7 Job Interview Tips to Help You Land the Job
As a professional, you should start to think of job hunting as its own kind of job. Approach your search for employment with the same methodical care and problem-solving spirit that you’d use to tackle any task or challenge in the workplace. Planning and preparation before the event is like a sort of interview training that will help you perform at your best and stand out against the competition.
Job Interview Tips: Things to Remember
1. Your Resume
The information on your resume is often the only thing a potential employer knows about you prior to a job interview. It’s the first impression that got you through the door, and it serves as an important bridge between the application and the interview.
It’s helpful to bring a couple of extra copies of your resume to the interview. You may be interviewed by more than one person, and some of the interviewers may not have remembered the details on your resume. Even the person who chose your name from a stack of available candidates may appreciate a reminder. Having your resume with you shows that you’re thoughtful and prepared.
More important than bringing the resume is taking some time to familiarize yourself with it. Just because you wrote it doesn’t mean you’ll recall the specifics if quizzed about them, and you don’t want the embarrassment of appearing stumped when an interviewer asks you about something on your resume.
It’s also a good idea to bring other relevant documents that might help to reference during an interview. If you’re entering a creative field, a portfolio of your artistic or written accomplishments is helpful and a good way to showcase your talents. Also be sure to bring a few copies of your business card to leave with the interviewers.
2. Appropriate Dress
First impressions are crucial to success, and an appearance that deviates too much from the expected can greatly hinder the success of your interview. An important aspect of interview preparation is ensuring you’ve dressed the part for the role you’re seeking to fill and the company you wish to work for.
Even when you’re applying for a position at a laid back and progressive firm, it’s in your best interests to stay formal in your attire. Your interviewer may be dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, but you should stick with old standbys like a collared shirt, tie and slacks (for a man) or a pantsuit or jacket-and-skirt combination (for a woman). Opt for muted colors and avoid flashy patterns, excessive jewelry or anything else that might be a distraction.
You want your credentials and work history to shine through in the interview. Wearing clothes that are traditional and even boring helps your appearance fade into the background so you can focus on what’s important: answering job interview questions.
3. Directions to the Location
You want to arrive at the interview with plenty of time so you can stay calm and focused. Arriving late or being pressed for time due to getting lost or stuck in traffic on an unfamiliar route will start things on the wrong foot.
Scope out the route and parking situation before your scheduled interview. Figure out how long it will take to drive to your destination and where you can park. Bring cash to pay for parking if necessary. If in doubt, leave earlier than you need to and spend some time in your car centering yourself and mentally preparing for the interview. That’s far superior to arriving at the interview in a rush. It’s also better than arriving at the lobby a half-hour early and potentially irritating your interviewers or disrupting the staff.
If you’re traveling from out of town for the interview, you’ll need to know in advance how expenses are being handled. The company may prepay or reimburse you for airfare, a hotel, cab fare and other expenses. It’s best to wait until the end of the interview or even the next day to settle these expenses, and plan an emergency backup to cover the costs if reimbursement takes a while to come through or if the company doesn’t pay for what you expected.
Unforeseen circumstances can arise. If a car accident shuts down the highway or you get a flat tire on the way to the interview, don’t panic. Call as early as you can, apologize for the delay, and offer to reschedule for a later time. Just be sure that you’re scheduling for a time you know you can make; it’s better to try the interview another day than to have to cancel after you’ve already pushed the interview back an hour.
4. The Name and Title of the Interviewer
When arranging the interview, be sure to ask who you’ll be meeting with and their role at the company. Will you be talking to a hiring manager, recruiter, upper-level management or someone else entirely? Different companies handle their interviewing processes differently, so it’s best not to assume anything. You may or may not end up working directly for the person who interviews you.
Once you’ve gotten the name and job title of the person who will be interviewing you, take some time to research them. As around within your network to see whether anyone in the industry has worked with them before. Check for interesting or distinguishing things about them that can serve as common ground to bring up. This helps to build a bridge of personal connection, breaks the ice at the outset of an interview and illustrates that you’re invested enough in the opportunity to do your research.
5. Background Information on the Company
One of the most common interview questions you might be asked is, “Tell us why you want to work for this company.” Another common variation is, “What do you know about our company?” In either case, you don’t want the question to catch you off guard.
Knowing a bit about the company and position you’re applying for will help you with answering most job interview questions in far greater detail than if you were going in blind. You want to supply answers that make it clear that you want to work for the company and know what you’re getting into. Demonstrating knowledge about the company also allows you to personalize your interview answers so that you can greater show the value that you’ll bring to the role you’re applying to.
When researching, there are several things you’ll want to learn:
– The main players of the company’s personnel. This is especially crucial if you’ll be in a leadership position. You’ll want to have a clear idea of recent talent acquisitions and who is in charge. Knowing something about the company’s history and founders is helpful as well.
– The company’s structure. You’ll want to know what the company does, who its target consumer demographic is, whether the company is private or publicly traded and what the various divisions and subsidiaries are.
– How the company is faring. You don’t need to know specifics, but you should look to see whether the company is struggling or growing and about any recent mergers, acquisitions, stock changes and other big-picture financial items.
