Tips for a Great Interview

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
~Benjamin Franklin

Congratulations! Your resume got noticed. Now, the only thing standing between you and your dream job is the interview. Here are some tips to help you prepare.

How to Prepare for the Interview

One of the biggest mistakes that applicants make during the hiring process is showing up for the interview and not knowing enough about the company they want to work for. So step one is to do your research.

  • Research the organization. Visit their website and become familiar with their service offerings, values, mission statement, and how they present themselves. Visit their social media pages to learn more about their culture and how they communicate with customers.
  • Research the industry. Understand who their customers and competitors are.
  • Understand the position for which you are applying. Review the job description and analyze it for keywords. You’ll need to share examples of your abilities, so consider your achievements and how they correlate.
  • Tap into your network. Do you know anyone familiar with the company? Learn as much as possible about their operations and culture. If your connection is in good standing with the company, ask if they will be a reference.
  • Speak with your recruiter. Working with a recruiter is advantageous because they often have a background on the firm and insights into what their perfect candidate looks like.

What Not to Do in an Interview

  • Don’t let nerves undercut your communication skills. Collect your thoughts before speaking, and keep your responses concise.
  • Avoid verbal crutches, such as “um,” “like,” and “uh.”
  • Refrain from making jokes or discussing controversial subjects.
  • Don’t exaggerate your qualifications.
  • Avoid disparaging comments regarding former employers, colleagues, and companies.
  • Don’t make self-deprecating comments that do not support a positive image or demonstrate competence.

Common Interview Questions and How to Respond

Here are some of the most common job interview questions and tips to avoid becoming tongue-tied.

Q: Can you tell me a little about yourself?

A: Your answer should be brief yet include enough information about your relevant skills and experience so the hiring manager understands how you can benefit the company. Deciding how you’d fit in with the corporate culture is essential, so let your personality shine through.

Q: Why do you want to work for our company?

A: Your response should demonstrate that you have researched the organization before the interview and believe the job matches your skills. Focus on how you can help them, not how they can help you.

Q: What are your strengths and weaknesses?

A: Share strengths that will help you in your role. Review the job description for keywords that match your skill sets and share a story that illustrates that strength. Sharing weaknesses can be more challenging, but it’s equally important that you are honest and choose a real weakness. Choose one that will not prevent you from getting the job. Demonstrating self-awareness and a desire to grow professionally is a good thing. So, when you share your weakness, also provide an example of how you’re working to improve upon it. For example, if you lose track of your “to-do lists,” implement a task management system to keep you on track and accountable.

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?

A: With this question, prospective employers hope to understand your drive and ambition. Share your professional growth and career advancement goals, and be flexible about your timelines.

Q: Do you have any questions?

A: Ask one or two targeted questions about the role or company. Inquiring about the position’s growth potential or the company’s long-term objectives, for instance, demonstrates your interest in the position and may shed additional light on the intricacies of the job.

Phone Interview Etiquette

Phone interviews have become a popular way for employers to vet candidates. They are often used as an initial qualifier and can be shorter than in-person interviews. But phone interviews should not be treated informally. It may be your first ‘live’ impression, so follow these phone etiquette tips to ensure you make a good impression.

For starters, use a landline if possible. If you don’t have a landline, ensure you are in a space where your phone service provides a strong connection. When speaking with a hiring manager, it’s very unprofessional if your voice is breaking up or you sound like you are moving around or driving.

Here are a few other tips for your phone interview:

  • Find a quiet space. Phone interviews require concentration, mainly because you can’t read the interviewer’s body language. You must listen carefully for natural pauses that indicate it’s your turn to speak. Remove all distractions and background noises, such as barking dogs, kids playing, ringing cell phones, and doorbells.
  • Speak clearly. Confirm your interviewer can hear you well at the beginning of the conversation, talk directly into your phone or headset, and communicate clearly and confidently.
  • Take notes. Keep a pad and pen with you to jot down anything important the interviewer may tell you. Also, have your talking points in front of you and any questions you want to ask.
  • Smile! This may sound like odd advice, but if you smile when you respond, you’ll come across as more energetic and positive. Some experts suggest putting a mirror in front of you during phone interviews to help you remember to smile and be engaging.
  • Follow up. Remember, this is your first live impression. After the phone interview, send a note thanking the interviewer for their time and reiterating your key points. A professionally written thank you note is appropriate if you have previously communicated with the interviewer through email. If you do not have their email address, consider a handwritten note.

In-Person and Virtual Interviews

In-person interviews can occur anywhere these days. Traditionally, in-person interviews required applicants to visit the hiring office. However, with work-from-home models being more prevalent today than ever (thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic), many interviews now occur on Zoom or FaceTime. Some may even be held at a local coffee shop or diner instead of a corporate office.

Despite many in-person interviews feeling informal because of these varied locations, make no mistake – they all require you to put your best foot forward.

Interviewers are interested in your skills and relevant work experience to help them determine if you can hit the ground running. They also want someone who is genuinely enthusiastic about the opportunity. So they’ll listen to how you answer questions and watch your body language to determine sincerity and motivation. So even if you’re on Zoom or meeting at a Starbucks, be sure to dress professionally, sit up straight, and act like you’re sitting in a conference room.

How to Dress for an Interview

Dress for the job you want!

Our appearance plays a significant role in how people perceive us. There have been significant changes through the years regarding what constitutes “professional dress,” especially across industries. Offices that used to require a three-piece suit may now consider business casual the norm.

Ask them about the dress code if you’re working with a recruiter or know someone connected to the company. Then dress according to their dress code or one step up. For example, if they are business casual (i.e., slacks and a collared shirt for men), consider adding a tie or sports jacket.

Are you in the dark? When in doubt, wear a suit. You can never look ‘too professional.’

Follow these tips for a great interview, and consider leveraging a staffing company to help you find your dream job. Happy hunting!