The Secrets to an A+ Interview
Posted by Jamie Bihl | 11:24pm, Tuesday 04 24, 2012
Last week I took part in conducting a somewhat awful interview, so I decided it was time to give our readers some feedback on key practices to perfecting an interview. Here’s a brief anecdote of what happened. (this is what NOT to do!!)
I prepped the woman, we will call her Kathy (not her actual name), for the interview 3 days prior. I mentioned what to wear, what to bring, what to expect and suggested she drive to the building early since it can be tricky to get here. After prepping, I sent directions and the job description. Now Kathy broke several cardinal rules of interviewing.
First – she was 40 minutes late. DON’T BE LATE. Seriously, do whatever it takes to be on time. It’s the difference between getting a job and not getting job.
Second – She was dressed inappropriately. She was wearing a very fashion forward outfit. Don’t get me wrong, she looked great, but it’s inappropriate. Dress for success but don’t look high maintenance, it gives a bad impression.
Third – She made excuses for her behavior. Please, please own up to your mistakes, it is way more honorable and speaks wonders about your personal values, even if it’s a detriment to the interview.
Fourth – Though Kathy was mentally prepared, she brought nothing to write with and did not bring a copy of her resume.
Fifth – She lied. You have to be honest in a job interview. Kathy told me and a colleague that she had a few other interviews in the pipeline. We then brought one of our managers in to meet her briefly; she told him she had zero other interviews. As soon as she said the number, she shot a glance as if she had been caught. There is no right or wrong answer to this question.
Now to Kathy’s defense, she was a go-getter and had many redeeming qualities. Here are some things she did right.
She maintained eye contract throughout the interview.
She asked questions, and wasn’t scared to voice her opinion. That is something we always look for.
She had done her research. She knew everything there was to know about the company.
She came prepared for the typical interview questions you might get asked.
She knew her resume, forward and backward. She was able to speak to the bullet points in her resume and highlight how they were relevant to the job.
She sent a thank you note. A simple email is enough and goes a long way.
I have no doubt that Kathy will do great wherever she ends up because of her driven behavior; however, too many things went wrong in the interview. Here are some tips so you don’t end up like Kathy – a great, qualified candidate but with 3 (or more) strikes .
It’s scary – we get it. No one likes to interview, we get butterflies in our stomach, maybe we even get nauseous; unfortunately it’s a part of life. I’m here to tell you, they don’t have to be scary. In this profession, I talk to people regularly about what they can expect in an interview and how to go about it. Here are 6 tips that will help you ace an interview.
6. DON’T LOOK LIKE A SLOB! That one is pretty obvious but here are some dress requirements that aren’t as obvious. 70% of employers claimed they don’t want their interviewee’s to be fashionable or trendy. A whopping 65% said that clothes alone could be the deciding factor between two candidates. Seriously!
5. BE YOURSELF… or a nice version of yourself. Try to be as genuine as possible – a smile or humor goes a long way. Be friendly. You only get 1 chance to make a first impression. The person interviewing you is potentially your future co-worker, make sure they want to work with you, not just hire you.
4. FIRM HANDSHAKE Research has shown that “a firm handshake is key to landing a job.” When I was a little girl, around age 7, I remember my father actually making me practice my handshake. He made me firmly shake hands with everyone he met. His infamous words, that I still hear every time I shake a hand, are “I’d never hire anyone with a weak handshake, so I can’t have a daughter with one.” This is so important. This sets the whole tone for the interview. You want to let you interviewer know, not only are you confident about the interview, but you are also a confident person.
3. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE Do your research. We’ve reached the day an age where everyone knows how to be a social networking creep (aka Facebook stalker). Find your interviewer on LinkedIn or Facebook. Now don’t bring up that you noticed they are having family troubles by his relationship status on Facebook, but take note to their job skills and what they bring to the table professionally. Look the company up; look for their webpage and social networking pages. You want to know as much as possible about the company. The interviewer will ask questions about your knowledge of the company, I can almost guarantee it.
Along with knowing the company, know the position you are interviewing for. Review the job description and know how to answer each required skill set with your past experience.
2. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE This is so key. Interviewing is a skill, and like all skills it requires rehearsal and preparation. People likely hear this all the time, but it is the difference from seeming prepared and stammering through an interview.
Practice in the mirror. Answer every question you could think an interviewer might ask. Write it down or type out your answers. Don’t just think “I know my greatest weakness, I got this.” You’d be surprised when the pressure is on how hard it is to answer these types of questions. Write them out, say them out-loud. Have a significant other or friend pretend they are interviewing you. If you are too nervous or embarrassed to do it in front of someone close to you, odds are you will be too nervous to answer the question for a complete stranger. For my last interview I felt silly asking a friend to practice with me, so I taped myself and re-watched the videos. I was shocked at how many times I said “um” or fidgeted with my hands or hair. I kept practicing until I felt confident enough to go into the interview. It’s not easy and it’s I’ll admit, it is awkward to practice, but it will be worth it!
1. FINALLY—COME PREPARED AND EXPRESS YOUR INTEREST With your research and practicing down, make sure you are physically and mentally prepared.
Find the interview venue the night before the interview takes place. Plan on getting there 30 minutes early; you never know what traffic may bring or any other hiccups in getting to the interview site. I suggest walking in about 10 minutes early to the actual interview. (And hey, if you are 30 minutes early, you have 20 extra minutes to rehearse!!)
Bring multiple copies of your resume along with a notepad and a pen.
TAKE NOTES with that pad of paper and pen – it re-relays your interest in the job.
Don’t forget to ask questions about the company and don’t be afraid to ask bold questions such as “are there any reservations you have in hiring me.” Remember an interview is a chance to sell yourself
It may seem like a lot of work, but this is the difference between an excellent candidate and an average candidate – MAKE SURE TO SET YOURSELF APART!!