As the saying goes, fail to prepare, prepare to fail – your interview! So, how should you prepare for your interview presentation? In this blog post, we share expert tips that will help you ace your next interview.

The first step is to do your research to find out as much as possible about the company and the position you are pursuing.

Next, practice answering common interview questions, including behavioral ones. Be sure to tailor your responses to fit the company and the role. Finally, dress for success and arrive on time! The trick is being properly prepared – and that’s exactly what this article will help you do.

Understanding the Phone Screen Basics 

The purpose of a phone interview is to screen a potential candidate for a role to determine the availability, compensation/salary expectations, how interested the applicant is in the job role/company as a whole, and any resume highlights or discrepancies.

The screening process is normally short (approximately 30 minutes) and to the point, often done to ensure that candidates who are not qualified for the position aren’t moved to the next interview phase. 

Phone screens are often conducted by a recruiter or someone that is familiar with the job, and they’re looking to make sure that you check all the necessary checkboxes before they bring you in for a formal interview.

You should clearly answer each interview question to demonstrate your key competencies during an interview. Keep in mind the three primary objectives of an interview:

  • Demonstrate your knowledge – You’re capable of doing the job 
  • Demonstrate your interest – You want the job 
  • Demonstrate your fit – You are a fit with the team and organization

During an interview, avoid any distractions while keeping the tone of the interview conversational. It’s helpful to ask thoughtful questions throughout the process and to be personable with the interviewer(s).

It’s important to be intentional that you don’t interrupt the interviewer, listen intently, and answer the interview questions concisely. You should do the same if you notice the interviewer uses industry or technical terms. 

Being memorable is extremely important. It allows us to forge meaningful long-term relationships with others. When we interact with people around us, they form opinions based on what we’re saying, how we follow-up on our promises, and the body language we display. The people interviewing you may be your future colleague, and the interview is an opportunity for them to catch a glimpse at what it’s like working with you.

Choose Your Stories to Ace Your Interview

Your Personal Background + Your Relevant Skills/Experiences + How it fits with the Job Role = Your Story

Use storytelling to help your interviewers remember you! Stand out against the other candidates being interviewed by wrapping your facts about yourself with stories. 

Before your interview, it will be helpful to develop a deep understanding of the job requirements and then prepare 3-5 examples of stories you can share that relate to the job. Think about your past accomplishments and relevant work experiences and how you can share those in an interview. Using your experiences will allow you to tell a personal story that your interviewers will remember.  

You’ve applied to the job and gone to the effort of landing this interview, why is that? What makes you excited about this role? Why are you a great candidate? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you frame your story and articulate perfectly curated answers to the interviewers’ questions. 

Quick tips to remember: 

  • Whenever possible, say “I” instead of “we.” 
  • It’s better to take a moment to think before answering a question than to answer right away and not have a concise answer. 
  • If you don’t understand a question or need more time to answer, it’s okay to ask them to rephrase the question. You would rather ask them to rephrase it than give them an answer that doesn’t make sense. 
  • It doesn’t matter how confident you feel; you cannot show up to an interview over-prepared.

More and more companies are using behavioral-based interviewing. This approach to the interview is intended to allow the interviewer to gain a deeper understanding of who you are, what your experiences are like, and if someone is serious about the role interviewing for. 

Behavioral-based interviews involve broad questions. Be prepared to answer questions that aren’t your common interview questions. For example, an interviewer may say, “Tell us about a time you set a goal, and you didn’t meet your goal. How did you handle that situation and what did you learn from it? It’s important to use the S.T.A.R. framework to answer these types of questions. This method will allow you to clearly communicate your experience.

Smart Questions to Ask During an Interview

Just because you’re the one being interviewed doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to the interview prepared with questions. Asking insightful questions can set you apart from other candidates interviewing and ensure you’re confident in the role you’re applying to. 

Ask questions about the specific role and responsibilities, the hiring manager’s experience with the company, or questions about the company. Make sure that your questions cannot be answered from the company’s website. 

Here’s a list of smart questions to ask in a job interview:

  • Does your company have any advantages over your competitors in the market?
  • How fast is the company growing?
  • Do you have any reservations about my fit for the position that I might be able to address? 
  • Now that we have discussed my qualifications and the position, do you have any concerns about my candidacy? 
  • What are the three main factors you’ll use to determine if I’m the right fit? 
  • What are the top skills and traits you’re targeting for this position?
  • How often do you promote people internally?
  • What have people gone on to do in the company after holding this position?
  • What routes for career growth does the company offer? 
  • How defined are the qualifications for promotion opportunities? 
  • Could you describe the typical client/project I’d be dealing with? 
  • What are the most important elements of my position?
  • What’s the most challenging aspect of the role?
  • What does a typical day in the role look like?
  • When someone drops the ball on a project, how does your team handle that? 
  • What specific efforts have been made to create an inclusive culture for underrepresented employees? 
  • When there is a conflict cross-functionally, how do folks resolve it? 
  • How does the company ensure there is a sense of community even when people are working remotely?
  • What’s one thing you’re hoping a new person can bring to the role?
  • What has been your best experience working here?
  • What soft skills are most important in this role?
  • What types of skills is the team missing that you’re looking to fill with a new hire?
  • What metrics or goals will my performance be evaluated against?
  • What are the current goals that the company is focused on, and how does this team work to support hitting those goals?
  • What gets you most excited about the company’s future?
  • What’s different about working here than anywhere else you’ve worked?
  • Is there anything that I should read before starting that would help me have a shared understanding with my colleagues?
  • How has the company changed since you joined?
  • How does the team I’ll be part of continue to grow professionally?
  • Where have successful employees moved on to?
  • Is there anything I clarify for you about my qualifications?