– The position’s details. If you’ll be on the team spear-heading a new product, implementing a new strategy or maintaining an existing service, you’ll want to be able to speak intelligently about how you can aid in those efforts.
This is a step that many fellow candidates will not bother to take, so putting in the effort to understand the job you’ll be interviewing for will put you a cut above much of the competition.
6. Understanding the Hiring Process
Part of a successful interview is knowing how to field common interview questions and present your skills and qualifications compellingly. An equally important part is knowing the right questions to ask during an interview.
Employers are interested in candidates who are engaged with the hiring process, and they usually welcome questions about the next steps. If you feel that the interview is going well, there are several follow-up questions you should ask:
- “Can you describe to me the hiring procedure from here?” Hiring is often a multi-step process involving multiple interviews, meetings, paperwork and other aspects. Asking about the timeline and future steps helps you get a clear picture of what you can expect.
- “Will I be asked to take any tests?” Some workplaces use behavioral interview questions and answers or psychological testing. Others have mathematics or abstract reasoning tests. Still others may require a drug test or physical. Be sure you know what will be expected of you.
- “How long will it take before you reach a decision?” Asking this will help you to gauge your timeline as well as get an idea of whether you have much competition for a position. It can also help you to avoid getting the jitters while you wait for a response.
Of course, the specific questions to ask in an interview will vary based on the content of the interview itself and anything that comes up during the process. However, don’t feel that asking any of the above might make you seem too bold or forward. If you’re a serious candidate, the interviewers will be happy to walk you through the next steps.
7. How to Prepare for an Interview: Asking the Right Questions
Interviews aren’t interrogations. They’re meant to be two-way communications. Some questions will undoubtedly come up organically during the interview process, but having some questions pre-planned can help with ensuring you get all of the information you need. Remember, an interview isn’t just about impressing a potential employer; it’s also your chance to see if you really want the job and how well you’ll fit in at the company.
When planning questions, you may want to consider the following categories:
– Company questions relating to the company’s policies, stability, growth, goals and future plans.
– Industry questions about the health and trends of the industry at large and the company’s relationship to the industry as a whole.
– Position questions relating to the role you will be taking on, such as responsibilities, travel and the reporting structure of the position.
– Opportunity questions dealing with growth potential and advancement.
When coming up with questions, avoid asking things that could be answered through a quick internet search; save your valuable question time for things that are more subjective or job-specific. Also avoid broaching the topic of pay until you have an offer on the table; raising salary questions too early can blow your chances of negotiating the best pay.
Questions to Avoid
Although it’s wise to enter an interview prepared to ask and answer questions, there are a few topics best left without broaching.
One of the biggest is the question of pay and benefits. It’s an important consideration and weighs heavily in the decision to take any job. However, seeming too eager to talk about pay can turn off an interviewer. Employers want workers who genuinely want to work for the company, not people who they believe are just showing up for a paycheck. Asking questions about pay and benefits too early in the interview process can overshadow everything else and potentially cripple your chances of advancing through the hiring process.
The other reason to avoid bringing up money too early in the interview process is that it can damage salary negotiations. In a negotiation, the first person to name a number is usually the one to lose. You always want the employer to broach the topic first, and you should refuse to give a specific number. Instead, offer an acceptable range and allow them to make the first hard offer. This discussion should ideally happen only after the job has been accepted or immediately preceding an acceptance. Discussion of pay is usually not appropriate on a first interview unless the interviewer explicitly brings it up.
You should also exercise some caution when asking about issues like turn-over or corporate culture. While it’s perfectly reasonable to address these issues in broad strokes, employers can grow defensive if you try to ask too directly about why the position you’re in is open or how long most people stay with the company. You’ll want to try to get a feel for the room and skirt around these potentially difficult questions if you get the sense that the employer may not be comfortable talking about it.
A better way to approach the topic may be to ask what challenges you might be able to help the company overcome. By placing yourself in a proactive role and envisioning yourself already working the job, you can make it clear that you’re asking about the company’s health from a place of genuine concern rather than apparent self-interest.
When to Leave the List at Home
Many job interview tips, including those in this guide, are focused on preparation and planning. However, you’ll want to exercise your best judgment in applying caution and restraint to your interviewing technique. Asking too many questions or coming on too strong can be a turn-off, especially if you seem over-eager or less willing to talk about your own experience, accomplishments and goals with the position.
An interview should never feel one-sided, and that’s just as true for the questions you ask as for those you answer. Aim to deliver a good give-and-take and look at the interview as an opportunity for discussion and mutual learning rather than a chance to parade all of the corporate trivia you know or to grill your interviewer over minutiae.
It’s generally a good practice to come up with about a dozen good questions in advance. Be prepared that you may not get answers to all of them depending on how the interview goes, so have them mentally ranked or even written out in order of importance. An interviewer generally will not mind if you come with a pad of paper and pen for note-taking as long as you don’t allow it to become a distraction. You can pull this out along with a copy of your resume to lay on the table for easy reference of all involved.
These interview tips are just the surface of a very big iceberg when it comes to the job search. If you’re trying to land an important position, interview coaching can help. One-on-one interview coaching offers many more opportunities than any list of general tips can provide, and it will help you to uncover your individual strengths and interviewing style. A coach can help give you the edge over the competition and help you land the position and pay that you deserve.