This article is part eight of a series of articles that will help you get your ideal job. From developing a professional resume to acing an interview, this series will help you understand what it takes to get hired in a competitive job market.
Tips for Acing Your Interview
After a week of anxious waiting you’ve finally received the call from human resources inviting you to an interview. Now all the tension of waiting find out if you’ll get an interview is replaced by tension over the interview itself. But, before you start worrying about what you’ll say and what you’ll wear, congratulate yourself!
The average job postings gets hundreds of applications, and if you’ve received a call for an interview then you’re one of the elite few that has gotten past the assessment stage. Take some confidence in the fact that the company you have applied to is interested enough in your skills and experience to consider you.
Now, the hard part begins. Whether you’re up against 10 other candidates or 30, know that you’re being analyzed and compared to see who is the best fit for the job. The greatest advantage you can take with you to the interview is preparation.
Here are 11 tips that go a long way in helping prospective job candidates prepare for an interview:
1. Preparation begins on Day 1
You’ve just gotten off the phone with the hiring manager, and the interview is scheduled. Take some time to congratulate yourself, and then begin preparing mentally. Mental preparation and putting into context what you will be going through (or what you think you’ll be going through if this is your first interview) will help you build confidence. Mental preparation is one of the key facets that allows us as human beings to be our best when it comes to high-pressure situations.
We all prepare differently, so you should explore which techniques work best for you. You can reduce stress by thoroughly researching and practicing for your interview. You may also wish to create a checklist so you have peace of mind, knowing you’ve completed each step. Positive thinking and visualizing your success can also be powerful techniques for getting into the right frame of mind.
2. Research the organization conducting the interview
No matter how impressive your skills and experience, it won’t bode well in an interview if you don’t know anything about the organizations and what it does or offers. Be sure that you have some facts in hand as well as any news items that may be related to the company or the industry that the organization operates within.
If the company sells certain products or has a unique service, make sure that you know what those products and services do and who they’re for. Demonstrating a high-level of understanding and being able to provide your own informed opinions will surely impress the person conducting the interview.
3. Choose your outfit carefully
We all know that you only get one chance to make a good first impression. Take this saying to heart because your outer appearance speaks volumes about who you are as a person. A clean and professional appearance will clearly show that you are an organized and serious individual.
Take as an example a colleague of mine who recently had an interview with a hiring manager for a large market research firm. The company’s dress code was quite casual; the hiring manager was wearing shorts and a t-shirt during the interview. However, my colleague came to the interview dressed in a professional suit, with a leather tote in hand, which impressed the hiring manager immensely.
4. Say no to perfume and aftershave
What constitutes a pleasant smell varies from individual to individual. We’re all hard-wired to like and dislike certain smells, and as with food, tastes can vary wildly.
To be safe, go au naturel. While that lavender-scented perfume may get you a thumbs up with your friends, it might be entirely unpleasant for the hiring manager in your interview. They may even be allergic to it! Most companies these days have a no-perfume policy, so you might as well start from the interview.
5. Prepare examples from your past performance
Review your resume and the key skills required for the new job, then prepare to provide examples of your past work and accomplishments in the context of these skills. Interviewers will often prepare behavioural-based questions to evaluate your past behavior in light of the requirements of the job opportunity you’re apply to. Prepare a list of questions that might come up based on the information contained in your resume and the qualifications and skill listed in the job description.
For example, your resume’s Career Goal may read: “To work with youth-at-risk to create a supportive academic environment.” You can almost be certain the interviewer is going to ask you to provide some specific examples of how you dealt with youth to support their academic performance. Prepare yourself to do just that. Look for questions that can be drawn from the professional activities you’ve listed, your experience, and education.
Ask yourself each question, create a series of bullet points outlining your answer, and study it. You shouldn’t memorize your answers since you don’t want to sound robotic, but a bit of practice will allow you to build self-confidence and prepare you mentally for any question that comes up in the interview.
6. Draw up a list of questions for the interviewer
A job interview shouldn’t be a monologue. In most cases the hiring manage expects to be asked questions. Prepare a list of questions that are thought-provoking, intelligent, and will engage the hiring manager in discussion. Remember, the goal of the interview is to get this person to know you and to leave a lasting impression. A good interview usually last an hour, of which 20-30 minutes are based on discussion about the job, about yourself, and in some cases even about the hiring manager.
Here is an example of a good thought-provoking question.
You: So I see you’ve just opened a resource center for at-risk kids. How does that work?
Interviewer: Well, teachers who identify…..etc.
You: Interesting. I began the student center at XYZ school and…
Design your questions to generate a response that allows you to expand on your expertise and experience. This does two things:
1. It shows you’ve done your research
2. It highlights your professional strengths, i.e. administration, organization, innovation, teamwork and so on.
7. Get to the vicinity of the interview 60 minutes ahead of schedule
Take the time to figure out where your destination is and how you’ll get there. By arriving early, you can find a nice coffee shop, go over your notes, and get your mind focused on the interview. Give yourself a chance to relax, take a deep breath and prepare.
If your interview is being conducted online, make sure that you know how to use the technology that will be used for the interview, and that all your equipment is working and properly set up. Do a mock interview with a friend to make sure that the actual interview goes smoothly.
8. Arrive just on time
Arrive about 5-10 minutes before the scheduled interview time. That’s enough time for the interviewer to clear her desk and for you to relax in this new environment and mentally go over your notes one last time.
Some people arrive extremely early thinking that this will benefit them. In most cases, arriving too early is not a good thing. Hiring managers have full-time jobs and the interview they’ve scheduled is the time they’ve set apart for you. By arriving too early you are actually disrespecting their schedule and most likely interfering with something else that they’ve planned for that time.
9. A firm handshake, eye contact and body language
Each says something about you. A firm (but not too firm) handshake, eye contact, and greeting the interviewer by name shows an understanding of professional etiquette. These are part of the intangible assets that are being analyzed.
A good posture, a good tone, and animated hand gestures will show the interviewer your confidence as well as your poise in high-pressure situations.
Make sure you have a pad and pen to take notes as the interviewer speaks, but use them sparingly as a tool to show that you are clearly engaged and value what the interviewer is saying.
10. Immediately follow up with a thank-you note
A short and concise email will help you stay top of mind after the interview is finished. A quick thank you for their time and consideration, and a brief salutation is enough to ensure that you’ve rounded out all the aspects of a good interview from beginning to end.
11. Patience goes a long way
Hiring a new staff member or faculty member takes time. During the interview, ask the interviewer when a decision will be made but don’t press them for more information or an exact date.
It’s perfectly acceptable to write an email after two weeks, but don’t sound desperate. Just inquire about the status of the job search and ask the recipient(s) if additional information would be helpful in making their decision. This shows you’re proactive, professional and helpful. Again, your email should exude confidence.
There’s no guarantee that following these suggestions will land you the job, but you’ll have a much better chance. So, prepare, research, rehearse, get there early, be confident, follow up and hope for the best.
One last point: if you don’t land the job, learn from the experience. Every job interview is a learning opportunity, so don’t view rejection as a waste of time or a failure on your part. It’s just one part of your professional career, and something that you will likely have to do many times in your life.