Hello and thank you for reading! Finding a job can be stressful. My goal is to assist all professionals in their career goals. No matter what industry or specialty you are pursuing, here are 13 of my universal tips to consider if you want to crush your interview!
- You MUST Do Your Research!
Research, research, research! This is arguably the most important tip on my list. Too often, I see younger professionals go in for the interview and they get asked “what do you know about our company” and they have no idea what it is they do! How could you possibly want to interview or work somewhere if you don’t have the information needed to make an informed decision? Not knowing at least the basics on the company (how long they have been around, what their niche is, what their mission statement is, and how your role will play into this) will get you an auto-fail on your interview. One would be lucky to get 10 minutes before they get the boot out the door. To gather information, go to the company’s website and research information there. I also recommend “Googling” the organization to see what information comes up. Try to look for company articles, newsletters, press releases, and financial reports. If the company is private, I recommend utilizing a source such as “Hoovers.com” in order to gather the information needed to have a deeper understanding of the company. Knowing technical knowledge of the company you are interviewing for as a young person puts you at a serious advantage, because it is not often that younger candidates do this kind of research. It demonstrates that you are serious in your job seeking efforts, you genuinely want to learn about the company, and it is impressive that you devoted the time to understand the inner workings of the company – all of which show terrific leadership qualities.
- Wear The Correct Interview Attire:
You’ve probably heard the old adage: “Dress to impress.” Dressing appropriately has always been critical to leave a positive impression. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean wearing a suit every time. While a suit is great for men and women, you’ll want to research the company culture to figure out what attire the company wears. A great rule of thumb for your interview is to dress one step above the hiring manager. I once coached a man in mid-level management who wanted to find a job with another company. This gentleman was very conservative, and always wore a suit to work, whether it was hot or cold out. Wearing a nice suit was second nature to him, and that’s totally fine. He had a company in mind that he really wanted to interview for, and when we booked the interview, I researched the company and identified the culture. The atmosphere was very laid back, and all of the management team and staff basically wore polo shirts and dress slacks. I suggested that he reconsider his choice in wearing a suit and wear something a little more casual instead, because overdressing could change the interviewing dynamics and make things awkward. He disagreed, and stated that he felt more confident and comfortable in his suit. After his interview, he called me and said that immediately after he met the team, the dynamics felt completely off. He felt that he was so overdressed that it threw off his confidence and he did not perform well. He received a call back one week later and was not offered another interview. We asked why he wasn’t considered further, and he was told that he was a good guy, but they didn’t believe he would be the correct cultural fit. The moral of the story is that you need to find a company culture that you can identify with. Wearing a suit is fantastic, but try to be mindful that there is a time and place for everything.
- Have A Professional Binder:
Just like conducting your research, it is important to be as prepared as possible. You’ll want to have some sort of professional folder or binder to hold copies of your Resume, CV, Letter of Recommendations, and any other pertinent documentation you may have. You should also consider bringing extra pens and notepads should your hiring manager need one. I have only ran into the Hiring Manager asking for a pen and notepad once, but the whole idea is that you look organized and prepared, even if you are not that kind of person.
- Bring Extra Copies of Your Cover Letter, Resume, CV, Project List, LoR’s, Etc:
This one is surprisingly overlooked by many candidates. You MUST bring extra copies of all documentation to the interview, preferably in your binder. I had a client who I was working with that came to me complaining about his interviews. He said that he could get the interviews with no problem, but after he would complete an interview and follow up, he would never get the job offer. After talking with him, we found that he never brought in extra copies of his cover letter, resume, or any other documentation. When the hiring managers would ask if he had a copy of his resume on him, he would say no, and mentioned that they should have it on file, because he recently applied for the job and e mailed his resume in. Subsequently, the hiring manager would go run to get a copy, and my client didn’t think anything was wrong with that. It doesn’t matter if the hiring manager has 10 copies of your resume in front of them. If they ask, you need to supply a copy. They will test you on these kinds of things because it’s all about the principle of being ahead of the curve and being prepared. The little things can make a big difference.
- Find Out The Names And Titles Of Who You Will Be Interviewing With:
Finding out this information is really important, and it’s unfortunate that not many people inquire about the details for their future interview. This usually occurs because a candidate is too nervous to ask. Before the interview, make sure to ask what the setting of the interview will look like. Here are 3 great questions you should ask:
How Many People Will I Be Interviewing With?
What Are Their Names?
What Are Their Titles?
Asking these three questions will prove to be very helpful for your success because if you know the dynamics and the individuals you will be interviewing with, you can conduct research ahead of time to find out whom exactly the key players are, and how you might be able to build a connection with them. Once you have the names and titles, LinkedIn and Facebook are two great resources to accomplish this. Knowing the dynamics of your interview can also help relieve the anxiety and anticipation of the unknown; interviews are nerve-racking enough already.
- Do Not Give A Poor Handshake To The Women Hiring Managers!
