Why Job Interviews Are Like Exams (and 8 Ways to Study for Them)

Fun fact: Job interviews can be a lot like exams. Here's how you should study up.

Although taking tests is part of your job as a student, you may be looking forward to the day you never have to encounter another college exam again. But don’t erase all those test-prep skills from your brain after you graduate! Here are eight ways you can apply all those years of flash cards and other study strategies to an important part of the real world: the job interview.

1. Basic research

The first thing you should do is conduct basic research just as you would when preparing for an exam. Do this by looking on the company website and locating a mission statement, CEO, client list, and other pertinent information about the company culture. This is similar to a basic study guide or outline that you would produce when studying for an exam.

2. Social media research

These days, social media research is also important when prepping for a job interview. Once you know about the basic company culture, it's time to do some recon on employees and the person who will be interviewing you. They'll likely be looking at your social media profiles, so there's no reason why you shouldn't look at theirs. Start with LinkedIn and continue with Twitter and Facebook. Although looking at the company's official profiles is the first place you should be looking, there's no reason why you can't look up people on Facebook as well. Likely they will have a private personal social media profile, but you might be able to learn something about their personality. This is also a good time to make your Facebook profile settings private. This is more detailed research and will require patience and creativity on your part, just as it would to troubleshoot difficult chapters in a textbook when preparing for an exam.

3. Get specific details

Just as you would want to get specific details about what will appear on an exam in one of your courses, it's important to get specific details about the interview process. Find out if it will be a multistep process, who specifically will be interviewing you, if you will be applying for multiple positions, which departments you might be working with, and who your supervisors would be. The more you know about the detailed aspects of the corporation, the more likely you will be to ask and answer pertinent questions during the interview.

4. Ask smart questions  

It's important to ask questions during an interview just as it's important to ask questions when studying for an exam. Students who talk to their professors about what may appear on a test tend to perform better on exam day. This same line of thinking can be applied to a successful job interview. It's essential to ask questions, but they should be smart questions, ones that let the interviewer know you've done research on the company and that you’re genuinely interested in the position. A few things you should definitely ask: what your specific role would be and what it takes to be successful at the company.

5. Practice public speaking skills

Most students have done an oral presentation during college. Many students dread these assignments and don't know how to prepare for them. A job interview is no different. You will essentially be conducting a public speaking assignment for an audience of one. It's important to practice as much as you need to until you feel comfortable and confident speaking one on one with a person who could make or break the beginning of your career at this company. Remember to talk slowly, avoid rambling, keep a professional and friendly tone of voice, and learn to interject politely when appropriate.

6. Be prepared to be caught off guard

Nearly every college student has showed up to an exam to find out that there is an essay question that was not on the study guide. This is a common teaching strategy to determine if students read the entire text assigned or if they just breezed through the study guide. Students who are prepared to be surprised tend to score higher on exams. The same train of thought can be applied to a job interview. If you get to the second or third round of interviews, the interviewer may think you’re well prepared but wants to know if you would be able to think quickly on your feet once you're part of the company. It's important to be prepared for the unexpected and answer tough questions without allowing yourself to get tripped up.

7. Show enthusiasm for the subject (the job)

Teachers love it when students demonstrate enthusiasm for their class. In some cases, this will persuade a teacher to bump an 89% up to a 90%, making a huge difference in a student's final grade. Because the interviewer is essentially giving you a pass or fail grade, it's paramount to show tons of enthusiasm about the job. The interviewer can tell if an applicant is not excited about the job or if they're overly nervous or arrogant. Let the interviewer know you’re enthusiastic about the company and the specific job title and be appreciative of the chance to talk to them about it. 

8. Be confident in your answers (your skills)

Students taking standardized tests know that confidence counts for a lot. Changing answer choices and second-guessing yourself will usually lead to a lower grade. The same goes for the interview process. It's important to be confident in your answers, even if you feel that you're not the perfect fit for the job. Somebody who is confident yet humble may be considered a good fit overall and can be trained to fill in their skills gap, while somebody who is entirely lacking in self-confidence is not likely to be hired.

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