In our previous article, you learned how to take advantage of Job Fairs as a great resource to land some interviews. If you missed that one, you can check it out here. So now that you have an interview scheduled, what’s next?
Are you prepared for the most common questions that you will be asked? Do you understand the market value for the position you will be interviewing for? Do you have a plan to show them why they should hire you, instead of all the other candidates they will be meeting with? No? Well let me help you get you started!
In an interview, you are the product and its best salesperson. It is your job to uncover the employer’s needs and show them how you can best fit the needs of the organization.
Employers are usually looking for three things:
- Can you do the job? Do you have the required skills to be competent in the position they are interviewing for? This is what most people think of in the interview process, but it is only one piece of the puzzle. If you have been scheduled for an interview, you are part of the way there, but you still need to give them confidence that you have the skills they are looking for.
- Will you do the job? It is not necessarily about what someone can do, but what they will You may be fully capable, but will you deliver day in and day out? Will you do just enough to stay off the radar? Or do you have an interest and passion for mastery and a desire to excel in your career? Employers are also trying to decide if you will enjoy the position and stick around. Turnover and training new hires is costly.
- Do you fit into their culture? Each organization and culture is unique. You are a missing puzzle piece that would be plugged into a much bigger puzzle. If they are confident you can do the job and that you will do the job well, they still need to feel certain that you will fit harmoniously into the existing culture and host of personalities in various departments. How will you work with the other team members and management?
It is your job to help the interviewer answer all three of these questions beyond a shadow of a doubt by the end of the interview process. That is how you earn a job offer.
Don’t forget about the little things that can remove you from contention. Be dressed for the part, wear professional attire that is pressed and conservative. Bring extra copies of your resume and have a portfolio of any certifications, awards, or accomplishments to prove your worth. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words. Proof is important for credibility.
Get there early but not too early. Strive for 10-15 minutes before the scheduled meeting time, Give yourself plenty of buffer for traffic or unexpected hiccups (my button just broke)! That way you won’t be in a rush and stressed out before the interview even starts.
Prime yourself for success. Before you walk in, take some deep breathes, run through your notes, review your accomplishments and picture a successful outcome. Confidence matters and it certainly will come across to the person that you are meeting with.
Do some research about the company and the position you are interviewing for. Don’t walk in cold expecting them to fill you in. You need to show them that you have done your homework and that you are taking this interview seriously and want the job. Go beyond just a quick peak at their website, survey Linked In and other social media for more insight into what it would be like to work there. This will also help you prepare some thoughtful questions about the company and the position you are interviewing for.
Aside from researching the company, most importantly you need to prep yourself! What are your strengths, accomplishments and highlights that are most pertinent to this position that you want to make sure shine through in the interview? Don’t do this part only in your head, break out a pen and paper and really spend some time crafting the advantages of your “product”. I prefer note cards because they are easily portable and aid in practice.
Be proactive and spend some time thinking about the most common interview questions you might be asked and how you would answer them. Write them out and practice them so it is natural. Below are just a few…
Why are you leaving, or why did you leave your last few positions?
Tell me what you liked and didn’t like about your last few positions.
What are your biggest accomplishments or strengths?
What are some of your weaknesses?
Why should I pick you over one of our other candidates?
Why do you want to work here?
Technically the list of possible job interview questions are endless, but we all know that many interviews stick to a familiar core grouping. Sometimes examples of questions an organization will use will even be listed on websites like Glassdoor. While you can’t predict all questions, you can plan for the most common. When you do this, you will also be more prepared for any curve balls along the way. Believe me, only about 1% of people can “wing it” in an interview, that means more than likely you are not one of them! Practice, Practice, Practice. You will thank me later.
It’s Game Time
During the interview, remember that the person across from you is just doing their job. They are not judging you as a person and looking for ways to trip you up. They are a regular person just like you, so loosen up, have fun and don’t forget to smile and relax!
When answering interview questions make sure you listen carefully so that you can fully understand the question and what they are looking for. If you are unsure, don’t be afraid to have them clarify the question.
Keep your answers concise, but include specific examples of past experiences and successes. Many candidates speak in generalities, the more specific you can be with examples, the more you can stand out from the other candidates. This is why our pregame prep is so important. It is much easier to do this if you gone into background and planned this ahead of time.
Always keep your answers positive. Don’t blame others, or rant about what you didn’t like about past positions or companies.
When you are given the floor to ask the interviewer questions, don’t make the mistake of not having any. It is almost as bad to have overly generic cliché questions. Give this some real thought and be authentic with your questions. Use it to follow up on previous discussed job descriptions, company culture, leadership styles, or team dynamics. Jot down some notes as the interview progresses to follow up on later. The person interviewing you isn’t the only one making a decision. You are also deciding whether or not this opportunity is the right fit for you.
Closing the deal
When the interview is wrapping up, don’t just be relieved it is over. It is now time to close the deal! Set yourself apart by summarizing why you would be a great fit and ask for the job (or at least the next steps in the process). You don’t have to over complicate it, or be too aggressive. It can be as simple as this.
“Julie, I really appreciate your time today and the chance to learn more about the customer care position and especially your insight into the company and the culture.” “I am very excited about the opportunity and feel that with my background in customer service and strong track record of exceeding my performance targets, I would be a great addition to your team!” “What are the next steps in the process and do you have full confidence in me moving on to the next step?”
Once you have determined the next steps in the process and left the building there is still one more step.
You will want to follow up from the interview within 24 hours to cement your interest. Send them a thank you card or email to confirm that you are someone that understands the importance of the little things. Make sure to pick up a business card so that you have the correct spelling and contact information of everyone you meet with and send a follow up to each person you meet with. Use sincerity and reaffirm your excitement for the opportunity you discussed. Email is fine, but I always like receiving a hand written thank you card in the mail. It is a great personal touch that most candidates won’t take the time to do and is one more way you can stand out as a candidate.
I know it can be easy to let up a little bit in your job search if you feel an interview went really well, but you never know what is going on behind the scenes. There could be an internal candidate being pushed on them, or their company could go on a hiring freeze. Always keep your foot all the way down on the gas pedal until you have received a written offer. Continue to interview with other companies and who knows, you might have multiple job offers to consider!
Remember to have confidence in and love your product (you). If you don’t, nobody else will either.
Best of luck!