Borrowing from the Boy Scout motto, a job applicant should always be prepared heading into an interview. You’ve worked hard on your resume, networking, and chasing job leads and now you are faced with your first interview for the position – don’t blow it due to your lack of preparedness.
Preparing for an interview means spending real time researching, reviewing and anticipating. Most firms or companies will have websites, press releases, or can be found on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Study up as much as you can on the potential employer not only to learn about the company or industry to educate yourself, but also to use this knowledge when asking pertinent questions about the opportunity. Employers expect an applicant to ask questions and the more thought/research that goes into the question the better. Likewise, it might provide you with an opportunity to draw a connection with prior experience or simply to talk intelligibly about your desire to work for such an employer during the interview.
It is absolutely critical to spend as much time as needed to thoroughly review the job description, your resume and, to the extent not provided in your resume, prior experience that correlates the job (whether directly or indirectly). The last thing you want is for the interviewer to ask about something that you provided in your resume and you either forgot about it or are otherwise not prepared to talk in detail about that experience. Knowing your own resume should be obvious, but the key is reviewing with an eye towards connecting the dots between the expected job responsibilities and your experience from the past. If you have a job description, plan on taking it task by task and write down examples from your past that you can discuss during the interview. Even if you do not have something directly on-point, get creative when thinking about how you can make the connection.
You also want to make sure you that are not caught-off guard with unexpected questions during the interview. You can prevent by anticipating almost any type of question and taking the time to think about (if not write down) your responses. Yes, that means more standard HR questions about strengths and weaknesses to specific questions related to any aspect of the job description and your work history. You should anticipate being asked about past, current and desired salary and the reasons why you have left (or were asked to leave) a past employer and why you are willing to leave your current job. These are not necessarily hard questions but can be downright awkward if you have not prepared for them coming into the interview.
There are many aspects of a job search that are not within your control – being thoroughly prepared for an interview is not one of them. While your lack of preparedness may cost you the job, your thorough preparedness can give you a big boost if other applicants are not willing to spend the same amount of time.