How to prepare for a job interview – what are common interview questions?

Preparing for a job interview can be a daunting and unnerving experience.

Before heading off to a job interview it is common to feel worried and clouded with doubt, which can make the candidate anxious and a bit “off” during the interview.

However, there are ways you can prepare for the interview to feel more confident, optimistic, and ready for the big day.

The information in this article provides details on how to prepare yourself beforehand, what you should do during the interview, and what to expect afterwards.

Preparing before the job interview

Before focusing on yourself, you have to concentrate on the company you might end up working for.

Carry out background research on the organization and find out as much as you can about its aims and objectives, its history, and current events related to what your potential future employer does.

The Government of Canada’s Services for Youth recommends going over the following questions:

  • What does the organization do?
  • What is involved in the position you’re applying for?
  • What qualifications do you need for the position?
  • What kind of skills is the employer looking for?
  • Who are the customers or clients?
  • What reputation does the employer have?

Go over these questions thoroughly to ensure that you know exactly what the organization is about. This will make you feel more at ease and confident during the job interview.

Once you have finished that, it is time to focus on yourself. Analyze the job description in detail and compare your experience, skills and education with the job requirements.

Prepare for questions

Anticipate questions – try and think of potential questions that you may be asked and think of how you would answer them.

According to The University of Auckland – Career development and employment services, these are some potential questions that employers ask in job interviews:

“Tell me a little about yourself.” – Tell them about your previous work experience, education, and extra-curricular activities.

“What do you know about our organization?” – Use the information of the company you found in your research to answer this question, but do not overwhelm them with facts.

“Why do you want to work for us?” – Employers are looking for people who want to be a part of their team, not people who are just looking for a job. Make this clear to them and  say that your experience and knowledge makes you  suitable for the position.

“What do you look for in a job?” – Mention that you are interested in the opportunities of working for the organization and that you would like to perform well and be recognized for your achievements.

“What are your strong points?” – State at least three strengths and be sure to back them up with evidence from past work experience – if asked.

“What are your weak points?” – Try not to mention a list of negatives (but don’t say you have none either). In fact, try and make it seem like one of your strengths results in a negative. For example “Once my mind is set on completing a task I tend to focus on it so much that I become easily irritated by distractions, which may undermine my communication skills.”

“What are your long term goals?” – Say that your long term goals are to rise up in the company or take on more responsibilities at some point. The idea is to make it related to playing a more integral role in the organization.

“What important trends do you see in our field?” – This answer can be based on difficulties the organization is facing or potential competition.

“What do you feel this position should pay?” – Point out what other organizations are paying for a similar position, be polite, but don’t sell yourself short.

What to do during the job interview

Proper hygiene, a tidy appearance, and dressing professionally goes a long way in making a good first impression. Arrive to the interview on time with your portfolio – 10 to 15 minutes early just to be on the safe side.

When you meet the interviewer be sure to maintain eye contact, smile, and greet them with a firm handshake. It is not a bad thing to show a little excitement and enthusiasm. In fact, employers are seeking people who have a positive attitude and in many cases your attitude can have more of an impact than your training or experience.

The University of Ottawa says that “55% of the communication process involves body language”, so try to maintain eye contact and a good posture. 

When you answer questions be concise, clear, and use examples that highlight your skills and experience.

If you have any questions this would also be the time to ask.

Good questions include:

  1. “What would a typical working day be like for someone in this position?”
  2. “Could you mention examples of short or long-term goals that you would like to see met?”
  3. “What is the typical career path for someone in this position?”

Avoid asking questions about company benefits or salaries. This will either be brought up in a second interview or during negotiation. 

At the end of the job interview thank the interviewer for their time and shake their hand.

After the job interview

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, when it comes to saying thank you to the interviewer after the job interview “career experts recommend going the traditional route by using email to send interviewers a professional, concise and personalized note of appreciation.”

After the interview it is a good idea for you to write down the answers you gave and analyze them to see if you could have answered any of them better. Doing this will help you identify your mistakes and learn from them.

An employer typically provides people with a date when they will make the decision. You should contact the employer if they have not responded to you after this date.

Remember, do not be discouraged if you do not get the job. There are plenty of other opportunities out there and the experience in itself helps develop interviewing skills for the future.