Job interviews are not exactly everyone’s idea of a good time. They can bring about stress, anxiety and a bit of nerves. However, stress often comes from a sense of being unprepared. So what if you discovered that being as prepared as possible could reduce your stress on the big day?
Whether you’re a brand new job seeker or a seasoned professional, this article will walk you through the interview process, help you show potential employers why you want to work for their company and how to ace their questions every time.
One of the toughest questions you’ll get is also probably the most obvious. Why do you want this job? Why are you interested? However straightforward the question seems, it can be surprisingly challenging to come up with a good answer.
Should you focus on your career path and aspects of the company’s mission and business practices that resonate with your goals, such as eco-friendly products or community service initiatives? Or should you talk about something else entirely?
There isn’t a cookie-cutter answer here. However, we will review tips to help you navigate the murky waters of the dreaded “why do you want to work for this company?” question.
Applying for the right position
Before learning how to ace common interview questions, you should know how to apply for a job opening that is right for you.
Work-life balance has been a hot topic lately, and a big part of that has to do with actually feeling fulfilled in your job. Applying for jobs that genuinely interest you is important because it will come through in the interview, and working in a job you enjoy does wonders for your mental health.
Here are five points to consider when assessing if you’re applying for the proper position.
Money is essential. However, it should not be your sole reason for applying for a job.
When you are solely driven by money, you may quickly feel unfulfilled with your work. When browsing job boards, look for jobs with a healthy balance of salary and something you genuinely find interesting.
Related: How to Be Authentic in an Interview
Passion and motive go hand-in-hand. To determine whether or not you’re passionate about this potential position, ask yourself:
- Will you look forward to telling your friends and family about this job?
- Will you look forward to doing this job each day?
- Do you care about the work you are doing?
- Will the work stimulate you?
3. Work-life balance
The need for work-life balance varies from person to person. When applying for jobs, it is vital that you know yourself and what level of work-life balance you require.
Most job descriptions will tell you the required hours and whether nights, weekends or untraditional hours are required. Keep those details in mind when making your decision.
4. Work environment
The work environment is another aspect that varies from person to person. As you consider what kind of work environment you’d like to experience, ask yourself:
- Do you want an in-person, hybrid or remote job?
- Do you prefer solo work or collaborative work with team members?
- What kind of workload are you prepared to take on?
- Does company culture matter to you? If so, does this company culture match your core values?
You should answer these questions for yourself, but you can also ask more specific questions on this topic during your interview process. In addition, complete your due diligence by researching the job and company via sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn, where you can find job postings, salary calculations, company reviews and other relevant information.
Related: How to Master Virtual Job Interviews
5. Opportunities for growth
Whether you are applying for a job at a small or large company, if your career goals involve growing with that business, you need to make sure there are opportunities. Sometimes, this can be difficult to tell simply by the job description, so you’ll have to ask follow-up questions in your interview.
Some of the best questions to ask to find out if there are growth opportunities include the following:
- What kind of mentorship opportunities, formal or informal, does the company provide?
- Are there available opportunities for career development and skill development through this position?
- What qualifications are required for promotion opportunities, and how can you work toward acquiring said qualifications in this position?
- Could you provide an example of a senior role, its qualities and required skills?
- What improvements would you like to see in your industry and at your current company?
But one easy way to tell is by the job title. For example, if you are applying for a position called “assistant manager,” there is likely a position above it called “manager.” Look for hints during the job search to clue you in on growth opportunities.
How to prepare for a job interview
Once you’ve applied to a great job and scored an interview, it’s time to prep.
Take a look at these tips and tricks to bring your A-game.
Related: Job Interview Preparation Checklist
1. Know the job
At this point, you should know the job you want. “Knowing the job” includes in-depth research about the day-to-day responsibilities of the position, the characteristics of successful employees working that role and how you align with those work habits and personality traits.
However, once you’ve secured an interview, you should take your knowledge of the job description one step further.
The job description will likely guide the hiring manager’s questions, so you should be prepared to demonstrate how you can perform the job duties or show your performance history of similar previous job functions.
Be prepared to answer situational questions about how you would react to a situation or examples of how you have handled similar scenarios.
Situational questions: Examples and sample answers
1. Describe a situation where you went above and beyond at a previous job.
Answer: My boss was on vacation, and my team got an order for 500 additional shipments of XYZ. I regrouped and helped motivate the team, and we fulfilled the order ahead of schedule. The client then signed on to purchase more XYZ in the following year.
