Nine Tips for Interview Success
If you are a parent, odds are you are also often hard at work on the job. This means that you are working hard to provide for your family, while pushing your own career goals forward. Certain situations can arise, such as an desire to switch to a new company, or perhaps a layoff, that put you back on the job hunt. Making your resume stand out and completing applications are difficult enough tasks on their own, but where many people really find themselves struggling is the acing the job interview itself. Most people don’t realize just how intense the competition is and aren’t used to being in a position where they need to “sell” themselves to a hiring manager. However, there are a few steps you can take to get an advantage over the other candidates, ace your job interview, and land the job you want.
Do Your Research
When you get the call or email being invited in for a job interview, start research online right away to learn everything you can about the company, the job itself, and even the interviewer. If you go into an interview without knowing anything about the company itself, it will leave you very unprepared for questions that will likely come up, such as “why do you want to work for us?” If you are able to give a clear, concise, and thorough answer about specifics about the company and how you would be a good fit, this will let the interviewer know you have a knowledge of the company, are passionate about the role, and will be able to stand behind the company’s goals. Oftentimes this can give you a better idea about if you would be a good fit for this company, and if the company would be a good fit for you.
If anything shady or surprising comes up during your research of the company, it may be a sign to decline the interview, and move on to the next opportunity. You also want to very carefully look through every detail of the job description and know how to relate your skills and experience to each facet of the job. This will allow you to relay specific reasons to hire you for that particular role.
Again, showing a comprehensive knowledge of the job also reinforces your interest and enthusiasm to the interviewer. You can look up your interviewer online to put a face to the name, and to learn a bit more about them. This may seem strange or uncomfortable to you, but remember, recruiters do this all the time to get a better idea of the candidate’s fit to the company culture and values. By getting somewhat familiar with the interviewer before you have met them in person, you’ll be able to cut down on the intimidation factor.
Prepare Your Answers
It’s amazing how few people actually do this, so by being thorough with this step, you will have gained a substantial advantage over other candidates. Most people who are good communicators feel they can improvise to make it feel more conversational. This can lead to some clumsiness or tangents that will lose the interest of the interviewer, and possibly your chance at the job.
One of the most common questions an interviewer will start out with is “Tell me about yourself.” This question can seem vague or broad to a candidate and is a point where many get tripped up. It can be easy to go off in different directions or go on tangents that distract from the point of the interview. Prepare an answer that describes a brief description of your current role, how you have been an asset in that role, and what your goal is at the moment.
When it comes to more detailed answers about greatest accomplishments, examples of good work ethic, or times you had to step into a leadership position at your job, prepare a list of “greatest hits” stories to have prepared for different behavioral questions. Outline it using the S.T.A.R. approach: Situation, Task, Approach, and Results. An answer that includes all of these elements will give the interviewer what they are looking for and leave a lasting impression. You should also create a list of your strengths, that best relate to the job description, and even your weaknesses for that dreaded “what is your biggest weakness” question, that don’t disqualify you from the job.
When it comes to the weakness question, don’t try to spin it into a positive. Recruiters are wise to this approach by now and it simply will make you look like you are hiding something and are void of self-awareness. Instead choose a real weakness that isn’t essential to the job your are applying for, demonstrate how you have worked on it, and emphasize your desire to constantly improve yourself. Practice giving your answers by either recording yourself, or by getting the help of a friend.
Present Yourself Well
On the day of the interview, be sure to dress professionally and in a way that fits the company culture well. For instance if you are applying for a business or finance position you would want to shoot for business professional attire. If you are applying for a more creative industry, you still want to look professional, but you may be permitted, or even encouraged, to wear something that shows your personality a little more. It’s always a safer to over-dress than to under-dress, so don’t be afraid to break out the suit and tie, even if you aren’t sure if you’ll need it. Be sure to show up well-groomed, teeth brushed, and smelling fresh. If you choose to wear cologne or perfume, be sure to make it subtle. Be sure to arrive on time, ideally 15 minutes early in case you run into any delays.
Have your resume or CV on hand, along with any relevant work in your portfolio. Be polite and courteous to anyone you may encounter in the office before the interviewer comes to meet you, these people are likely to mention to the recruiter if they encounter any rudeness from you. Greet the interviewer in a cheerful manner with a firm handshake, thank them for the opportunity to interview, and take a seat where directed.
