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The UnCollege Blog

Need to Nail an Interview? Here's How.


You’re in the waiting room, seconds away from the first round interview for your dream job.

You’re heart is racing.

And you’re prepared...right?

Unfortunately (or fortunately, for you), most people overlook the amount of work it takes to be properly prepared for a job interview. There’s a general, widespread idea that if you know the industry, the company name and a few industry buzzwords, you’re ahead of everyone else.

In reality, the majority of people who receive offers prepare tirelessly. These people are your true competition.

To be able to compete with them, you need a new strategy. Something that goes above and beyond the low-level expectations of doing a quick Google search and showing up. According to Ramit Sethi, 80% of a job candidate’s work is done before even stepping into the interviewing room. Being adequately prepared for a job interview requires that you do your research and practice your interviewing techniques.

Beyond research

Before you go into an interview, you should have an understanding of not only the company itself, but of the obstacles that company is currently facing. If you understand their challenges, then you can prepare solutions – solutions that you, as a potential employee, could deliver if they were to hire you.

This is what Ramit calls the Briefcase Technique. Once you’ve identified the problems the company is facing and how you can offer solutions, you can write a proposal document addressing all of these points. If you take the time and energy to do this, it is likely that even if you don’t interview as well as people with more charisma or confidence, you will still find yourself in the final selection round. Why? Because you addressed their concerns and offered them real solutions. Because you showed that you can think critically, which is more valuable than charisma alone.

Timing is also essential when using the briefcase technique. You can’t launch into it right out of the gate during an interview. You have to wait for the right time to address their concerns and, when it feels appropriate, pull out the proposal. Of course, knowing when to do this might be difficult. Especially if you haven’t practiced being interviewed, which leads us to:

Practice makes perfect

The old saying rings true – the more you practice being interviewed, the better and more prepared you will be when the interview comes along. Don’t just stop at mock-interviews either. When Ramit Sethi was in college, he and a group of friends studied and practiced for hours every week. Not only that, but some of them got interviews at companies they weren’t even interested in as a part of their practice.

We don’t promote taking these kinds of actions – to go out and secure interviews for jobs they have no interest pursuing – but it shows the level of commitment Ramit had to honing his craft. These are the types of individuals that put themselves in the best position to win – those people that do everything necessary to be as close to perfect as possible.

Know what might be asked

At this point, you’ve researched the company and know what problems it is facing. You’ve also come up with a proposal document. But how do you prepare for the questions they might ask? Research common (and crazy) interview questions and make a list. Find out common HR questions. Search on Glassdoor to see how other people’s experience went. Think about the hardest questions you’ve been asked at previous interviews.

Once you’ve done your research, get a friend to practice the actual interview. Give them your list and tell them to pick questions randomly and add things they might think of along the way. This way, you can’t anticipate the questions. Also, give them a set number to pick, so you don’t answer every question every time you practice.

Practice from the interviewer’s POV

Attempting to understanding how the interviewer thinks will give you insight into how you can better prepare your answers and your proposal document. Switch roles with your friend and act as the interviewer. What questions come to mind that you didn’t write down? What goes through your mind when thinking about hiring the person in front of you?

Research and reach out to employees

There’s nothing like a referral to help loosen the intense nature of many interviews. Try and build a relationship with someone before you apply. Reach out to them on LinkedIn and ask a few questions about their professional path and why they enjoy working there. If you take a personal interest in their life and job, there’s a chance they might want to put in a good word when and if you do choose to apply.

With these tips, you’ll interview far better than your peers. You’ll be prepared for crunchtime and ready to take the next step – employment.