The interview is the final hurdle standing in between you and your job. Whether it is in-person, over the phone, or via video chat, the interview may be the first time you are speaking directly to a person who decides whether or not to employ you. Interviews are often the toughest parts of the job search process, and can be particularly nerve-racking for those of us who aren’t great public speakers. The best way to ace an interview is to be prepared, be professional and practice.
CHECK OUT THE COMPANY
If doing your research was important for your cover letter, it is ten times more important for your interview. If your interviewer asks you why you would like to work for their company, business or organization, and you can’t answer adequately, it’s a one way trip back to unemployment.
Start by visiting the company website for a refresher course on their mission statement, history, services, accomplishments, awards, etc. The “About Us” section is usually a great place to get some of this information. The company website will also tell you a lot about the company’s culture – the tone of the website will often tell you about the company’s values, priorities and atmosphere.
LinkedIn is another great source. You can look up your interviewer’s profile (if you know who they are) and find out about their position in the company and their professional background. LinkedIn will also lead you to more information about the company, their employees, their new hires, the kinds of connections they keep, and their statistics.
Don’t forget to check if the company maintains a Facebook, Twitter or other social media account. It is important for companies to have a social media presence these days, and you can expect their Facebook page to be updated more regularly than their website. Often you will find information about current projects/events, new hires, changes in the company, etc. All of this information will help you form an image of the company you will be interviewed by. The more familiar you are with where you may be working, the easier it will be to answer questions.
It is important to be prepared for an interview. First thing you will want to do is a quick Google search for previous company hires, some of whom may have described their interview experiences. It’s often a stretch to expect to find questions typed out verbatim, but depending on the size of the company, you may get lucky. Even if there are no “sample questions” for your particular business or organization, it never hurts to go over generic interview questions. Practicing these will boost your confidence and ensure you are better prepared.
Here is a great source for some typical interview questions and the kinds of answers employers like to hear.
Other important things include knowing yourself. Yes, you have to know the company, but you also have to know your professional history like the back of your hand. Your interviewer may ask the dates of your previous employment (don’t worry – month and year are good enough), and your day-to-day duties in that position. You should be ready to answer. Review your work history. Make sure it slips off your tongue. And also make sure that what you intend to say matches what you wrote in your resume and in your cover letter!
Verbal and non-verbal communications play important roles in the interview process. The verbal part I’m sure you can guess. Never use slang or overtly-familiar, informal speech. Speak clearly and with assurance. Try to weed out the “uh”s and “um”s before you head to the interview. If you need to think about an answer before you respond, that’s fine – just pause for a moment instead of trying to fill in the silence.
Non-verbal communication involves attitude, presentation and body language. You should appear well-rested, energetic and sincere. Don’t walk in chewing gum or sipping coffee. Turn your phone off and put it away before you get to the site of your interview. Don’t wear too much perfume, but don’t be stingy with the deodorant either. Scuffed shoes, and dirty spots on your clothes will also count against you. Let me tell you, it’s a dog eat dog world; they’re going to consider everything a sign of your worth as an employee.
My final piece of advice for this section would be: listen. Listen to what the interviewer is asking. Don’t let the stress distract you.
In some ways, phone interviews can be easier than interviews conducted in person. The great thing about a phone interview is that you can have a cheat sheet. You can have your resume in front of you! Of course, phone interviews are often the kinds that aren’t scheduled. You never know when a potential employer will call and ask if you have a few minutes to chat. Phone interviews may be sprung on you when you least expect them. Be prepared for them, just in case. Have your resume close-at-hand – even taped to the wall is great. Have a notepad and a pen ready to jot down notes. Make sure the room you’re in is silent and empty. Kick out the kids, the parents, the pets and turn off the television. If the time isn’t convenient, tell the interviewer so, and suggest another time.
Remember, verbal communication rules apply to phone interviews. Speaking clearly is doubly important over the phone. Try to smile while you talk – a smile can be heard in the tone of your voice! Don’t interrupt the interviewer, and remember that since you’re on the phone, short answers are preferable. A phone interview does not eliminate the face-to-face interview – it’s just another hurdle that you have to cross – so save your in-depth responses for the in-person interview.
Say thank you at the end of the interview! If no plans have been made for further conversations, ask if it would be possible to meet up in person. It’s your responsibility to do everything in your power to try to get the job; don’t be afraid to ask.
THANK YOU NOTE
Good interview etiquette suggests that you should send a thank you note after a job interview. Not only is it polite, it shows your consistent interest in the position. It is also the perfect opportunity to review, for your employer, why you are a good fit for the company, and to add anything you feel was missing from the interview. Remember to keep it brief – three or four paragraphs are more than enough.
Keep an eye out for the next article in this series: The Business Handshake.