Most Common Interview Questions

Learn about the different types of common interview questions that will help you become a more successful candidate.

(Opening Questions)

This is an opportunity for your perfect elevator pitch. Your formal introduction can include information like hometown/home country, school, and major – and why you chose them; why you got interested in the field; involvements/interests; or about previous work experience.

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • Walk me through your (resume) professional background.

(Company Knowledge)

You’ve conducted company research; now is the time to demonstrate your knowledge.

  • Why do you want to work here [company]?
  • What interests you about our company?
  • What do you know of our product/service?

Related Post: How to Research a Company

(Candidate’s Strength and Potential)

Hiring managers ask questions that focus on potential based on demonstrated strengths, skills and competencies to do the job as expected, attempting to learn how self-aware you are.

  • What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • How do you define success?
  • What is the biggest failure you’ve been a part of?
  • How do you ensure that your project is always on track?
  • What’s one assumption people make about you that is dead wrong? 
  • Why are you looking to change careers, and why should we take on that risk?
  • What are 3 things you’d look for in an ideal job and why should we hire you?

(Candidate’s Interest and Commitment)

Since recruiters and hiring managers often deal with uncommitted and time-wasting candidates, they often ask specific questions to help spot red flags earlier in the process. This is an opportunity to show real and genuine interest in the role and company.

  • Why did you apply for this position? 
  • What did you find most interesting in the job description? 
  • What did you like about your last job?
  • How would you feel about changing industries?
  • Why do you want to leave your current position?

(Salary Expectations)

Knowing what the company budgeted for the position and understanding the industry salary trends and market rate will help you maximize your earning potential. To prepare for your salary negotiation, customize research to confirm what you’re asking, you want the leverage to increase your salary, and your research needs to reflect what you’re asking for.

  • What are your salary expectations?

Related Post: How to Negotiate Salary with Confidence

(Availability and Flexibility)

  • When can you start?
  • Are you willing to relocate?
  • Would you be comfortable with (i.e. 50%) travel?
  • Are you legally authorized to work in this country?

(Other Role-Specific Questions)

  • How do you motivate team members? 
  • How do you go about managing the performance of your team?
  • How do you set goals for your team? And how do you track these goals?

Top Behavioral and Situational Interview Questions

Behavioral-based interviews often involve broad, open-ended questions and are designed to showcase your communication skills. Created by DDI, the S.T.A.R. method stands for situation, task, action, and the result of the situation. Using the S.T.A.R. method will help you present a clear and concise response to each question and prevent you from missing important details or over-explaining yourself.

For example, an interviewer might ask, “Tell us about a time you set a goal, and you didn’t meet your goal. How did you handle that situation and what did you learn from it?” It’s important to use the S.T.A.R. framework to answer these types of questions so it allows you to clearly communicate your experience.

Your answer will tell a clear story that has a great beginning (the issue or problem), a riveting middle (how you were impacted by this problem), and an ending (the result of the situation.) Here are sample questions:

  • Tell me about your greatest accomplishment. (Motivation and Values)
  • Tell us about a time you set a goal and didn’t meet your goal. How did you handle that situation, and what did you learn from it? (Conflict Resolution)
  • Tell me about a project that went beyond your scope of work. (Work Ethic & Commitment)
  • Tell me about a time you experienced resistance to one of your ideas or projects. How did you handle it? (Leadership/Conflict Resolution)
  • How would you describe your management and communication style? Separately, what is your approach to building relationships across an organization? (Communication)
  • Give me an example of a time when you successfully persuaded someone to see things your way at work. (Communication) 
  • Tell me about a time when your stakeholders didn’t agree on a project. How did you proceed? (Client Facing/Customer Orientation)
  • Describe a time when your team or company was undergoing some change. How did that impact you, and how did you adapt? (Ability to Adapt)
  • Describe a time when you saw some problem and took the initiative to correct it rather than waiting for someone else to do it. (Motivation and Values)
  • Tell me about a time you were dissatisfied with your work. What could have been done to make it better? (Motivation and Values)
  • Describe a long-term project that you managed. How did you keep everything moving along in a timely manner? (Prioritizing & Time Management)

Nailing your next job interview is all about preparation. By preparing answers to common questions, rehearsing your stories, and being thoughtful in the questions you ask, you’ll be well on your way to acing your next interview. If you’re still feeling unsure or want more help, our team of experts is here to guide you through every step of the process. I have no doubt that the interview will turn out great and you will land the job. Good luck and best wishes.

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