Take Charge of Your Next Job Interview

As an employer and as a member of hiring committees, I’ve watched many applicants struggle in job interviews. The three most common errors I see candidates make: not preparing ahead of time, letting the interviewer do all the talking, and not showing how to solve an employer’s problems.

To get a job offer you have to do more than avoid making a mistake. You need to take charge of the job interview process before you walk into an employer’s office. Here are eight ways to do this:

Arrive on time

Punctuality reflects well on you, coming more than five minutes early does not. Showing up 15, 20 or even 30 minutes ahead of time can signal desperation or cluelessness and create problems for a receptionist managing the arrival and departure of multiple candidates.

Dress the part

We live in a business casual world, especially in Oregon, but for professional positions you still need to dress formally for a job interview. There are exceptions to the rule, such as jobs at Portland’s tech startups, so research an office’s culture. Whatever your style, follow basic rules about grooming, jewelry, and colors.

Know who you are meeting

It’s acceptable to ask who will interview you. Study the biographies and blogs of your interviewers, connect with them on LinkedIn, and visit their social media accounts. Look for shared interests and common connections. People want to work with people they know or who are known to people they trust, so keep an eye out for a mutual friend or colleague who can serve as a reference.

See also  How to Pick the Right Interview Outfit

Understand what the employer needs

Employers hire people to solve problems and candidates who understand this always stand out. Research the challenges a company faces and prepare examples of how you have handled similar problems. Talk about how you can make an employer’s life easier before you discuss how a job meets your personal and professional goals.

Prepare and practice

Identify the key questions you think you will be asked, both about the job and your skills. Find a friend and do a mock interview. Want to earn bonus points? Tape your rehearsal and watch the playback.

Come with your own questions

Bring a list of questions, especially ones that focus on an employer’s needs. You’ll show that you are putting the company’s concerns first and you create an opportunity to explain how you would tackle those challenges.

Ask for the job

Before starting Prichard Communications, I worked on many political campaigns in Oregon and other states. One of the first laws you learn in electoral politics: you have to ask for a vote. The same rule applies in job hunting. At the close of the interview, ask for the position.

Send a handwritten thank-you note

Mail an old-fashioned card to say thank you. It can make a huge difference. Your competitors will likely use email or not bother to send a note at all.