Some of the top candidates for a coveted job—those with the sterling academic credentials, killer resumes and excellent references—don’t get the job they want for one simple reason: they don’t nail the job interview. For some, it’s simple stage fright; the stakes are high, so they choke. For others, it’s a lack of adequate preparation for the interview—they forget that interviewers are looking for someone who’s a good fit for the organization, which means knowing as much about the job and the company as you do about your own skills and competencies.
The simple fact is that if you succeeded in your college courses, or in previous positions, you already have the skills you need to perform equally well in job interviews. Skills like doing relevant research, studying, understanding what a professor or a manager wants, and practicing are all you need to nail that interview. Here are 7 tips to give a stellar performance at your job interview:
1. Do Your Research
The more you know about the person(s) interviewing you, as well as the job you want and the company you’ll be working for, the better. Imagine, for example, that you’re applying for a job in computer programming. Your online research indicates that they’re having a problem with one of their software programs. In the interview, you can mention the problem and even suggest one or two solutions to fix it.
Your interviewer will be impressed that you took the time to learn as much as you did about the company, and that you’ve even provided a thoughtful solution. One caveat: always be respectful of the interviewer—in other words, don’t come off as arrogant or a know-it-all.
2. Anticipate the Interviewer’s Questions
Some interview questions are standard (like “what’s your biggest strength/weakness,”), while others will be specific to the job you’re seeking. For example, if you’re interviewing for a programming job, the interviewer might ask questions to determine the extent of your programming knowledge. Be prepared for both. It’s best not to memorize your answers (if you do, your answers will appear stilted and inauthentic). Instead, have talking points you can weave into a narrative. Be prepared to give good examples to illustrate your points—events in your experience which reinforce the points you make.
Sometimes when we’re nervous, we compensate by prattling on or rambling. It’s important to keep your answers concise and coherent—in general, your answers should be between 60 and 90 seconds. If in doubt, practice the night before. The trick to a great interview is to rehearse enough that you don’t sound rehearsed.
3. Dress Appropriately
The way you dress should match the culture of the company with which you’re interviewing. Try to dress just a little better than others with the company in your position (this communicates respect and humility). Don’t overdress or wear too much jewelry. Always use mouthwash ahead of the interview. If you wear perfume or cologne, don’t overdo it.
4. Don’t Be Late
Nothing kills an interview faster than arriving late. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early—that way, if something goes wrong, like heavy traffic or a missed bus, you’ll have some leeway to still be there on time. If you arrive early, use the time to observe the dynamics of the workplace—are people formal or informal, for example? Be sure to bring extra copies of your resume and, if it’s required, a portfolio or samples of your work.
5. Treat Everyone with Respect
Job interviewers often want to know how you treated the receptionist, or even the parking lot attendant, as this signals how cooperative, respectful and collaborative you are. Extend warm greetings to everyone with whom you interact on the day of the interview. When you meet the interviewer, smile, make good eye contact, and offer a firm handshake. Studies show that hiring managers typically make a decision within the first 20 minutes of the interview, so strive to make a great first impression.
6. Be Prepared with Insightful Questions
Usually near the end of your interview, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions. Be prepared to ask several good ones. Some of those questions should be derived from the research you did on the company. For example, look for news or articles about the company you can find online. Reference those articles to formulate your questions (for example, you might ask, “I read that you’re moving your dental practice in the fall—why did you decide to move?”). Other questions should deal with the nature of your job responsibilities, how your success will be measured, and what the next steps in the process are.
7. Say “Thank You”—Then Say It Again
This is more important than you might think. Even the most jaded of interviewers appreciates an authentic note of thanks. Start by thanking everyone you meet on the day of the interview; then score bonus points by writing thank you emails or letters soon after the interview.
Remember that your job interview is a competition. You’re competing against several other candidates who made it to the interview stage—that means they probably have skills similar to your own.
Your challenge is to stand head and shoulders above the competition be demonstrating superior social skills, a cooperative attitude, in-depth knowledge about the position and the company, and a willingness to work hard to get the job done. If you do your research, practice, are knowledgeable and respectful, and show gratitude for the opportunity, you can highlight skills that don’t show up on a resume and nail your interview.
To learn more about ways to nail your job interview, contact us today.