Be Confident and Upbeat
Interviewers can spot a fake smile from a mile away. While it’s best to be upbeat and friendly, you don’t want to overdo it and come off insincere. It’s also crucial to never lie in an interview. You want to be offered a job that you can perform well in and not run into trouble down the road. If you make a false claim in an interview, there are plenty of ways they can fact check that can cost you the job, both before or after you have it. Give authentic answers with confidence. It can be tricky coming off as confident when you are most likely nervous and intimidated, this is where preparing beforehand will be especially valuable. If you have your selling points ready in your mind, you will be able to be confident about your answers and your anxiety will be eased.
When giving your answers that you have prepared it’s best not to stick to a script. Stick to bullets and lists that highlight your key talking points to remember for your interview. You want to be to the point with your answers, avoid tangents or irrelevant information at all costs. It’s best to keep your answers in the neighborhood of about 2 minutes. Most people aren’t used to having to pitch their skills to someone in a conversation, and it can be uncomfortable for some people.
After All, talking extensively about your accomplishments in any other setting would be seen as cocky or rude. This however is no normal conversation. The whole point of the interaction is to convince the interviewer that you are the best candidate for the position you want. Be prepared to look for ways to do this throughout the interview as soon as possible.
Good interviewers will give you obvious chances to sell yourself and highlight your skills and experience in relation to the job. Some interviewers won’t make these opportunities quite so clear, and you will have to make sure that by the time the interview is over, you have made it clear exactly why they should pick you over anyone else. If you forget an important detail about your accomplishments during one of your answers, don’t be afraid to mention it later on even if it seems irrelevant for that question. The interviewer will be happy you included information that will help their decision.
Be Aware of Your Body Language
There are certain cues your body language gives off to people that can be surprisingly powerful. If your body language doesn’t match your words, the interviewer will have less confidence in the credibility of your words. Keep your posture straight, without being to rigid, have your hands either on your lap or on the table with hands steady. Avoid crossing your arms or leaning back in your chair, as these are signs of being disengaged and uninterested. Be sure to make a healthy amount of eye contact to make the interviewer feel like you are engaged and interested, but not so much that it comes off as cold or creepy. Don’t be afraid to be expressive with your hands when you talk, but be aware that some extra nerves can make you overdo this without realizing. When listening to any questions or feedback from the interviewer, don’t forget to nod and keep eye contact to make it clear you are listening.
Be Prepared for Inappropriate Questions
Some questions can seem very innocent, but are actually inappropriate or even illegal to ask in a job interview. Sometimes there are motives behind asking these questions that aren’t exactly pure, but other times the interviewer simply isn’t experienced or educated on what questions are off-limits. An example of a question that is actually illegal to ask is “are you married?” While the question may seem like a simple getting to know you inquiry, it can be used to purposefully, or inadvertently, to discriminate against you.
Some recruiters may make the assumption that a “yes” to this question may make you less able to perform as well as other candidates. The way you can know if a question is inappropriate or not is to determine if it relates to the job experience or skills required for the job you are applying for. If you are faced with an inappropriate question, there are several ways to avoid answering them gracefully, without hurting your chances for the position. You can try to steer the topic back to the job, keep your answer vague, redirect with a question back to the interviewer, or ask the interviewer why the question is relevant to the job. If using diplomatic strategies aren’t enough to get the interviewer back on track, it may be a red flag. And of course, if any blatantly sexist, racist, or homophobic comments or questions are raised, hold off for something better.
Ask the Right Questions
When you are done being asked questions, you may think that the interview is over. However, at this point the interviewer will be waiting to see if you ask insightful questions. Asking questions shows your interest in the position, and gives you further opportunities to sell yourself if something about the position comes up you didn’t previously know about. A couple essential questions to ask are “what are the company’s goals right now?” and “what does a typical day on the job look like?” In general, choose questions that demonstrate in interest in the position and the company. Avoid questions that demonstrate a lack of preparedness or selfishness such as “Tell me about this company” or “what will I be paid?”
Say Thank You
While most people know the common courtesy of saying thank you in person after the interview is over, a lot of people fail to send a thank you email shortly after. This act keeps you in the mind of the hiring team, reinforces your interest, and gives you another chance to highlight your qualifications. You should start out by saying thank you and that you appreciated the opportunity, go on to restate your qualifications for the position you are interested in, and finish by expressing your interest in moving forward in the hiring process. As with your interview, keep it concise, be courteous, and let the recipient know just why hiring your would be the best idea for them.