This is such an important tip to touch on, because I don’t think many people really do. As unfortunate as it is, a good handshake is a dying art. Interestingly enough, the history of the handshake dates back to the 5th century in Greece. It was a symbol of peace, showing that neither person was carrying a weapon. I have a dear friend that is a Hiring Manager for a medium sized organization. We were once speaking about handshakes, and she voiced her frustrations with candidates who would give her a weak handshake when introducing themselves. She told me that it happens all of the time and it really irritates her. When candidates come into the interview to introduce themselves, they give the CEO or other Directors a great handshake, and then they lighten up on her and give a soft or flimsy handshake. While a weak handshake wasn’t the end-all to a successful interview in her eyes, she said that when it happens, it really does set the tone for a bad first impression, and she is more inclined to be unimpressed with the candidate. She has disqualified some great people because of multiple social etiquettes that are overlooked and don’t seem like a big deal, but actually are. I don’t blame my friend for being frustrated because of this. Women are equally as competent as men, and they have worked very hard to get into the positions they are today. Make sure that you treat everyone equally, and you can show this starting with the handshake. Sometimes it really is the little things that count to set you apart, as well as make someone else feel appreciated.
- Develop An Elevator Pitch About Your Work History And Your Accomplishments:
A great way to feel more comfortable with interviewing is constructing a 60-90 second elevator pitch that helps articulate your professional history, what your impact was at the company, and what you are searching for in your next opportunity. Having an elevator speech helps alleviate some of the anxiety of not knowing what to say when asked some of the general introductory questions.
“My name is Levi Swartz, and since graduating from Washington State University, my professional experience has been focused on marketing, providing consultative services, and forging interpersonal relationships in the community. I am currently employed with the ABC Bank as their Business Development Associate. In the 2 years that I have been employed with the bank, I have been consistently challenged and granted additional responsibilities. My functions include assisting in developing strategic relationships with potential customers, working with the marketing, sales, and product development teams to implement business development initiatives, and handling a high volume of phone calls with professionalism and delivering exceptional customer service. I am very happy in my current role, but I am considering making a change. I am seeking an entry-level management opportunity, and I have been diligent in my research of your organization. I wanted to interview here because I believe this has the potential to be a mutual fit.”
- Be Clear and Concise In Your Interview Answers:
Being an effective communicator will largely determine whether or not you will land the job offer. You must be able to articulate yourself well and crystallize what exactly it is you are looking for in your next employment opportunity. Make sure you do not deviate from the original question the hiring manager asks and keep your answers detailed, yet brief. If you find yourself having difficulty with this, I recommend sticking to what I call The Three Bullet Point Rule. When the hiring manager asks a question, come up with 3 bullet points for the answer and provide supporting evidence to back your reasoning.
- Have Good Questions Lined Up:
Having the right questions lined up comes with being diligent in your research. At the very least, you need to have 3-5 questions to ask at the end of the interview when you get your opportunity to speak. Preferably, you will have questions you can follow up with during the interview period. Asking great questions in the middle of the interview demonstrates you have a deep knowledge of the industry and you have taken the initiative to care to learn, especially for us young people. One of the biggest mistakes you could ever make in an interview is not having good follow up questions to ask.
- Prepare For Situational Questions That Might Be Asked:
Nothing is more frustrating when you get stumped on a situational question that requires you to answer using self-reflection. Having a poor answer, or even worse, skipping a question can damage your confidence for the duration of the interview. The important thing to remember is that getting stumped on a question has happened to everyone at one time or another. Some questions are just plain hard. If this happens to you, play it cool and ask if you can return back to the question later on. While it’s impossible to know what situational questions may be asked, trying your best to prepare for some of the common situational questions will help mitigate some risks of unsuccessfully answering a question.
Some Examples Of Common Situational Questions Include:
Tell me about a time you encountered a problem with a colleague, and explain what you did to resolve the situation?
Describe a time to me where you achieved a major professional goal?
Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond in your work?
Tell me about a time you had to collaborate with a colleague who was tough to please?
Tell me about a time where you missed your deadline/quota. How did you approach the situation?
Describe a situation where you had to make a good impression on a customer. How did you do it?
- Develop A Solid Follow Up Plan:
Luckily for you, follow up happens to be my specialty. According to multiple sources including (Salesgravy), 48% of salespeople don’t follow up with their prospects. That’s insane! However, I am going to guess that the number is much, much worse when it comes to candidates following up on their interviews. It’s important to work with your Career Coach to develop a comprehensive and strategic follow up plan with the employer to ensure you are getting optimal results in your job seeking efforts.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
Like everything in life, mastering the art of the interview will take some time and practice! Nobody is naturally amazing at interviewing; it is a skill that is learned. There are two types of people who are good at interviews, the candidates who continue to self-reflect and practice their answers, and the individuals who are Hiring Managers themselves, because they have been there and done that. They are always hiring and have been in enough interviews to understand what the process looks like.
- Loosen Up And Have Fun With It!
Of course, this one may be easier said than done if you don’t have much interviewing experience. However, try your best to lighten up and enjoy yourself! Remember, you are interviewing to see if it is not only the right fit for the organization, but more importantly for you! The interview doesn’t have to consist solely of the hiring manager firing questions at you and sweat running down your face. The interview is what you make out of it. Smile, be personable, and most importantly, be yourself! You have so much to offer as a candidate, and employers recognize that. Remember that there are a lot of jobs out there, and if the interview doesn’t go as well as you had hoped, it was still a terrific experience to help prepare you for the next one. The best way to learn how to interview is by doing it after all!
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