Preparation for the interview
- Know where you are going:
Review directions to the interview site the day before. Be clear as to how you’ll get there and how long it will take.
Clearly write out the interviewer’s name, title, phone number and office location. Keep it easily accessible. (If you‘re not sure about this info, call the reception desk—in advance—and ask.)
- Dress for success:
Decide what you will wear (including accessories and shoes).
Check that all clothing is clean and wrinkle-free (even if casual attire is expected).
Shoes should be polished.
Your look should be professional, but still your own style, so you’re comfortable.
Don’t carry shopping bags or unwieldy totes to the interview.
- Research the company: Check out the organization prior to your interview.
Look it up online. Corporate web sites provide a wealth of information. Also look at their competitor’s sites.
Review press on the company. Look in the financial pages. Check for recent articles on the organization or its leaders.
Talk to people in the industry who know it.
During the interview, appropriately bring up your familiarity with the company to the interviewer. If possible, mention ways in which your background/abilities relate to the company’s stated philosophy, direction, corporate culture, etc.
- Set goals for the interview: It is your job to leave the meeting feeling secure that the interviewer knows as much as he or she possibly can about your skills, abilities, experience and achievements—and how they translate into benefits for the hiring organization. Make a list of your accomplishments/abilities in advance, and weave them into your replies (with subtlety but clearly and appropriately).
- Prepare for potential problems: If you can foresee problems stemming from your past experience, training, etc.—or lack of — prepare for questions that bring up these issues.
Be comfortable with your reasons for having left prior jobs, gaps in your industry knowledge, etc.
Reframe the way you think about the past—if you are uncomfortable with your background or ability, the discomfort will be communicated to the interviewer. If you accept and treat them as past issues that happened for what were good reasons at the time, but reasons that are not applicable to the present position, you’ll minimize the negative impact. Take the attitude that they are no longer problems, or can easily be resolved.
- Expect to answer the questions:
“Tell me about yourself.” Carefully prepare your answer to include examples of achievements from your work life that closely match the elements of the job before you.
“What are your worst traits… your best?”
“What did you like best about your last job… least?”
- Role play:
Role play before the interview, so you are comfortable with both the tone and content of your replies.
Speak out loud—look in a mirror.
Work with a partner.
- The Interview
Be on time: Arrive early so you have time to collect yourself; even if you wait in the building lobby, your car or a nearby coffee shop.
- Think positive: Enter into a state of relaxed concentration. Quiet the negative self chatter in your head through positive self-talk, meditation or visualization prior to sitting down in the meeting. Remember that this is a job interview, not the most critical event in your life. You can always get something out of the interview experience, even if it’s not the job. Treat every interview as important. At the very least it’s practice for the next interview.
- Interview with the right attitude: Act spontaneous, but be well prepared. Be your authentic self, professional yet real. Project confidence—not bravado. Show interest and enthusiasm, even if you’re not sure the job is right for you. Whether or not the position is managerial, you’ll want to project the ability to lead others and work independently. Also demonstrate communications and people-skills; that you can fit in with coworkers as a valued member of the team and maintain a positive attitude.
- Tell the truth: It’s okay to focus on your accomplishments and talents; it’s okay to minimize past difficulties and stress certain aspects of what you’ve done at other jobs. But if you lie about ability or experience, it will catch up with you (besides being a reason for dismissal). If you haven’t done something the job requires, but believe you can, say why.Be creative—if someone asks if you know how to do ‘X,’ you can say, “I’m a quick learner, and I have experience doing ‘Y’ and ‘Z,’ which are similar.”(Avoid using the word ‘No’ in an interview.) When asked about current or past salary, you can quote your ‘total package,’ which would combine salary, bonuses and special benefits.
- Focus on the primary goals of the interview: Finding out more about the job, and selling yourself as the best candidate for it.
- Listen: Hear what the interviewer says, rather than just concentrating on what you want to say next. Try to read the interviewer’s body language and facial expressions. Ask for clarification if needed. Remember that you are a partner in the interview process; not a supplicant.
- Don’t oversell yourself nor talk too much: Be social, but stay focused on the primary goals of the interview. Catch and follow up on subtle clues and use them to your advantage, “I understand how difficult it can be to come in as an outsider yet win the trust and cooperation of a team. I’ve been in a similar position when…”.
- Consider the interviewer’s agenda: Your ability to do the job will need you to be justified. Find ways to demonstrate your qualities above and beyond just doing the job.
- Watch those nonverbal clues: Make and keep eye contact. Walk and sit with a confident air. Lean toward an interviewer to show interest and enthusiasm and speak with a well-modulated voice.
- Be smart about money questions: Ask what salary range the job falls in. Attempt to postpone a money discussion until you have a better understanding of the scope of responsibilities of the job.
- Don’t hang out your dirty laundry: Be careful not to bare your soul and tell tales that are inappropriate or the scope of the of the interview. State your previous experience in the most positive terms.
- Ask questions: Prepare some basic questions in advance, then add others during the interview. You have the right—and obligation—to know as much as possible about the company, department, job, your manager and co-workers. You should know why the position is now available, and if it’s because someone left the company. If the position isn’t a new one, it’s okay to ask why the last person left, and also why the company elected not to promote from within. If it is a new position, ask why it was created and how it will fit into the existing structure. It’s okay to take brief notes.
- Know the question behind the question: Ultimately, every question boils down to. “Why should we hire you?” Be sure you answer that completely. If asked a question that would impact negatively on you, do what the politicians do and answer it with a point you want to get across, rather than responding precisely to the specific question.
- Stay positive: Whether it’s knocking a past employer, former co-workers or your responsibilities (or lack of)… DON’T. There are ways to say what you need to by focusing on positive aspects and avoiding being overtly negative. You don’t want the interviewer to wonder how you’ll lambaste her company at a future interview. Again, role play in advance so you’re comfortable with your replies.
- Demonstrate your unique qualifications: You want to convey that not only are you qualified for the job, but that you are the best candidate.
Rather than a direct response, “I have 5 years of experience in’X’,” show how your background would benefit the company, “I can apply what I’ve learned from my 5 years of experience in ‘X,’ and my knowledge of ‘Y’ to………” or “When I was with ABC Company, I used my familiarity with ‘X’ to boost profit margins by 28%.”
- Prepare, and use, a “Closing Statement”: This short ‘recap’ should combine thanking the interviewer and summarizing why you are the most qualified candidate for the position, why you want to work for the company and why they would benefit most by hiring you. This exit speech is your last chance to say what you want and leave a good impression.
Know the next step: Clarify what the next step is as far as your candidacy.
- Follow up with an effective “thank you” letter: This is another opportunity to market yourself. Find some areas discussed in the meeting and expand upon them in your letter.