It’s graduation season, which means it’s also job interview season.
If the thought of selling your value to a company makes you want to crawl under your sheets and quiver, this article is for you. Even if you have confidence, but find yourself striking out again and again during your interviews, you’ll find some value here.
Below are 10 tips for nailing your next job interview. Some are suggestions for before the interview, some for during, and some for afterwards.
All are meant to help you go in prepared, with a clear knowledge of your value as a prospective employee.
1) Take Notes
Bring a sleek, modern notebook along with you to your interview, and ask if the interviewer minds if you take notes. As you hear important facts about the position or company, jot them down.
You might think this would be a distraction, but taking notes actually tends to leave a favorable impression on interviewers. Why? It shows that you take the interviewer’s words seriously, that you value their authority, and that you care enough about the details of the position to take notes and review them later, should you continue on in the hiring process.
This doesn’t mean you sacrifice good body language (see #7). Note-taking should come on the heels of your asking pointed, engaging questions and making it very clear that you’re listening before you take things down on paper. But done right, taking notes should improve your appearance of being a good listener instead of detract from it.
2) Come Prepared With Questions
The most important goal in an interview is to make the interviewer feel comfortable with you, both in conversation and in your ability to add value to the company.
One of the best ways to build rapport during an interview is to turn the tables a bit and ask questions of the interviewer. Usually, they will provide a space towards the end asking if you have any questions, but even if they don’t, ask if you can inquire about a few things before walking away.
These questions can reflect real concerns or curiosities you have about the company (e.g. “How is [company name] addressing [recent news about their industry]”). But make sure you also slip in questions about the company that also concern the interviewer.
For example, you could ask what that person’s typical workday looks like. Or ask them to describe the company culture: how do the various teams work together?
This is a great way to get valuable “inside” information for yourself while giving the interviewer a chance to boast about their co-workers, their company, and their place in the team dynamic.
3) Dress for the Interview, Not the Job
It’s good to know what the dress vibe is at a given company, but it’s actually not all that important for your interview. There’s no hard-and-fast rule about how to dress, except this: you need to impress.
Even if you’re interviewing at a super chill company where jeans and band T’s are the norm, it can come across as presumptuous or careless if you attempt to dress down to that level. This doesn’t mean wear a tux to every interview ever, but you shouldn’t necessarily write it off.
Your goal is to make in impression in every way, and oftentimes employers view well-dressed individuals as people who care enough about their appearance to also care about the company brand. You can also add a subtle talking point to your outfit somewhere: a pin, a unique tie, or even a certain shade of color can all reference something important about yourself that you may be able to bring into the interview conversation, without becoming a distraction.
4) Read Everything You Can on the Company
The Internet is pretty amazing. You can find information about a company’s history, employees, and more in a matter of minutes—and you should.
Even smaller companies will likely have a website, so check out all of their digital copy, blogs, etc. This will help you to get inside their world, and if you can find pain points in their organization based on your research, you can also proactively come into the interview with solutions.
5) Be Punctual
This one’s simple—and hopefully obvious. You should never, ever be late (or even right on time) for an interview. Shoot for fifteen minutes beforehand at least.
6) Recognize That You’re Not the Only One Who Needs to Leave an Impression
If you’re the type of person who feels unimaginable pressure to nail an interview, you’re going to love this one.
In every interview, you should have go in with an attitude that says, “I can turn this position down if it doesn’t suit me.” The reality is, you’re not the only one who needs to impress: you don’t want to work in a terrible environment, so the company needs to sell itself to you as well.
Ask yourself, “Do I want to work here?” throughout. Even if you do actually need the work, this will help you relax and more confidently inquire about the company and its culture.
7) Show Full Engagement During the Interview
Body language matters.
Keep three things in mind as you interview:
- Maintain eye contact (if you’re taking notes, do this as much as possible before and after)
- Keep your body square (avoid arm or leg-crossing, slumping, or turning away from the interviewer)
- Relax (as much as you can!)
Another way to show that you’re engaged is to repeat back certain facts or figures that the interviewer has said. For example, if the interviewer mentions company locations in Hong Kong and London, later in an interview you might say, “So the company has two international offices. Have you had a chance to visit either of them yourself?”
8) Write Out the Most Important Moments From Your Previous Job
Nearly every interview involves a question about how you overcame a challenge or obstacle in your last job, whether in a relationship dynamic, a process, or an assignment. You can stay ahead of the game by thinking about your answers to those types of questions preemptively.
Even if your previous work has nothing to do with the position you’re interviewing for, identify the most significant choices and changes you made (or would make in hindsight) in that position or in life in general. If the question doesn’t match any of your previous work experience, you can always shift the question by saying, “I didn’t experience relevant issues in my previous position, but your question does remind me of a problem I had to solve outside of work…”
9) Use the Right Tools to Prepare
This Forbes article recommends a couple of nifty, outside-the-box tools for interview prep:
- Google alerts: Sign up with the name of the company and you’ll be emailed alerts anytime that name comes up in the news.
- Social Sweepster: This app detects unfavorable images and language on your social media and deletes them. It’s essentially a way to “spring clean” your social media accounts.
10) Follow Up
Always, always, always follow up after an interview, whether by phone or (more likely) by email. It’s a good look, even if you’ve been denied the position.
A good way to do this is to send an email to the interviewer later during the same day of your interview, thanking them for taking time out of their schedule to speak with you and reaffirming your interest in the position (if no hiring decision was made earlier). If you can add a touch of personality or include a snippet of your conversation, go for it.
Then follow up again a week later, expressing your continued interest in the position. Avoid nagging about getting a response: just do enough to get your name and interview back in the mindspace of the interviewer, if only briefly.
Going into job interviews without a plan is like trying to hold someone’s hand without knowing them.
You can expect to be rejected right away.
However, as you can see, there are plenty of things you can do before, during, and after the interview that will help your mindset and confidence and increase your chances of leaving a favorable first impression.
Which, you might have heard, is kind of important.
By: Ryan Drawdy
April 23, 2017
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion or suggestions of CenterState Bank.