By the end of a successful job interview, you’ve demonstrated that you have the skills and experience to be a tremendous asset to your prospective employer. More importantly, you’ve convinced potential new colleagues that you’ll be a great person to have around the office—that you aren’t the least bit annoying and that you’ll get along with everyone. How did you accomplish all that? You followed these 12 tips, which I’ve developed through years of advising anxious job seekers.
Before the interview:
1. Celebrate. Hooray! You’ve landed a job interview! Someone looked at your résumé and thought, “I’d really like to meet this person.” On paper, your background and skills match up with an opportunity you find fascinating. That alone is a huge accomplishment. I encourage my candidates to feel as optimistic and excited about their interviews as possible. I know they’ll get the job when they’re over-the moon excited—and when they can effectively bring that positive energy with them on the day of their interview.
2. Do your homework. Take time to research your prospective employer and every single person who will be interviewing you. While you certainly don’t want to mention that you thought one of their status updates was funny, you do want to be able to mention during the course of the conversation something from their professional background that you either relate to or find especially impressive.
3. Write it out. I encourage my candidates to write out 6 examples of their professional accomplishments, along with answers to common interview questions. (Google “common interview questions” for an adequate list.) Preparing answers to difficult questions will help you stay calm and focused on the day of your interview. The list of accomplishments will come in handy for behavior-based interview questions. I’ve had numerous candidates turn into deer in headlights trying to come up with suitable examples in response to these types of questions. If you have a list of amazing things you’ve accomplished ready to go, you can easily refer to it and see which aspects of your story align with the question at hand, while effortlessly highlighting the things you’re most proud of.
When it comes to classic interview questions, my candidates struggle most frequently with the seemingly benign, “So, tell me about yourself.” This is not an opportunity to tell your whole life story. Nor is the interview a free therapy session. Instead, this is an opportunity to explain to your interviewer why you’re sitting in their office. For example, I might say “I began my career as an attorney but quickly realized that recruiting is much more gratifying to me. I’ve been in this field for the past 15 years and I love what I do. I decided I wanted to meet with you because your company….”
As you’re crafting your answers, make them as specific as possible. If you’re asked, “What are your greatest strengths?” don’t just respond with a list of adjectives because that doesn’t tell your interviewer anything real about you. Define what you mean by “responsible,” give an example of how you’ve been amazingly responsible in the past, and then discuss what you were able to achieve with your amazingly responsible self. Writing out your answers ahead of time will help you come up with smart things to say, and (more importantly for some of us, ahem) help you to keep your answers concise.
4. Prepare smart questions. How can you demonstrate that you’re assertive and that you’re genuinely interested in a job? Ask lots of thoughtful questions. Go into your interview prepared with a list of diverse, courageous questions. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen candidates make is avoiding talking about the potential red flags they’ve identified. Was there something about the job description that worried you? Have you heard you might be replacing a person who walked on water as far as everyone you’re meeting with is concerned? If you’re serious about rolling up your sleeves and taking on this job, then these issues should be raising important questions in your mind. Ask those questions.
In her next post, Naomi shares her top tips for the day of the interview, and after the interview.