Interviews are tough.
I have interviewed hundreds of individuals throughout my career. My experience has been that excellent interviews are rare, and the horrible interviews are even more rare. The great majority of interviews fall squarely in the middle between great and horrible. I would describe most as simply average.
When I meet with candidates, my hope and expectation is that they will deliver a good, solid interview. I want to see that they are prepared for the interview. I need to know how they will conduct themselves in front of others, and how they respond to my questions. I hope to see traits that demonstrate candidates will be great contributors to our team. I learn all this by hearing what they have to say, and how they say it.
Candidates can best demonstrate all of these traits by utilizing a few standard techniques during their interviews. None of these require a specific skill set. They don’t require excellent communication skills, a magnetic personality or seasoned interview experience. They do require preparation before the interview and self-awareness during the interview. They require approaching the interview with a purpose that requires time, effort and attention.
Each of the following techniques are important, and none should be ignored. While these won’t guarantee you get the job offer, not doing any of these could reduce your chances significantly and may lead to another candidate being selected.
- Arrive early. It’s better for you to wait than to have the interviewer wait for you. I suggest arriving at least 10 to 15 minutes before the scheduled appointment.
- Dress up, not down. Think Motivation Monday, not Casual Friday. Dress a little more formal than you think you should.
- Make a great first impression. A good handshake, eye to eye contact, a smile. First impressions set the tone, so start strong.
- Do your homework.. Research to find out everything you can about the company, the executives, their products or services, their reputation, and even their business plans or visions. You can’t know too much.
- Arrive with questions, in writing. I’m often impressed when an interviewee asks well thought-out and intelligent questions about the company, the job, the responsibilities, expectations, and even about the culture of the company. It is never smart to answer no when I ask if you have any questions. An interview is not the appropriate time and place to ask personal questions of the interviewer.
- Don’t make the interview all about you and your career. If you are talking about yourself, your career aspirations and what you want out of the job, I will quickly lose interest. Let me know you want to understand how you can help the company, your potential coworkers, and the position.
- Anticipate the questions and prepare your answers. Most interviewers, myself included, ask a lot of the same questions. Be prepared to answer the standard questions, such as “Why did you leave your last job”)
- Be honest. Good interviewers can quickly see when you are trying to evade a question or hide information. They can also easily find out if you are lying. All will quickly kill your potential for winning the job. Answer honestly, even if the answer is not easy to admit.
- Ask the interviewer how you can help the company succeed. This is a powerful question to ask, especially if the interviewer will be your boss. This shows me that you desire to be a part of the company’s success. It will also provide you with valuable insight to both the company and your potential co-worker.
- Follow up with a thank you note on the same day. It only takes a few minutes to send a thank you email. Don’t delay in doing this. You can also use this email to reiterate your desire to work for the company, and more importantly, your interest in helping the company succeed.
The objective in any interview is to separate yourself from the other candidates. Understand that in many cases, very little may differentiate one candidate from another as it relates to job skills or resumes. It is important to be aware of and utilize the interview techniques that may help you land the job.
I may not be able to remember many great, or horrible, interview experiences. But I do remember the interviews with candidates, that had they utilized these techniques, would probably have had much better success in securing a job offer. Instead, they received a letter thanking them for their time and wishing them the best.