Preparation is the key to success. World famous talk show host Oprah explains her own success by saying,
“I believe luck is a preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn’t been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn’t have been ‘lucky’.”
Preparation is also the key to success in a job interview, as it is that key ingredient that allows opportunities to fall into your lap. Interview prep can make the difference between getting a job offer or continuing your job search.
If you’re interested in interview prep, then you are in the right spot. You can learn all the basics of how to write notes and prepare for an interview, as well as whether you can bring notes into an actual interview.
In this article, we will discuss:
- The five essential notes to take before your next interview
- Research the company
- Consider why you are interviewing and what your qualifications are
- Review the job description
- Make a list of questions to ask
- Prepare for the interview
- Can you bring interview notes to an interview?
Job interviews are tough. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have a counselor offer career services to you. At Enhancv, we have career counselors who can help you practice interviewing, learn how to conduct company research, and discover how to show that you are the ideal candidate for a position.
1. Research the Company
Research is important when preparing for an interview, and you should start by researching the company that you’re applying for.
Although your first interaction with the company may be through the job description, you get a lot more detail from the company’s website and social media accounts. Let’s look at some of the major ways you can gain an advantage in your next interview by researching the company:
Learn about the company
There are so many things that you can learn about a company by just researching its online presence.
For example, if you’re interested in learning more about the company culture in order to understand whether it’s a healthy company or a dysfunctional one, look up a company’s profile on an employee review website, like Glassdoor. From there, you’ll be able to see reviews from current and former employees, which can allow you to understand a little more about the reputation of the company.
Also, just Google the company to learn more about its online presence. Check to see if you notice any negative responses or reviews about the company. Maybe you’ll find something about the products that they make or how they treat their clients.
When you conduct an online search of the company, you’ll get an unfiltered, unbiased view of that company, something which you may not find on the website or the company’s social media accounts.
Research the Interviewer
On almost every job description that you find online, you’ll find the hiring manager’s name. Once you’ve found this, you can search for them on the company website or even through LinkedIn or other social media accounts.
Just one word of warning: on most social media sites, including LinkedIn, people can see who searches for them. Keep that in mind when you’re conducting a search for a hiring manager, and avoid coming off as overbearing. For example, I wouldn’t mention anything specific that you find on their social media accounts pertaining to their personal life.
2. Consider Why You Are Interviewing and What Your Qualifications Are
Know why you’re interested in this position at this company
What really attracts you to the company? This is one of the most common interview questions that people come across. Therefore, you should understand why you’re applying for the position at this company.
After you’ve conducted research, you will have no doubt gained a bunch of information about the benefits of working at the company. Whether it’s their philanthropic pursuits, stellar company culture, or a great compensation package, there are a lot of good things that you’ll come across when you do your research.
Don’t make up something, because an interviewer will know if you are genuinely interested in the company.
Identify your selling points for this job
Who do you think you are?
Knowing who you are and what you offer can make you a highly sought-after candidate for any position. When somebody is confident enough to know what they want and willing to work hard to achieve it, this can make a great impression on a potential employer.
- What are your strongest skills?
- What do you offer to the company that no one else can offer?
- What are some specific examples from your career that you can point to where you’ve shown those skills?
Be ready to tell the interviewer about yourself
Ultimately, an employer wants to know a little more about you to gain an understanding of whether you’ll be a good fit at their company. So, you can expect to get questions about your plans for the future, including your five-year career goals.
Come ready to share a little about yourself and don’t be afraid to open up about your career aspirations. Having career goals allows a hiring manager to know more about you.
Jot down important numbers and details
Always quantify the examples that you give. Here’s a brief assignment for you: go back up to the “Identify your selling points for this job” section and for all the answers you gave for those three questions, write specific and quantifiable examples which you can give.
For example, you didn’t just help raise the sales numbers, but you led a team of sales agents who raised the sales numbers by 45% over the fourth quarter of 2020. You didn’t just improve client relations, but you utilized customer relationship management software which helped to increase the number of repeat customers by 50%.
Familiarize yourself with the STAR method
The STAR method is an interview tactic that stands for:
- Situation: Provide a situation from your career where you excelled.
- Task: Describe what your responsibilities were in that situation.
- Action: Explain the exact steps you took to achieve success.
- Result: Share with the interviewer exactly what came about from the actions that you took.
Next, go through all of the answers that you wrote above and try to apply the STAR method to them. Then provide context and examples that help to highlight more of your skills and abilities.
Let’s take, for example, the case of increasing the sales numbers by 45%. You can share with an interviewer that before you led your team, sales numbers were dwindling (Situation), and your regional manager selected you to raise the sales numbers (Task), you then solicited businesses in your area through cold calling (Action), which created a positive swell in sales numbers, which reached 45% by the fourth quarter of 2020 (Result).
If you come ready with a couple of these answers to situational interview questions up your sleeve, you show you are competent and able to handle the position that you’re applying for.
3. Review the Job Description
The reason you should review a job description for a role is that in that description, there is all the information pertinent to the position. You can expect to find information about the key responsibilities for the role, skills required to perform it successfully, and qualifications required for an applicant to successfully receive the role.
