Job hunting is both frustrating and time-consuming. When you finally get a call to interview, the last thing you want to do is blow it. You want to position yourself ahead of the competition and improve your chances of getting an offer. To do this, master 4 essential skills: research, preparation, presentation, and follow-up.
The more you know about the employer, the more confident and comfortable you will feel in the interview. If you take time to learn all you can about the company and job, you will look like a self-starter with good work habits.
Use the Internet to find out about the company’s mission statement, products/services, customers, etc. Then, come up with 5-7 questions to ask the interviewer. You’ll likely get to ask only 2-3 questions, so make them good ones. Ask about goals, challenges, management style, employee career track, etc.
Get to know your professional side! Be ready to talk about your education, experience, strengths, and areas for improvement. Give specific examples of work-related situations with which you’ve dealt. State why you want the job and are perfect for the job. Organize your thoughts and practice your spiel, so words roll off your tongue. And remember, don’t dish the dirt on former employers or co-workers.
Do a recorded mock interview, watch your performance, and correct any red-flag behaviors and language.
In advance of the interview, organize things you plan to take with you. Take your education records, resume, and references for the interviewer. Take the job description and your questions for yourself. Write the interviewer’s name, title, phone number, and location in your portfolio.
Prepare and try on 2 interview outfits—the one you’ll wear and a backup outfit. Ensure that neither outfit is loud, offensive, and/or distracting.
Arrive at the interviewer’s door no less than 20 minutes before your scheduled interview. Assume that from the time you arrive on the property to the time you leave that you are on stage. Be professional at every turn. Turn off your phone. Make eye contact. Smile. Shake hands. Stand/sit up straight. Introduce yourself with your first and last name. Allow the interviewer to lead and direct the meeting. Listen actively. Look interested. Speak clearly. Give direct, complete sentence responses to questions. Be honest. Ask relevant questions. Avoid distracting behaviors—e.g., nail biting, gum chewing, finger tapping, etc. Overall, try to show your humanity and connect with the interviewer.
Do not bring up pay and benefits. Let the interviewer initiate this topic. You’ll get to negotiate terms during or after a successful follow-up interview.
When the interview begins to wind down, ask when you can expect a decision. Request a business card from the interviewer, and thank him/her for the meeting.
In the post-interview phase, assume you are still in play until you hear otherwise. To get ahead of the competition and restate your interest in the job, stay in touch. Send a short, handwritten thank-you note or email (1-2 paragraphs) to the interviewer within 1-2 days. Reference some specific detail the interviewer shared with you. Remind him/her of how you can be of value to the company.
If you receive an offer of employment, EUREKA! Respond with a verbal and written (handwritten or email) reply whether you accept it or not. Use your acceptance reply as a starting point to negotiate pay and benefits. To decline an offer, do so professionally—i.e., don’t be smug about it. Thank the interviewer for the offer, and briefly state why you are declining.
Don’t be discouraged if you do not receive an offer. Instead, accept the decision with a smile. Ask for feedback that could help you improve upon your skills for future interviews.