What preparing for a job interview actually means

Preparing your resume and cover letter to ideal standards is one of the most important parts of finding a job. Yet it's also mentioned that you should prepare for job interviews as well. But what exactly does that mean?

Listed below are four prominent ways you can prepare yourself for an interview. Finding accounting jobs and other finance positions is hard enough in the current environment. So if you aren't preparing for each individual interview and devising unique strategies, then you're ceding an advantage to your peers and competitors.

1. You need to know the company
This is an obvious tip, but one that many individuals forget: you need to be extremely familiar with the company – and if possible, with the individuals – that you're applying with. You may be "quizzed" on their business model, or you may simply be able to use this information to break the ice by bringing up a piece of company news. No matter what, you should be familiar with the office you're applying to work at. 

"You need to know as much as possible about the people you're interviewing with," Ellen Gordon Reeves, an author whose published a book on the interviewing process, told U.S. & World News Report, when asked for tips to offer applicants.

2. A prepared answer can often trump an improvised one
You'll never be able to prepare for every question that'll be asked of you during a job interview. But there's at least a few that you can always expect to hear. For example, if there's a long-term gap in your employment history, you can surely expect that a hiring manager will ask you about it. Preparing a response – or, at least, an outline of how you'd like to respond – to such questions is an important part of the preparation process. That way, you can spend most of your energy during the interview itself answering the questions that catch you off guard.

3. Anticipating office culture is a must
Knowing what the company produces or who you'll be interviewing with isn't enough on its own, either. You need to be able to anticipate office culture. There's one often-told tale about a job applicant who would change regularly every day – the applicant would dress down when interviewing for technology jobs, and switch into a suit and tie when interviewing for finance positions. Caroline Ceniza-Levine, partner with a career consulting firm, explained to CBS News why that's so important: most interviewers will make a snap judgment of an applicant within just a few moments. So appearances most certainly matter. 

"As a former recruiter, I would see candidates come alive three or more minutes into the interview," Ceniza-Levine told the news outlet. "That's three minutes too late, as I've already formed an opinion about them."

4. Preparation should continue even in the waiting room
One last tip: your process for preparing for a job interview should continue even in the last moments before you're called to meet the hiring manager. One expert, for example, went on record about how you can benefit from looking at and analyzing the "competition" that may be in the waiting room alongside you. 

"Often the person leaving as you are arriving is your competitor," David Couper, career coach and author, told CBS News. "Or you may be waiting in the same area as other candidates. See how they are dressed, how old are they, what are they carrying. If they seem older than you they may have more experience. Be ready to talk about the quality rather than the quantity of your work knowledge."