Eight Tips for a Successful Interview
Have a firm handshake, make eye contact, and say "thank you". These offers of advice are often given to someone before an interview. Have you ever checked all these boxes and still left an interview feeling uneasy about your performance? Well, you’re not alone. Perhaps the world of interviewing has changed, or perhaps we have changed, but one thing is certain: pulling off a slam-dunk interview requires more than a firm handshake. These eight tips for a successful interview may not mean guaranteed success, but they should put you on the right track to make a great first impression.
Prepare. Think about all the things you will need for your interview and prepare several days ahead of time. Print out at least three copies of your resume and put them in a portfolio (preferably one with paper and a pen for note taking). Review the company’s website as well as the LinkedIn profiles or other social media pages for the individuals you are interviewing with. Take notes on things you may have in common or some of their selected accomplishments so you can weave them into the conversation. Create a checklist to run through before you leave for your interview. It’s also important that you wear appropriate professional attire so plan accordingly. These are the small things that will present a professional image and indicate that you are prepared and have a strong desire for the position.
Arrive early! This cannot be stressed enough. You only have one chance to make a first impression and you don’t want that first impression to be that you are tardy, careless or disorganized. Arrive early. Understand where you’re supposed to be and if you arrive really early, grab a coffee until it’s time for your interview. This will also provide some time to settle your nerves, do a last minute review of the organization and review how you would answer particular questions.
Use examples. Read through the job description and reflect on specific examples from your work history that tie back to what the hiring manager is seeking. Also, think of experiences that highlight your main skillsets and strengths, such as a time you overcame a challenge or a time you worked on a team. Relating these specific, targeted anecdotes to the interviewer will help them visualize how you would utilize your skills in this new job.
Speak positively about prior roles. Remember that many of your experiences in your prior roles have advanced your career to where you are today, even if the experience wasn’t always ideal. Perhaps you weren’t thrilled with your last job (or boss). It happens. Being too honest in an interview about past negative experiences can actually reflect badly on you. Focus on the positive aspects and how you have grown and developed from them. Be ready to share how you will apply what you’ve learned to your next opportunity.
Share your goals thoughtfully. A common, but often dreaded, interview question is, "Tell me where you see yourself five years from now." Most interviewers genuinely want to know about your aspirations and your hunger for success. Unfortunately, many candidates focus too much on their goal five years from now and what they need to do to get there instead of where they want to be right now. The unintended consequences may well leave the interviewer with the impression that you are not fully committed and they will be stuck filling the spot all over again. Share your five-year plan. Just make sure the interviewer knows you are excited about this particular opportunity and how you know the experience you gain will help you to reach your future goals.
Engage in conversation. The point of your interview is for you and the interviewer to get to know each other, and to figure out if you are going to be an asset to the company, department or team. Don’t rely on the interviewer to do all the talking! Show him or her how you can help the company. Ask about the team’s goals or a project that is underway and correlate your skillsets to the company’s needs. Your interviewer will enjoy talking about his or her work and will be confident that you could make a positive contribution to the team in a specific way.
Ask your questions. When you are prepared, you will have conducted research about both the company and the interviewer and developed some thoughtful questions. Remember to ask those questions. This will not only demonstrate your enthusiasm, but will also show you are truly interested in the role.
Send a "Thank You". This is a classic touch that really goes a long way. Remember, people took time from their busy schedules to meet with you. A well-written thank you note will not only reflect positively on your character, but it will also emphasize your interest in the position and remind the hiring team about your visit. Before you leave your interview, ask for the interviewer’s business card or contact information. Within 24 hours, send a thank you note or email to every person who met with you.
Job interviews can be intimidating, but they don’t have to be! Visualizing an interview from the other side of the desk will provide valuable insight to what makes a good candidate and a good interview. If you were the interviewer, how would you like a question answered? Be specific, be positive and be focused. Follow these 8 tips for a successful interview and you may be fortunate enough to be invited back for an additional interview or potentially even receive a job offer. Good luck!