You’ve found the perfect job opening and sent in an application. The hiring manager was intrigued by your skill set and invited you in for a meeting. Now you just need to close the deal by crushing it in the interview.
Don’t worry. You got this!
It’s natural to be nervous before a big interview. (Most job seekers are!) Just remember… if you’ve made it this far, the employer has already decided that you have the requisite skills to succeed in the position.
Now the goal is to show that you are a good fit personally, professionally, and culturally for the organization. At this point, you’re selling yourself more than you as selling your skills.
Here are eight tips to help you prepare for a successful interview.
Research, research, research!
In an interview, knowledge is power! The more you know about the job, the company, and the industry-at large, the better off you’ll be.
Spend several hours learning everything you can about the organization: the leadership, mission, special projects, finances, etcetera. This information will help you turn the interview into a back-and-forth conversation with the interviewer.
Plus, it shows the hiring manager that you’ve done your homework and are invested in the opportunity.
Pro tip: If you know who you interviewing with, look the person up on LinkedIn. You may find that you share a professional contacts, interests, or maybe even an alma mater. Any shared connection can help you build personal rapport with the interviewer.
Practice makes perfect
“Wing it” and “interview” are two words that should never appear in the same sentence. Prepare yourself for the intense, often-stressful hiring process by going through mock interviews.
Have a friend or family member play the role of a hard-nosed hiring manager, and let them grill you with tough questions. Many jobseeker support groups, employment service agencies, and university career departments offer simulated interview coaching sessions, as well.
Remember, interviewing is an acquired skill; the more you practice, the better you’ll get!
Pro tip: Not a recent grad? Your alma mater may still have alumni career services you can utilize!
Dress to impress
This one is simple. Always wear appropriate business attire to your interview.
Even if the organization has a laid back, “hoodie and jeans” office culture, you should arrive in your best professional outfit. (You can dress like the other employees after you get the job!)
When in doubt, err on the side of being more formal. Short of showing up in a tuxedo or formal evening gown, you can never be overdressed.
Pro tip: Your shoes matter. Don’t ruin a professional look by wearing the wrong footwear.
Arrive early… but not too early
The easiest way to blow an interview is to show up late. It doesn’t matter the reason–a lack of punctuality gives the impression that you are unreliable, unorganized, and disinterested.
Give yourself plenty of time to travel to the interview and plan for the worst. If GoogleMaps estimates a 30 minute travel time, leave home 60 minutes before the interview. Better safe than sorry!
You want to be on time, but you don’t want to arrive too early. Your interviewer is probably a busy professional with other responsibilities; respect their time by arriving no earlier than 10 minutes before your scheduled interview.
If you’ve overestimated the commute, wait in your car or in a local coffee shop until it is appropriate.
Pro tip: Killing time at a coffee shop? Don’t over-caffeinate! You don’t want to be extra-jittery during your interview.
Make a good first impression
The first seven seconds spent with a hiring managing can make or break an entire interview. Remember to smile, introduce yourself, shake hands, maintain eye contact, speak clearly, and smile. Nailing the introduction sets you up for success for the rest of the interview.
Pro tip: Always remember to respect the receptionist! The front desk staff are the office gatekeepers and are your first chance to make a good impression within an organization.
Have an answer to the easy questions
You can never predict all the questions you’ll be asked, but undoubtedly, you’ll get at least a couple of the most common interview questions. These include:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why are you interested in this position?
- What are your greatest strengths?
These are softball questions that you can hit out of the park! Have prepared, well-rehearsed responses to these prompts.
Pro tip: Some common interview questions, like “What are your biggest weaknesses?”, can still be hard to answer. The best applicants use pivot responses to redirect these questions.
When prompted, ask questions
Inevitably, you’ll get to the end of the interview and the hiring manager will ask: “do you have any questions for me?” When this happens make sure that you have a few well-thought-out inquiries about the job or the organization.
Not having any questions makes you look passive and uninterested in the position. At the very least, inquire about the next steps in the interview process.
Pro tip: The single best question to ask in an interview: What can I do for you?
The interview doesn’t end after the interview ends. Keep your name in front of the hiring manager by sending a brief thank you note with 48 hours of your in-person meeting.
In this note, thank them for meeting with you and hiring manager for their time and repeat your interest in the position. In terms of the medium: email is good; a paper note by post is better, and doing both is the best.
Pro tip: Did you meet with multiple people in the interview? Send a unique thank you note to each person. (And don’t forget the receptionist!)