There also might be some helpful tidbits of information, including the salary expectations for the role, the company culture, and the name of the hiring manager. It might also give you information about whether the interview will be done in person or remotely by either a phone or video interview.
The first place to start your research to make notes for an interview should be in the job description itself. After that, you can branch out into looking into the company’s social media accounts and website.
4. Make a List of Questions to Ask
Interviewers are always interested to know if you have questions for them. That’s why it’s a good idea to do your research and come up with a few questions that you’d like to ask. Even though you’re making this list before you head into the interview, there might be some common things that you’re a little confused about and you could use clarification on.
5. Prepare For The Job Interview
Prepare your notes for an interview
Polish up all the answers that you came up with. Edit them to make sure that the answers that you give are concise and to the point.
You should internalize the answers that you’ve come up with, and you can do this by reading out the answers to the common interview questions.
Repetition is key to being able to fully internalize the answers that you’ll give, so go over them a couple of times. Also, be sure to switch up the answers from time to time, as you don’t want to memorize the answers, but have them ready to go.
Practice your answers to common interview questions
One of the major things you should do to prepare for an interview is to practice common interview questions. But, whatever you do, do not memorize the answers to the questions.
An interviewer can tell if you’re almost reading the answers off the back of your eyelids. Your answers will seem contrived and lifeless, whereas you want to have a dynamic answer available for each question that they ask.
Prepare Your Elevator Pitch
Your elevator pitch is a succinct description of who you are and why you feel you are the best candidate for the position. In only 5 to 10 minutes, an elevator pitch allows you to highlight why you are unique from other applicants, including your experience, your skills, and what you offer the company.
By practicing your elevator pitch, you can have it handy whenever you need to in the middle of an interview. For example, if the interview starts out and the hiring manager asks you to share a bit about yourself, that’s where you can pull out this elevator pitch to put your best foot forward.
You can also build your elevator pitch on your resume summary, pulling from the common themes found in the resume summary to highlight your experience and expectations for your career.
Print out copies of your resume for a hiring manager
Although you may have sent a digital copy of your resume to your interviewer, it’s always a good idea to come ready with a couple of copies of your resume. In fact, having a resume on hand in front of you can give you talking points you can go back to in your interview.
I wouldn’t rely on having your resume handy throughout the whole interview, but if you need a bit of a boost in the middle of your interview or you’re trying to answer a difficult question that was asked, having your resume on hand can give you what you need to answer successfully.
In addition, it shows that you are prepared and ready for the interview, and allows you to give your resume out to other people who may be involved in the interview process.
Conduct mock interviews
By conducting a mock interview, you can boost your interview preparation by simulating an actual situation. Have a friend come by and help you practice answering questions. Give them a list of questions to ask, as well as information you’ve gleaned from the company website and job description to create an authentic interview experience.
During the mock interview, ask your friend to judge you on the answers that you’ve given, as well as body language, including eye contact, posture, and facial features. Some answers might be brutally honest, but they can help you succeed in your next job interview.
During these mock interviews, wear interview attire and follow through with common practices in an interview, like giving a firm handshake and smiling when you greet your interviewer. Although it may sound a little silly, it’s always good to practice like a real interview.
Can You Bring Your Notes to an Interview?
Ask your interviewer before
The best thing you can do is ask before you attend the interview if you could bring some notes with you. Most of the time, interviewers would be okay with some brief notes which don’t take away from the interview.
Bring brief notes in bullet points format
The key to bringing notes into an interview is to keep them brief. The reason for this is you do not want to be reading word for word off of a piece of paper as you’re delivering answers to questions. This looks unprofessional and can ruin your interview.
As a result, just use bullet points to highlight your major points. You can easily memorize a bullet point.
Bring notes about salary expectations or regular duties
If you’re conducting research about specific expectations involving your salary or job duties, it might be a good idea to bring in some brief notes into the interview. This might actually give you a leg up while negotiating.
Can You Take Notes in an Interview?
Once again, the key is to ask your interviewer if you can take notes during an interview. It’s always a good idea to get approval before you just whip out a notepad and start taking notes.
Most interviewers will be completely fine with you taking some notes on a notepad, and it might even show them you are taking the interview seriously. If you are conducting a remote interview, it’s also a good idea to ask before taking notes from the interview.
Most of the time, a job offer isn’t just going to fall into your lap, and you need to put in a good amount of work in order to conduct a great interview. Doing research allows you to feel confident in sharing who you are and what makes you an ideal candidate. Ultimately, you’re trying to differentiate yourself from other candidates, and you can do this by doing your prep work.
Come up with a list of common interview questions, write your answers and refine them using the STAR method, and practice those answers so that they roll off the tip of your tongue. If you do this, you can set yourself up for your next job interview.
Whether you’re conducting video interviews or meeting with someone in person, it’s a good idea to speak to a career counselor from Enhancv to help you prepare for them. They can help you come up with questions to answer for your interview, and they’ll even go the extra mile and help you prepare for a job.