2. Talk about a time you had to collaborate with a difficult coworker.
Answer: One of my co-editors had a very different work style from my own. She was much laxer, whereas I preferred to follow the procedures to a tee. We collaborated to develop a new editorial protocol, which allowed us to turn around 50% more articles per week.
In these questions, the best practice is to keep in mind a simple answer formula: problem, solution and benefit. If you can articulate how your work addressed the problem and the impact of your actions, you are more likely to impress interviewers.
2. Know the company
This is part of preparing for the big question. You’ll need to study and grow your knowledge of the company, including:
- You should know the company’s story, background and founders.
- You should understand the company’s mission statement and purpose.
- You should have some general knowledge about the company, such as work examples or campaign history.
This is a considerable part of preparedness. The company will want to know that you chose them on purpose, so be ready to show them you did.
3. Know yourself
During your interview, you must show confidence in your answers (even if you’re forcing your confidence through a layer of anxiety at that moment). The following are some aspects of yourself that you should be ready to share:
- The specific personality traits and attributes that distinguish you from other candidates.
- Your work history, track record and any gaps in your background.
- Your particular work style.
- Any strengths and weaknesses relevant to the position.
Practice going over sample answers with yourself for job interview questions you might be asked.
A good practice for discussing your strengths and weaknesses is another simple formula: mention a strength/weakness, then provide a story for context.
Here are a few examples:
- I’m a strong public speaker. My last position required me to give presentations at conferences such as X, Y and Z, and at each of these conferences, we closed sales contracts with multiple clients in attendance. I received multiple internal shout-outs while at my previous company and was chosen to serve as our media spokesperson for the XYZ product rollout.
- One of my greatest weaknesses is that I don’t always express myself, even when I have strong feelings about a subject. However, I’ve recognized this limitation, and I’m working to grow. I’ve joined a local public speaking group to overcome my hesitancy to voice my thoughts, and I’m becoming more confident in expressing myself to others.
4. Create questions
Even though most of the interview will be about you, it’s essential to ask your interviewer about themselves and the company. You can certainly ask follow-up questions about anything you have learned during the interview, but you should also go in prepared.
Consider questions like:
- What are some expectations of this role, and what projects might I take on?
- What are some challenges I might face in the role?
- Can you tell me more about how the team functions and the chain of command?
- What are some opportunities for growth?
- What is your favorite part about working at this company?
- What are you excited about for this company’s future?
5. Send a thank you note
Even though this won’t happen until after the interview, you should go in knowing that you’ll need to send a thank you note after. In the email, you should include the following:
- Include an introduction.
- Include three things you enjoyed or learned during the interview.
- Include a call to action.
- Include a sign-off.
The big interview question: Why do you want to work here?
You’ve snagged the job interview and prepared as much as possible, and now the time has come — interview day.
The interview will likely start with questions like:
- What can you tell me about yourself?
- Can you tell us about your skill set?
- Why should we hire you?
- Can you tell us about a time when…?
But the most critical question is one that is more about their company than you.
Why do you want to work here?
All of your preparation will pay off at this moment. Companies want to know that you have done your research by:
- Look at the company’s website.
- View company social media accounts.
- Understand their mission and company values.
Demonstrating your knowledge of their company shows that you care and have a genuine interest in the position. To show you have done your research, you should answer the question as precisely as possible.
For example, don’t just say, “I love your company’s mission and think I’d be a great fit because I align with it.” Instead, get specific. Tell a relevant short story or give an example or give an exact answer about why their mission matters to you.
Be specific by answering with something like:
“I saw the campaign you did about X. That is something very near to my heart, and I would love to be a part of a company that values Y. I want to help continue the mission of X by Z.”
Relate their mission to your values. Show them the connection between their company and you. If you can tell a story and create a relationship, you will ace the question every time.
Bottom line? Interviews are tough. The market is full of competitive job candidates, and the process can be stressful. The best way to tackle interviews is to be as prepared as possible.
When entering into an interview process, remember:
- Apply to the proper position for you.
- Prepare for the interview by doing your research.
- Know why that company matters to you, and show them.
Now that you’ve got the rundown, it’s time to put yourself out there and snag a job offer.
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