates or engagement survey scores. But the story behind the data is usually told by how people reply to those questions - are they open to talk about it or do they seem defensive?
Vibe check: Company culture is more about what you feel than what you know. While interacting with the hiring team, observe how they behave around each other as well as how they treat you as a candidate. Although it's not exactly quantifiable or measurable, how you feel during those interactions can be indicative of your experience when working there. Ideally, you're looking to feel at ease, listened to and comfortable enough to be yourself.
Always come prepared for an interview - it will not only help you feel more confident but it also makes a great impression.
Remember that an interview goes both aways - have your questions ready and keep your eyes open during the process.
If at the end of the process you don't have a positive feeling about the company culture, it probably won't be worth accepting the offer. Company culture does not change overnight and there is no way that you can avoid it if you work there.
Now you're ready to nail your next interview! Good luck!