The notification finally comes in: You have an interview request! After all your time spent perfecting your resume and sending proposals, your dream job is just within reach. It's time to figure out how to prepare for the interview so you can land the job or client. If you made it to the interview stage, you likely have what they're looking for; you just need to show that you're the best candidate.
These interview tips and tricks will help you make a great impression:
- Research the company
- If possible, try out the company's products or services
- Prepare examples of your work
- Practice answering interview questions
- Review the job posting
- Focus on the company's needs
- Highlight your expertise
- Keep your answers concise and focused
- Tell a compelling story
- Leverage your knowledge of the company and interviewer
Before the interview
Once you've scheduled an interview, you'll want to prepare so you feel as confident as possible. All interviews are different, and while you can't anticipate every question that may come your way, you can do your best to be ready. Think of interview prep as studying for a test with essay questions.
Research the company
Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the company and its products or services. Whether you're interviewing with a Fortune 500 company or a startup, taking the time to research the company is an important part of preparing for an interview. It shows that you did your homework and want the job.
If the posting is vague, without any information about the company or industry, send a quick message to your company contact. Ask if they can share some information about their business before the interview so you can better prepare.
During your research, pay attention to the company's:
- Mission statement
- Core values
- Unique selling proposition
- Recent product or service launches
- News articles and press releases
- Industry trends
- Leadership team
- Company history and founding
- Social media pages
By the end of your research, you should be able to give an elevator pitch for the company you're interviewing with. Be prepared to answer the question, "What do you know about our company and what we do?"
If possible, try out the company's products or services
A great interview tip is to try the company's products or services before the interview. You could take a trip to the store to see the product in person and learn how it compares to its competitors. If you're interviewing for a digital company with an app or web-based service, download and test it out beforehand.
Zlatko B., an Expert-Vetted and Top-Rated Plus freelance E-commerce Website Developer, suggests going one step further before your interview and coming up with ideas and solutions.
"If your potential employer has a product, use it, and write down some feedback and things you would improve and why. It takes 10 minutes to do that, and that will showcase your enthusiasm about the company and your involvement."
Going the extra mile to try the product or service can help set you apart from other candidates, demonstrating how invested you are. This isn’t always possible; it depends on the company you’re interviewing with. Even if you don't have a product or service to try, look at their website and social media channels to see the type of content they create to help you feel more familiar with the brand.
Be prepared to answer questions such as:
- Have you ever used our product or service before?
- What do you like about our products and services?
- Is there anything you would change about our product or service?
Prepare examples of your work
As you get ready for an interview, pick out the examples that you think highlight the most critical skills from the job description. When your interviewer asks you questions, you can steer the conversation toward the examples you've prepared. Choosing examples ahead of time can help you talk about them more confidently, since you’ll already have an idea of what you want to say. Be sure to keep your profile up-to-date with your latest work samples to impress clients.
Many interviews are now conducted remotely through video meetings or phone calls. If you're doing a phone interview, you can have different tabs open and notes on your desk to reference. Video interviews are face-to-face, but you can still sneak in space to have notes on your screen if you need help remembering which examples you want to bring up. Clean up your desktop ahead of time and be prepared to share your screen to walk your interviewer through your examples.
Practice answering interview questions
One of the most nerve-wracking parts of the interview process is answering questions. Preparing for an interview with practice questions can help you feel less anxious and more confident. Start by researching common interview questions, kicking off with the generic, "Walk me through your resume," and then moving on to the more job-specific questions. Be ready to answer these common remote interview questions if the position is work-from-home.
An excellent place to start is the job description. Read through and pick out the individual skills mentioned and try to explain your experience with each skill. If you're interviewing at a bigger company, you can use Glassdoor or Reddit to find the exact questions other candidates have been asked.
Common interview questions:
- What are your biggest strengths?
- What is your best professional achievement?
- What is your favorite project you've worked on so far?
- Tell me about a time you had to resolve a conflict at work.
- Do you prefer working independently or on a team?
- How do you stay organized and balance multiple projects at once?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
Interviewing for a freelance job? Check out some popular interview questions and answers for in-demand roles.
Review the job posting
Use the job posting as your starting point when preparing for an interview. A good job posting should contain all the hard and soft skills required for the position. Your interviewer will likely use the job posting as their reference when asking questions and measure you on the skills listed. Think about the interview process from the interviewer's point of view and try to anticipate what they may ask.
