Acing the Job Interview
Congratulations! Your resume was selected from dozens, if not hundreds, of applicants. That’s already quite an accomplishment. Now, they want you to come in for an interview.
Interviewing with a prospective employer can make even the most outgoing and confident people nervous. Your success during this part of the hiring process can dictate a whole new direction for your career trajectory.
While it’s perfectly normal to be a little nervous in an interview… it’s best to try to get those nerves under control. To do that, preparation is key.
So, what should you do to prepare for the interview? Here are some tips:
Research the company
Regardless of the role you are applying for, learning about the company you could potentially be working for will go a long way in showing you actually care about getting the position. It will also demonstrate that you are proactive and inquisitive and will give you the background to ask relevant questions pertaining to the position.
Research the interviewer
Find out who will be involved in the interviewing process and do a little research about them. You can try to find these folks on the company’s website or LinkedIn. Oftentimes you’ll find out that you have something (or some people) in common that can be used to benefit you in the interview.
Bring extra copies of your resume and any supporting documentation
Always make sure you bring extra copies of your formatted resume. If you applied using an applicant tracking system (ATS), formatting can often get lost. Whenever possible, you should tailor your resume to the specific role you are applying for. This makes it easier for you to map your experience to the position. Also, if the position requires you to bring examples of your work, be sure to have those on hand in case they ask for these (writing samples, graphics, portfolio, etc.).
Write down questions to ask beforehand
Asking questions in an interview should be a two-way street. It should be a conversation. After all, you and the employer are both trying to determine the right fit. Of course, you may ask questions as they arise during the normal interview process, however having questions prepared beforehand ensures that when the employer asks if you have any questions… you’re not caught off guard. This is where you can use some of your research to ask appropriate questions relating to the company, its products, services, client base, the team you’d be working with, any recent news you read about, and the position you’re applying for.
The job interview is not time or place to ask how many vacation days you get or the pay rate. Hold these types of questions for a later time.
Dress for success
As the old saying goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” It’s important to look your best for the interview. The role you’re applying for can dictate (to some degree) the level of dress you should wear. When in doubt, opt for one level of dress above the role. Also, neatness counts. Make sure your clothes are clean and pressed and your physical appearance is neat and tidy as well. And don’t overdo the cologne, people!
Making sure you arrive on time for your interview is very important. It is one of the first indicators of your work ethic, dependability, and level of respect. Be sure to pad extra time to your expected commute for traffic or for getting lost if you are unfamiliar with the area. Try to arrive 10-15 minutes early as a rule of thumb. Park in visitor parking not reserved spaces.
Demeanor and Body Language
Your demeanor is what you portray about yourself to the interviewer. Do you seem confident, approachable and friendly, or nervous and anxious?
Understanding what your body language is saying is as important as what you say. Are you slouched over, with your arms crossed? Or do you seem welcoming and comfortable? Make sure your body language and your words are aligned.
- Offer a warm smile and a friendly, firm handshake upon meeting your interviewer
- Restate their name upon greeting them, “Very nice to meet you, Jim.”
- Take note of their name so you don’t forget (as we all can do)
- Be positive
- Make eye contact (but don’t make it a staring contest)
- Take notes when appropriate
- Show your personality in a professional manner
- Let the interviewer lead the interview (don’t get ahead of yourself)
- Listen with the intent to hear rather than to respond
- Thoughtfully answer questions but don’t sound rehearsed
- Don’t cross your arms
- Appear engaged and interested (lean in slightly, smile, nod)
- Sit up straight but don’t appear rigid or robotic
- Push in your chair after the interview and shake the interviewer’s hand before you leave
- Keep your cell phone off – not on vibrate
- Limit your responses to the interviewer’s questions – don’t go off on a tangent
Extol your qualifications with specific examples
Your resume likely only told part of the story. The interview is your chance to shine and showcase your accomplishments. Anyone can say they are a “people person,” or great at negotiating. These are generic and subjective terms. Companies want to know, specifically, what you can do for them… So, while it’s great to know that you saved the company money or were the top salesperson for 5 straight quarters… be sure to back these points up with some clear examples and real statistics of what you accomplished and how you accomplished these achievements.
Be prepared for the most common interview questions
You know they’re coming… you might as well prepare for them in advance!
- Tell me about yourself?
- What do you know about the company?
- Tell me about a time when…
- Tell me about a difficult situation and how you handled it.
- What are your greatest weaknesses?
- What are your greatest strengths?
- If you could change one thing about your former (job, boss, company) what would it be?
- Why should we hire you?
- If we asked your former/current boss about you, what would they say your greatest strength is?
- What would they say your greatest weakness is?
- What part of your job did you like the most? What part did you dislike?
- Tell me how you prioritize your work/work day?
- How do you juggle multiple, competing priorities?
- What accomplishments are you most proud of?
- Why did you leave your last job?
- Why do you want this job?
- What type of work environment do you prefer?
- Why is there a gap in your employment?
- What are your salary requirements?
- Do you have any questions for us?
By taking time to prepare for the interview, you’ll demonstrate that you are someone who’s willing to put in the work not only to get the job, but to do the job.