Interviews! Some people love them, some people hate them, but everyone has to be prepared for them. Here are some of the basics to help you get ready for your next interview:
Dress the part
The first impression you make when you walk into an interview is visual. Yes, your clothes must fit well, be neat and clean. No, you may not need to wear a suit. While over-dressing is certainly better than under-dressing, you want the hiring manager to be able to easily picture you in the role, so dress for it. Research the company culture and the position you’re seeking and then take it up a notch.
Take your outfit for a test run beforehand and see what happens to your shirt when you sit down and if your shoes are comfortable enough to walk in. Fidgeting in an interview will be distracting to you and to your interviewer.
Listening starts before you even get in the room. Before your interview, do some homework – research the company, read their employee blogs, and learn about the interviewer and the position. (And be sure to review your own resume, you’d be surprised at how much you’ve forgotten.) Once you’re in the room, one of the skills your interviewer is looking for is good communication. So be sure to listen carefully. You’ll get a lot of information and be able to engage with the interviewer more adeptly. Anticipating the questions your interviewer is going to ask means you may end up answering the question you’ve formed in your own mind instead of theirs. Really listen to what is being said and you’ll be able to confidently give the best, most thoughtful answers.
Tell a Story
Part of your interview preparation is knowing what story you’re going to tell. Instead of one-word or one-sentence answers, tell a short, but clear, story. Focus on a theme that best suits the position and the question that was asked, whether it’s about why you want the job, your leadership or your ability to work in a team. This is also an excellent way to work in relevant personal experiences. Practice your story beforehand – have a friend ask questions you anticipate being asked or record yourself on your answering machine and play it back so you can hear what you sound like.
One candidate I know worked unbelievably hard on the answers to all the questions she might be asked at her dream job interview. Except one. When the interviewer asked if she had any questions for him, she paused for quite a while and asked, “What are some good questions that other candidates have asked?” “What questions do you have?” is a question that you have to be prepared for. It not only gives you an opportunity to get answers you’re seeking, but lets the interviewer know that you’ve listened to what’s been said, you’ve thought about the job and that you’re truly interested in the position.
What you wear to interviews has changed. Where they take place has changed. But the “thank you” note has not. Send a note within 24 hours to everyone who was involved in your interview. If you really want to stand out, sending a handwritten note out immediately can be very effective. Email is fine, but do remember that it’s a business correspondence and that it must be error-free and appropriately formatted. Quick tip: read it out loud to yourself, you’re more likely to catch typos that way. Keep the notes short and personalize them to each interviewer. You want to let them know that you not only appreciated their time, but to remind them of why you’re a good fit and that you took something meaningful away from the interview.