One of the best interview tips is to create an example or talking point for each of the skills listed in the job description. Ideally, you can tell a story that hits multiple skills in one. Keep in mind that your interviewer may ask about other skills that aren't listed.
If you get nervous and tend to go blank when put on the spot, keep a list of all of your favorite projects by your computer during the interview so you can use it as a reference.
During the interview
Part of preparing for an interview is thinking about your strategy. You've researched the company and have your examples and practice questions, but how will you execute them? These interview tips and tricks will help you map out your game plan.
Focus on the company's needs
Turn the tables and think about why the company created the position in the first place. What need does it solve? All positions have a purpose. Even if this is a backfill position, consider why it exists in the first place. Once you've established the need for the role, figure out what you bring to the table. How are you going to help the company achieve its goals?
You could mention a marketing strategy that their competitor is using or point out an idea you had for the website. The goal is to demonstrate your value, why they need you on their team or this project.
Highlight your expertise
What sets you apart from all of the other candidates? This is your unique selling position. Think about your career path, past jobs and projects, your collaborations with past teams, and how they've prepared you to take on this new challenge.
When talking about your past experience, use metrics whenever possible to demonstrate your expertise. What results did you get for other companies or clients? This is your time to shine and show that you're the best person for this position.
Keep your answers concise and focused
Interviews are nerve-wracking, so feeling anxious is completely normal. When an interviewer asks you a question, it's okay to pause and think about the answer. Your instinct may be to say the first thing that pops into your head and make it work, but take a deep breath and give yourself time to reflect.
Every time someone asks a question, try to figure out what they're really asking. A request like "Tell me about a time you disagreed with someone on your team" is asking about your conflict-resolution skills. You want to give the interviewer an insight into what it's like to work with you and show that you can work well with others. Sometimes they are not looking for a specific "right" or "wrong" answer. It's more about how you think and approach problem-solving.
When answering questions, do your best to keep your answers concise and focused. Rambling is a common habit when nervous, but taking time to think about a question before you answer it can help you get to the point. Interviews are time restricted, so you want to stay on point and make sure you're able to answer all of the questions and leave time to ask your own.
Tell a compelling story
One of the best interview tips is to use the STAR method when answering behavioral questions. These types of questions are typically easy to spot because they start with "Tell me about a time when..." Using the STAR method, tell a story about your past experiences in the following format:
Situation. Start by setting up the scene with the necessary background information. What was happening?
Task. Describe the role you played and your responsibilities.
Action. Detail exactly what you did, highlighting the skills your interviewer is likely looking for.
Result. What happened? It's okay if the outcome wasn't what you had hoped for; you can share what you learned and what you would do differently next time.
Stories tend to have a higher emotional appeal and are more engaging than just listing the facts. Let's say you asked two people what they did today. The first person quickly lists five different activities as bullet points, while the second person tells a fun story of their day and weaves in the same five activities. Which person's day is more memorable?
Leverage your knowledge of the company and interviewer
One of the ways you can stand out as an interviewee is by making a personal connection, whether you've used the product for years or lived in the same city as the interviewer. Take some time to do background research on the interviewers to see if there's any way to connect. It can help you stand out.
Arun Godwin P., a Top-Rated Plus freelance Machine Learning Engineer and Full-Stack Web Developer, gives a reminder to be friendly, warm, and approachable during the interview.
"Keep in mind that you are forging a business relationship with the interviewer and client; however, being friendly and warm will make yourself and the interviewer much more comfortable, and it will be more likely that you make a good connection with them! The interviewer may forget the things that you say after speaking with you, but they won't forget how you made them feel."
During the interview, you want to show that you're knowledgeable about the company and the industry. You can do this by bringing up the company's values and how they resonate with you or mentioning a recent news article that featured the company.
Ask pointed questions that go beyond the generic "questions to ask at the end of an interview" that other candidates may use. You could ask about the industry, recent acquisitions, product or service launches, or plans for the future.
Gabrielle P., a Top-Rated freelance Public Relations Manager, emphasizes the importance of sending a good follow-up.
"Here's a secret every PR pro knows–the real money is in the follow-up. Studies show it can take at least eight times to win a prospective client over. Leaving thousands of dollars a month on the table because you believe following up means you’re being “pushy”, is a mindset you can’t afford to believe anymore. Be sure to follow up more than once to stay top of mind for interested clients.”
Your follow-up should reinforce your interest in the job and thank the interviewer for their time. If you're unsure exactly what to say, follow these tips for sending a great post-interview thank-you.
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