So, you just got the call letting you know that you have a job interview next week. Going into an interview cold and relying solely on your personality isn’t going to do you any favors. Preparation is key to a successful and memorable interview.
I like to look at the interview process in three stages: pre-interview, interview, and post-interview. Having coached several people as well as being an interviewer, I am going to share my tips for each stage, enabling you to be more confident and ready for your big day.
1. Research the company
I cannot stress researching the company enough. One of my biggest pet peeves is when an individual shows up for an interview and has no knowledge of the company.
Spend time on the company’s website and social media platforms. See how they interact with customers and how they share their story. Is the brand more comical or more serious? Also, look for news articles about the company. For instance, was the company recently featured for sustainability efforts, or has the CEO been recognized at a major event?
By doing this research, you can speak more confidently about why you are right for the job. You can also weave their history into your answers. For example, if you are asked, “How would you ensure customer service?” You respond could be, “That is a great question. I know that customer service is extremely important to your company as you pride yourself on having a five-star rating. At my former company, we had similar expectations. In former my role, I made it a priority to always welcome customers with a smile and make sure they had what they needed. Through survey data, I often exceeded customer expectations.”
2. Rehearse stock questions
In almost every interview, you are going to be asked the following:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What are your long-term goals?
Be prepared to answer these questions, and don’t seem caught off guard. As an interviewer, I want to see that you know who you are and where you want to go.
For the “What are your weaknesses?” question, do not, under any circumstance, say you have no weaknesses. Such a statement comes off as arrogant and lacking self-awareness. Be honest with yourself and do some self-exploration. When you arrive at a weakness, share how you are working to improve that trait or quality. For instance, if you have time management problems, you could say, “I sometimes struggle with time management. I think I know how long a project is going to take, but once I start, I realize it is going to take a lot longer. To prevent this from happening, I now outline all the necessary tasks and estimate time for each task before starting on the project. ”
3. Prepare your own set of questions
An interview should be a conversation. You are interviewing the company just as much as they are interviewing you. Not asking questions gives the interviewer the sense that you don’t want to know more, or you don’t care.
Come prepared with three to five thoughtful questions. Here are a few to consider:
- What do you enjoy about working for this company?
- What are the long-term goals for this position?
- What traits do you value in an employee?
Refrain from asking about salary and benefits unless the interviewer brings them up. These questions can be answered when an offer is made.
4. Practice, practice, practice
Interviewing is a skill, and you have to continually practice. Get with a friend or family member and have them ask you potential interview questions. You can find lists of interview questions through a simple Google search; however, don’t memorize these questions as there is no guarantee they will be asked.
Get feedback from your mock interviewers, especially about body language and tone of voice. If you are struggling in this area, record yourself to become aware of the problem areas. You might recognize you have a distracting social tic such as tapping your foot or rubbing your nose.
5. Plan your attire the night before
Make sure your clothes are cleaned, pressed, and ready to go the night before. Even spend time shining your shoes.
If you are unsure of what to wear to the interview, do some research. Look at the company’s social media or website to get a feel of the culture. See if you can find an “About Us” or “Contact Us” section as you’ll often find employee profiles.
If you’ve done research and are still unsure, air on the side of being more formal than casual.
6. Plan what you will bring to the interview
Bring at least five copies of your resume, a pen, and a notepad. I recommend printing your resume on resume paper if you can. The added touch goes a long way.
Also, write down your questions on the notepad you’re bringing. This shows that you are prepared, and you’ve done your research.
7. Be authentic
Don’t try to be anyone but yourself. Let your personality shine through. If you aren’t genuine, you will be caught eventually.
One of my favorite interviews was when an interviewee revealed her love for Buffalo Wild Wings after being asked, “Tell us about a brand that has had a successful marketing strategy.” It caught me by surprise, but the answer humanized her and showed her personality. She was able to tie this passion into her response seamlessly, and I’ll never forget it.
8. Be confident in body language and speech
It’s showtime, so be sure to put all that practice to good use. I know that nerves will kick in, and you might have the tendency to look down or away. Instead, try to make eye contact with the interviewer.
Also, speak clearly and sit up straight. You want to show confidence.
9. Tell a story, but be concise and focused
Interviewers want to hear your story, and they want real examples. Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, and Result) method to help you be concise and focused.
You often don’t have time to get too far in the weeds, so keep your examples high level and stress the outcome.
Also, prevent yourself from going down rabbit trails. You’ll lose the interviewers’ attention, and you’ll detract from your answer.
10. Don’t talk negatively about former employers
This one is simple and straightforward. Interviewers don’t want to hear all your past grievances. Instead, they want to hear about the solutions you implemented.
Also, talking negatively about others doesn’t create a good first impression.
11. Listen and process
Again, this one seems simple, but listening is hard. We tend to want to speak as soon as possible. When the words leave the interviewer’s mouth, we are already formulating our response. However, we might miss key information in the question.
For instance, I’ve asked interviewees, “Tell me about a time you had a conflict and how you resolved it.” The second part of the question is the most important. I want to know about the resolution, not that you argued with a coworker.
If you need a second to catch your thoughts, simply say, “That’s a good question. Let me think about that.” This gives you a chance to formulate your response, but don’t take forever. Maybe 15 to 30 seconds at the max.
12. Ask about next steps
Once you’ve finished the interview, you can ask about the next steps. This shows that you are interested in the process.
Oftentimes, next steps will be a phone call or email letting you know your interview results. From there, you might be asked to provide references or any additional information necessary.
13. Send thank-you notes
Thank you notes go a long way, and I highly recommend taking the time to write one. Handwritten ones have a little more personal touch, but an email will do.
Send a thank-you note to each person at your interview. Ask for business cards before you leave the interview so you can effectively follow up.
In your thank–you note, you want to stress your appreciation for the interview. You can also mention that you look forward to hearing from the recipient. Personalization goes a long way too. If you connected with the interviewer about something, you can mention that as well.
Lastly, try to send your thank-you note within a day after your interview.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff Grant sees himself as a storyteller, and thankfully, he gets to tell some incredible stories by serving as the marketing coordinator for the UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, Jeff can be found implementing new marketing strategies or writing content. When Jeff is away from the office, he could be found hiking the Cumberland Trail, trying new recipes, or getting lost in a good book.
Connect with Jeff on LinkedIn.