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How to Prepare for an Interview

These tips will help you prepare for your interview.

Congratulations! You applied for a job and secured an interview. Now what? The tips below will help you prepare for your interview.

Why it’s important to prepare for an interview

Even if you’re completely qualified for the job, it’s important to prepare for the interview. You never know how many other qualified candidates are also interviewing, so being prepared will help you stand out from the crowd. Preparation doesn’t have to be long or difficult. It’s as simple as anticipating some common questions and reflecting on your job experience before the big day. 

Common interview questions

There’s no way to know exactly what will be asked in an interview, but there are some fairly common themes for questions. While the questions below may not be asked word-for-word, the answers you practice will be applicable to many common interview questions. By practicing your answers, you will create a good foundation of examples to draw from in your interview. 

Tell me a bit about yourself.

This one seems like a no-brainer, but it can cause you to ramble if you don’t prepare for it. You do know everything about yourself, after all! Think about the position you are interviewing for and how the details of your life relate to it. This is also a chance for the interviewer to get to know you as an individual, so it’s okay to say a few details that aren’t relevant to the job but are important to you. 

Let’s pretend we’re interviewing at a nonprofit organization. Here’s an example of how someone could respond to this question.

“I was born and raised in Omaha, and I care a lot about this community. I’ve worked in customer service for 8 years, and that taught me how to gracefully serve people who need help solving problems. While I have not worked for a nonprofit before, I have volunteered with them, like at the local food bank. In my free time, I like to play games with my kids, practice guitar and watch NBA games.” 

Why do you think you’d be a good fit for this position?

Even though you submitted a resume to secure the interview, it’s okay to repeat what was on it. The interviewer may not remember your listed job experience or accomplishments, and they may not have been the person who reviewed your resume. Think through your job history and personal experiences to identify relevant skills and accomplishments that you can discuss that make you a good fit for this job.  

Let’s pretend this interview question is for a manufacturing position. Here’s an example of how someone could respond to this question.

“I’ve worked at previous manufacturing jobs, so I am comfortable standing on my feet for a long time if needed, and I am also licensed to operate a forklift. I understand the importance of work that is quality and consistent. Even though I have not worked in this particular kind of manufacturing, I am a fast learner and willing to try new things.”

Tell me about a time where you faced a challenge and how you overcame it.

The challenge you choose to talk about doesn’t have to be related to work, but the more it applies to the position you’re interviewing for, the better it is as an example. Try to talk about a challenge that ended in a positive result and taught you a lesson. This challenge may have been a disagreement with a coworker or a customer, an unexpected barrier during a project, or a time where you had to learn something new to get the job done.

Let’s pretend this interview question is for a customer service position. Here’s an example of how someone could respond to this question.

“One time, a customer was very upset with me. The item she had purchased was broken when she opened it, and she demanded a full refund. Unfortunately, it was past the date when she could return it. Instead of repeating our policy and dismissing her frustration, I told her I would talk to my manager and see if there was anything we could do. We were able to give her a partial refund, and even though it wasn’t exactly what she wanted, she appreciated my efforts. That challenge helped me learn that even the most frustrated people do not mean to take it out on me, and if I approach them with kindness and understanding, they’re willing to show it back.”

Why are you looking to switch jobs?

Whether you’re still employed and looking to switch jobs, or if you are unemployed and applying for a new job, never talk poorly about your previous employer. Even if they were very bad to you, the interviewer does not know that for a fact. The interviewer may assume you have a bad attitude and that you would talk poorly of their company in the future. 

To answer this question nicely and honestly, think about the things at your last job that did not align with your career goals. These could be a long commute, hours that didn’t work with your life, job duties that no longer fit your goals, or a desire to advance your career beyond what that job could offer you. Try to start off with one positive thing that you did enjoy, follow with what wasn’t working, and end with why this new job would work better for you. 

Let’s pretend this interview question is for a healthcare position. Here’s an example of how someone could respond to this question.

“I really enjoyed my coworkers and patients at my last job, but my hours were not very flexible, so I wasn’t able to attend my kid’s events. It was also a really long commute, so that took more time out of my day. This job’s hours would work much better with my schedule, and I live only a few miles away.” 

Why do you want to work here?

Everyone loves a little flattery. This is your chance to talk about why you want to work at this company, not just any company that’s hiring. If you don’t know the answer off the top of your head, look at the company’s website. Odds are, it will have a section that tells more about the company, its history and its values. Those details may resonate with you and be good to reference in your answer. It shows that you did your research, too! 

If there isn’t anything “inspiring” about the company or position, that’s okay, too. There’s no need to lie. This is a good chance to repeat how you’re qualified for the job and why it would be nice to work somewhere that aligns with your skill set.

Let’s pretend this interview question is for a business administration position. Here’s an example of how someone could respond to this question.

“Your company has been around for 50 years, and I would love to work somewhere that is success-driven and reputable. I read that your values are honesty, curiosity and gratitude, which I think are excellent values to guide a company. I particularly value honesty. I work best when my coworkers and managers can be open with me, and they trust me to be open with them. I am very organized and detail-oriented, so being an administrative assistant here would let me use those skills every day.”

What questions do you have for me?

It’s important to come prepared with a few questions for the interviewer. Remember, an interview isn’t a strict test, it’s an open conversation for both the interviewer and interviewee to decide if the job is right for them. 

Here are some examples of questions to ask for your interviewer.

  • “What would a typical day look like for my position?”
  • “What are some of the challenges you’ve seen people in this position encounter?
  • “How would you describe the culture of this company?”
  • “What drew you to this company, and why have you continued to work here?”
  • “When can I expect to hear from you again?”

Practice, practice, practice!

Now that you’ve thought about your answers to these questions, practice them out loud! Have a friend or family member pretend to be your interviewer and give feedback on your answers. You can also visit the Heartland Workforce Solutions American Job Center to practice with one of our career specialists. They can give you additional interview tips and help you be as prepared as possible. Click here for more interview tips online.