How to ace the interview!

There are no “trick” interview questions and no magic bullet. More so, a successful interview is about perception –that is the perception of the interviewer and how you can impress them enough to get the job. Since most people are not professionals at interviewing and may not necessarily have a lot of interviewing experience, especially those that have been at the same employer for 10+ years, it’s hard to know how to prepare. Even those that have more interview experience still need a refresher and can continue to learn how to better prepare and ensure they succeed at interviewing.

The “do’s” of a successful interview

  • Preparing ahead of time is critical to your success so make sure you do extensive research on employer ahead of time – check out their website and use Google to find additional information on the company and who you are meeting with
  • Have questions prepared ahead of time, based on the research you have done, to ensure the dialogue is interactive and take these with you in a pad folio/notebook, since you will be nervous and may forget. This also conveys a vested interest on your part and shows you have done your research.
  • Do jot down the employers “hot buttons” so you can mention them in your thank you follow up note and they know you heard them.
  • Bring a couple of extra copies of your resume, especially if you are meeting with multiple people. Remember to offer a copy to whomever you are meeting as you begin the interview. This indicates you are prepared and can be helpful to the employer.
  • Prepare for potential questions. Behavioral interviews are common so be prepared to discuss real life success stories that back your accomplishments and try to quantify your success, when possible. They are especially interested in how you helped increase sales and/or decreases costs.
  • Be prepared to complete an employment application, if necessary. Have your former employer addresses, phone numbers and contact information.
  • Be prepared to answer how you dealt with a mistake and/or challenging situation.
  • Try to think of weaknesses that could be a positive (such as you have difficulty delegating, work/life balance challenges, too much of perfectionist, not always patient, etc.). It is only human to make mistakes, but take ownership of those and talk about how you learned from them.
  • Be prepared to answer why you left former employers without ever talking bad about a company or person. Never be negative or go into too much detail (try to generalize explanations and get to the point quickly). An example would be to say an environment/culture was not a good fit versus saying there was a personality conflict.
  • Know where you are going ahead of time and drive by the location before the day of the interview, if possible, or have it well mapped out.
  • Always arrive early! Ten minutes is ideal.
  • Dress for success! Make sure you look professional and are well-groomed. Clothes should fit well, be clean and wrinkle-free. When in doubt, over-dress versus under-dress. This can depend on the level of the position. Executive level should wear a jacket/tie or suit, for example; whereas, an engineer may wear dress slacks and a
  • dress shirt.
  • If applicable, fill out the application completely & accurately – do not note “see resume”.
  • Be confident but humble – go into the interview telling yourself “you are going to get this job!”
  • Smile, be excited and pleasant –Employers want to hire happy, healthy and positive people!
  • Even though you’re nervous, be yourself – they want to get to know the real you.
  • Make good eye contact and practice to ensure you have a firm handshake.
  • Body language – have good posture – leaning slightly forward implies interest.
  • Slow down. It is okay to pause and think before answering – you can say “let me think about that for a minute” before proceeding. Silence is not bad and it is good to think before you speak. This indicates that you are a thoughtful person.
  • Always be honest, but try to put a positive spin on anything potentially negative.
  • Close on a positive note thanking them, expressing interest and looking forward to the next step.
  • Ask for business cards and send a well thought out thank you card or email – this can help seal the deal!
  • Learn from each experience – practice makes perfect! Remember employers want to know what YOU can do for them, not what they can do for you.

The “do nots” of a successful interview

  • Don’t forget to prepare, as this is critical to your success!
  • Don’t arrive late
  • Don’t arrive hungry or thirsty
  • Don’t limit your interview time unless it cannot be helped (and then let the interviewer know ahead of time)
  • Don’t wear too much perfume or cologne
  • Make sure you do not smell like smoke
  • Don’t appear disheveled or rushed
  • Don’t bring your cell phone with you
  • If you’re meeting over lunch, don’t order something that could be messy .
  • Don’t bring up a subject you cannot intelligently discuss
  • Don’t be dishonest
  • Don’t ramble or talk too much; be cognizant of the fact that the employer’s time is valuable and they may have limited time to meet with you.
  • Don’t talk too fast
  • Do not volunteer information that could be held against you. For example, do not ask for personal days off, go into personal issues, childcare or tell them about your family.
  • Do not bring up compensation or any pay-related questions
  • Do not be negative or talk negatively about anyone or any companies, including past employers or reasons for leaving past employers
  • Do not fidget
  • Do not read your resume to them, as they can do that, and be able to expand further with details.
  • Don’t be overly confident or arrogant – most employers do not like people who are cocky
  • Don’t forget to thank them for the opportunity to meet with them

A few additional pointers for phone interviews …

  • Make sure there is no background noise or distractions
  • Have the employer call you on a phone number with good reception (cell phones may not be the best)
  • Have the information you researched, the job description and questions you prepared in front of you plus pen & paper to take notes
  • Have something to drink nearby in case you get a tickle in your throat
  • Ask for their email address, since you cannot ask for their business card, so you can follow up with a thank you note.

By Tammie Carr – President, TalentSource