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How to prepare for an interview in under 20 minutes

I asked 10 people how they prepare for their job interviews. Four of them told me they don’t prepare, while six said they do some last-minute digging before the interview. This got me thinking about the importance of preparation.

Do you prepare for interviews or just wing it?

  • Absolutely

  • Nope, I just wing it

Folks, if you don’t prepare, or prepare poorly, you’re gonna fail. As a business owner who’s hired people and a former recruiter for a Fortune 500 company, I can say with confidence that candidates who seemed more interested got the job more often than not.

And what better way to show interest than to prepare? Let me share a story to illustrate this point. Back when I was recruiting at AECOM, I interviewed two candidates for a civil engineer role. Both had similar qualifications on paper, but their preparation levels were worlds apart.

One candidate didn’t do much research and gave overly generic answers, while the other had clearly done her homework – she knew about our recent projects just by looking at our website and mentioned how our company's mission aligned with her personal values. Guess who got the job?

Interview prep is important because it shows that you respect the opportunity and the people who are giving their time to interview you. It signals that you’re genuinely interested in the role and the company.

I get that it can be nerve-wracking, but having a few key strategies in place can make all the difference. When you walk into that interview room (or sign on to that Zoom call), you want to exude confidence, preparedness, and enthusiasm for the position. Let me break down three quick tips that can help you make a strong impression and ultimately convey interest.

Dress Appropriately

Dressing properly for the interview is crucial. By doing this, you articulate that:

  1. You have high standards and

  2. You care about the job.

If you don’t do this, it signals to the HM that you’re not interested, and in a crowded market, that's a risk you shouldn't take.

Dressing appropriately also extends beyond just clothing to your overall appearance.

Pay attention to grooming and hygiene. Show up well-groomed will not only give you a confidence boost, but it'll also leave a good impression on the hiring team. Imagine walking into an interview looking polished – it instantly sets a tone of seriousness and readiness.

Research the Company’s Website in Advance

Spend a few minutes researching the company before the interview. Visit their website and check out the following two things:

  • The About Us page to understand what they actually do. This will help you answer the question, “What do you know about our company?” Knowing their mission, vision, and values can give you insights into their culture and goals.

  • The Products or Services page to understand what they offer and who their customers are. This will help you answer questions such as “Why do you want to work for us?” and “How can you contribute to our company?” For example, if you’re interviewing at a tech company that develops educational software, knowing their latest products can help you brainstorm ideas on how to improve their offerings and improve user experience.

Beyond the company’s website, check their social media profiles, recent news articles, and press releases. This can provide you with a broader perspective on their current projects, challenges, and achievements.

This could be a simple as mentioning a recent article about the company’s expansion into a new market, or asking insightful questions about such an expansion would impact your potential role, which would show you're genuinely interested in the company's growth.

Understanding the company’s culture is also essential. Look for employee reviews on sites like Glassdoor or Reddit to get a sense of what it’s like to work there.

Are they collaborative? Innovative? Customer-focused? Use this info to tailor your responses to align with their values. For example, if the company prides itself on innovation, highlight your experience with creative problem-solving and your eagerness to bring fresh ideas to the table.

Master “Tell me about yourself”

This is a tough question that a lot of job seekers struggle with, but it can set the stage for the rest of the interview. In my own practice, I ask all clients a variation of this question during our consultation call, and probably half squirm to come up with an articulate answer in a minute or less.

If you're someone that struggles with this question, use the S.E.A.T. format to structure your answer:

  • S = Skills: Highlight the skills you bring to the role. For instance, if you’re applying for a marketing position, you might mention your expertise in digital marketing, content creation, and data analysis.

  • E = Experience and Education: Summarize your relevant experience and educational background. If you’re a recent graduate, talk about your degree and any internships or projects that are pertinent to the job.

  • A = Achievements: Share significant achievements. Maybe you led a successful campaign that increased sales by 20%, or you received an award for outstanding performance.

  • T = Type of Person: Describe what kind of person you are and what you can bring to the table. Are you a team player? A problem solver? Mention qualities that align with the company’s values and culture.

For example, an answer might sound like, “I’m a digital marketer with an interest in multimedia content (Skills). I have a degree in Marketing from XYZ University and have worked at ABC Company for the past three years, where I executed multimedia marketing strategies (Experience and Education). I led a campaign that increased our engagement by 23% and was awarded Employee of the Month for my contributions (Achievements). I’m a creative thinker and a team player who loves tackling new challenges (Type of Person).”

Adding personal anecdotes can make your answer more memorable, and incorporating these strategies can elevate your interview game.

Remember, preparation is key to showing your interest and landing that dream job. Happy interviewing!


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