Good for you! You followed these steps and found your dream job, you perfected your resume after implementing these tips and now you’ve been called in for an interview. Don’t let your positive momentum get bogged down by interview stress. You’ve made it this far in the process so you obviously possess many of the traits that the employer is looking for–now it is your time to shine and show them just exactly why you are the perfect candidate for the job.
Look the Part
It goes without saying that you need to make a good impression during your interview but much of that outcome is determined before you ever even set foot in the interview room. In fact, much of that outcome is determined before you ever even leave your house. To ensure that you put your best foot forward, you will want to make sure that you are dressed appropriately for the type of job that you are interviewing for. Typically, this means dressing one notch above what you would be expected to wear at a normal day on the job. For women, a skirt or pants are both acceptable but if you opt for a skirt, make sure that it hits just above your knee. In fact, I always do a “sit test” before heading to an interview in a skirt. I sit down in front of a mirror to ensure that my skirt completely covers my thighs and doesn’t ride up while I’m seated. It is always better to err on the conservative side when it comes to dressing for a job interview.
This “conservative” rule also applies to the color and print of your attire. Unless you are interviewing for a position within the fashion industry or another more “flashy” role, it is advised that you select an outfit in a dark, neutral tone like black, navy or grey with no pattern or with a very small, subtle pattern (like a faint pinstripe). If you want to add a bit of flair to your outfit, you can add a colorful scarf for a little pop of style but it is best to go with neutral colored shoes that match your skirt or slacks and have a sensible heel. If you are interviewing in colder weather, you will also want to select sheer hosiery that that matches your skin tone or opaque tights that match your shoes as closely as possible.
As you walk out the door to head to your interview, give yourself a good once-over to ensure that your clothing is free of lint, dust, pet hair etc. and that no tags are showing. Also be sure to go light on the fragrance–you want the interviewer(s) to remember you by your amazing qualifications and accomplishments, not by the way you smell.
Before entering into an interview, it is vital that you do your research on the hiring company. This research should be done before you ever even submit a resume, but it absolutely must be done before the interview. Knowledge is power and the more you know about the company’s mission, culture, history and operations, the more confident you will feel going into the interview and the more impressive you will be during the interview.
Another way to power up before an interview is to imagine a time in your life when you felt powerful and victorious. According to the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, simply reliving a memory like this can automatically lower your body’s production of the stress hormone, cortisol which will help you to feel calmer while also revving your confidence, communication skills and optimism–all traits that employers are looking for in new employees.
Be On Time–Be Prepared
Yes–I know that you know how important it is to be on time for your interview, but it still gets a mention because even though everyone knows that punctuality is important, people still show up late for interviews! Usually this is because candidates don’t take the time to plan out how long everything will take. A good rule of thumb is to plan to arrive at the interview a good 10 minutes early so that you have time to relax, use the restroom if necessary and review your strategy one last time. In order to do this, it is imperative that you consider traffic conditions, road construction an elevator ride to the 42nd floor etc. and plan accordingly. You do not want to have a hiring manager (who has planned his/her day around your interview) waiting on you.
In addition to being on time, you also want to arrive prepared. This means having a few hard copies of your resume with you. Yes–you already emailed your resume to the hiring manager and yes, your entire work history is in your LinkedIn profile. Still, there may be others joining the interview who have not seen your resume or the hiring manager may have several interviews lined up and therefore not remember what differentiates you from the other candidates. Having extra copies of your resume on hand shows that you are prepared and may help the interviewer(s) to remember you more favorably.
Give Em What They Want
Once the interview has started, one of the most important qualities that you can exhibit is positivity because people tend to view positive people as lucky and successful. According to Cynthia Shapiro, author of What Does Somebody Have to do to Get a Job Around Here, “employers know that they can teach skills but they can’t teach attitude”; this makes a positive attitude a very sought after commodity in the job market.
Employers are also interested in finding out how potential employees go about solving problems or overcoming obstacles. As you answer these types of questions, remember that not every answer needs to come from a work example. Certainly, most of your answers should be based upon real life work scenarios but it is acceptable to use personal examples as well. For example, when asked about your problem solving skills, you might cite a time when you enrolled in a database management class to help your neighborhood HOA better track its residents for promoting the neighborhood potluck and community garage sale weekend. Examples like this paired with a work scenario show that you are proactive and a troubleshooter both on and off the job.
Nail the Curveball
Hiring managers want to know how candidates will perform in specific situations, therefore, they will ask tricky situational questions. As an example, they might ask you about a time when you persuaded others to see your point of view or even trickier–they may ask about a time when you failed. If you get the failure question–don’t panic; everyone has failed at one time or another and employers know that. Instead, pause for a moment (to show that you’re not just rattling off a canned response) and give an honest answer. You can also use the failure question to showcase your problem solving skills by showing how you learned from your failure experience and implemented strategies to correct the situation.
Another topic that often throws candidates off is conflict resolution. It is important to be prepared to talk about this though because it is a hot topic these days for employers. When asked how you handle conflict, it is important that you reflect the fact that you are aware that conflict happens naturally due to everything from someone having a bad day to legitimate misunderstandings. It is also important to show that you know how to defuse conflict and are able to contribute to a satisfactory resolutions. If possible, you might want to also tie in a lesson that a particular conflict taught you.
Share the Right Weakness
It’s almost inevitable…at some point during the interview process, you are going to be asked the dreaded question about your weaknesses. Hiring managers ask this question to see how you function under pressure and to test your self-awareness. According to Chaz Pitts-Kyser, author of Careeranista: The Woman’s Guide to Success After College, the best way to answer that question is to “offer a real but small weakness that doesn’t directly relate to the actual position.” For example, if you are interviewing for an accounting position you might mention that you are a little nervous about public speaking. Don’t stop there however; follow this up by also mentioning the steps that you’re taking to overcome the weakness (joining a Toast Masters group or reading a book on public speaking techniques.)
Ask the Right Questions
Before your interview wraps up, you will most likely be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer. You always want to say yes and then follow up with a few relevant questions. In order to make sure that your questions are appropriate, remember the acronym TIARA which stands for Trends, Insights, Advice, Resources and Assignments. According to Steve Dalton, author of The 2 Hour Job Search, asking about trends in the field shows that you are interested in how your field is evolving while asking for the interviewer’s insight has a more personal spin. An advice question might be something like “what is something you know now that you wish you had known back when you were in my position?”. Inquire about resources by asking if there are any websites or articles that they have found to be beneficial in regard to the position and finally, inquire about assignments by asking what projects have had the biggest impact on them. Just asking one or two of these TIARA questions will show that you care about the position and will leave the interviewer with a great impression.
Let Your Personality Come Through
Yes, this is a job interview so you want to maintain a higher-than-normal level of professionalism; that doesn’t mean however, that you can’t give the interviewer a glimpse of the real you. To this day, I am convinced that one of the reasons that I landed a great job was because when the interviewer asked me what my biggest weakness was, I answered “cake” (because let’s face it–who doesn’t love cake?) Now obviously–I followed that answer up (after a good chuckle on the interviewer’s part) with a more appropriate, professional answer but my “cake” answer gave the interviewer a small peek at my sense of humor and helped him to see that I would be an enjoyable person to work with.
Hiring managers want to hire the most qualified person for the job, but they also want to hire someone that they like. Letting them have a glimpse of your upbeat and friendly personality can be the icing on a well qualified and highly motivated cake (there’s that word again–ha!)
These tips can help to better prepare you for a positive interview experience and help you to land your FabYOUlous dream job.