Tips for Acing Your Next Interview.

27th October 2021 | sysadmin | Reading time: 5 minutes

You’ve applied for a job. You find out you have been selected for an interview. You’re excited! You’re hopeful! And…you’re nervous. That makes sense. Interviewing can be intimidating. Luckily, there are tons of things you can do to feel more calm, confident, and in control. Here are a few tips to set yourself up for success.

1. Research the company and, if possible, your interviewers ahead of time

Check out the company’s website and social media. Get familiar with the recent projects that have worked on, their clients, and values. If you really want to come prepared, go to their LinkedIn and get to know some of their key employees. This enables you to show up to the interview prepared with questions that will help you determine if you actually want and would like the job. Remember, you are interviewing them as well! Such research will also likely provide casual talking points for you to bring up with your interviewers, who like to see that you have done some homework. It demonstrates that you are interested in the role and the company and have already invested time into getting to know it better.

2. Practice answers to potential interview questions

One of the biggest sources of anxiety is not knowing what an interviewer will ask you or how you will respond under this pressure. While it is unlikely that you will ever know exactly what will be discussed ahead of time, you can prepare and practice answers to some common interview questions. Doing this prep work will enable you to be concise, convincing, and confident in your answers.

Start by getting familiar with your strengths and weaknesses, and then plan how you might incorporate them into an answer for any question. Once you have a solid idea of your strengths and weaknesses, practice sharing “STAR” responses. Record yourself speaking and rehearse with a friend (more on preparing for interview questions below).

3. Reread the job description

Get clear on the skills and experience required for the role. Read between the lines–look for the problem they are trying to solve by hiring someone for this position. Doing this will enable you to select the most relevant strengths, skills, and scenarios to discuss in your interview, and present yourself as someone who is well equipped for the role.

Research similar positions to get a feel for general challenges, daily expectations/responsibilities, and average salary in the field. This will enable you to ask quality questions and determine makes this job unique and appealing.

How to discuss strengths and weaknesses in an interview

Discussing Weaknesses

When discussing weaknesses, it is important to be genuine. This is your chance to demonstrate self-awareness and assure them that, while not perfect, you have the ability to learn, change, and grow from your experiences. When asked about your weaknesses, do not say something annoying and boastful, like “I am a workaholic” or “I am a perfectionist.” These are not weaknesses. These answers come off as insincere and evasive, and demonstrate a lack of self-awareness. Plus, employers have heard them hundreds of times before. It is always more admirable (and helpful) to answer honestly with something you struggle with. Such truthfulness shows that you can be trusted, that you are aware of areas you could improve, and that you take ownership for who you are and the work you do.

Tips for answering

  1. State the weakness- be candid, confident, and specific.
  2. Explain what you are doing to improve it
  3. If possible, show measures of improvement
  4. Avoid rambling, apologizing, or changing your posture to suggest you are ashamed or insecure. No one is perfect. It is perfectly okay to discuss your imperfections with confidence.

For example:

 “In the past, I have struggled to respond to emails in a timely manner. I prioritized the projects I was directly responsible for over communicating with other members of the team, which inhibited other people from effectively getting their jobs done. This was causing tension and frustration within the team. Upon realizing this, I established the habit of checking my inbox and responding to emails for 15 minutes first thing in the morning, after lunch, and before I leave the office. This has dramatically improved the entire team’s ability to get projects done on time, resulting in more praise, recognition, and additional contracts from clients.”

Discussing Strengths

Employers want to hire a candidate that is confident in their value, skills, and character and can demonstrate that they have a lot to bring to the table. So don’t be shy or sell yourself short. Tell them exactly why you think you are a great fit and how you would benefit the company. When answering the question “what are your strengths,” aim to do the following:

  1. Demonstrate self awareness of your previous performance
  2. Provide proof or examples to back up your claims
  3. Explain why a given strength prepares you for success in the role

In order to prepare responses that you feel confident in and that authentically capture what makes you so great, start by finding your strengths using the tips below:

Tips for finding your strengths

  1. Prior to the interview, take time to reflect inward. Brainstorm a long list of answers to the question “what do I have to offer?”
  2. Categorize the strengths. Organizing your assets ahead of time will enable you to think more clearly under pressure, and quickly provide relevant, insightful answers to questions you may be asked. Ideas for how to categorize your strengths include:
    1. Time in industry
    2. Experience
    3. Niche of customers/technology
    4. Soft skills
    5. Hard skills- task oriented
    6. Education and training
  1. Prioritize strengths based on relevancy
  2. Prepare examples/stories for each of the three using the STAR response technique

STAR Responses

A STAR response is a method for responding to behavioral and situational interview questions. When an interviewer asks you a question such as “how have you handled making a mistake in the past?” or “tell me about a time you had to solve a problem?” you want to be sure you can provide a clear answer that exemplifies your competency and character.

Situation– Provide context. In a sentence or two, explain what was happening.

Task– Describe your role in the situation.

Action– Explain what you did and how you did it. Be specific.

Result– Emphasize impact. What did you produce? How can it help this new employer? Make sure your result explains “so what?” The story will have a stronger impact on your interviewers if you can explain why it matters to them.

For example:

“I was co-leading a backpacking trip for freshman students during orientation. Tension was building between the other leader and me, but I was not sure what was wrong, especially because we were good friends! I asked her what was wrong, and she asked if she could give me feedback. I said yes. It turned out that she felt like I was undermining her authority and making her look and feel incompetant by adding additional instructions and information whenever she spoke to the group. I felt bad I had made her feel this way, and was grateful for the feedback. From that point forward, I made sure to affirm her instructions and stopped adding my own ideas after she finished speaking. She quickly felt more empowered and respected, restored our working relationship, and enabled us to lead a more fun trip for the students. It was a great opportunity for me to accept and apply feedback in a leadership position, and that is how I would approach my role here as well.”

To further increase your self awareness, understand your natural strengths and weaknesses, and obtain a customized interview guide, contact us today!