A great resume can get your foot in the door…but to actually get through the door and into the job of your dreams, you need to ace the interview. Learn how to excel at job interviews and get the job of your dreams fast!
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A great resume can get your foot in the door…but to actually get through the door and into the job of your dreams, you need to ace the interview.
The job interview is the bridge between getting noticed and actually getting hired. This is when you have the chance to show a potential employer that you aren’t just talking the talk: you’re also walking the walk.
While plenty has been written about job interviews, many of the standard tips are one-dimensional and bland, like “sell yourself” and “demonstrate your strengths.” These bits of advice are well-intentioned, but they don’t provide insight about setting yourself apart from all the other candidates.
Here, we’ll dig into the art of excelling at the all-important job interview, complete with expert tips to help you show employers that you’re exactly what they’ve been missing.
Before the Interview: How to Prepare
A good job interview begins well before you actually arrive in the building lobby. Here’s how to prepare:
Do Your Homework
If you’re not mentally prepared for the interview, you could seem like a deer in the headlights when the questions start rolling. Do yourself a favor and spend a little time preparing:
Research the company. Spend a little time doing research on the company in question. Educate yourself on the company culture, who they are, their competitors, and their goals.
You can start by visiting the company website and their social media pages, but don’t stop there. Do a Google news search for any recent press releases or stories about the company. Bonus points if you memorize statistics or numbers related to the company that you can drop during the interview!
Reread the job description. Revisit the job listing that the company posted. Consider any specific experiences that you could share to demonstrate that you’re a perfect fit. Practice sharing these experiences in a professional, focused way.
Identify Yourself as a Solution
Most job-seekers are told that it’s important to “sell yourself” in a job interview.
“This is the worst strategy to follow,” says Rafe Gomez, co-owner of VC Inc. Marketing and author of What’s In It For ME? A Powerful New Interview Strategy To Get You Hired in Today’s Challenging Economy. The company isn’t necessarily interested in you as an individual as much as they are interested in finding an employee who can help make their business thrive.
Gomez advises that instead of selling yourself, “you need to present yourself as the exact solution that the company is looking for to meet its needs, overcome its challenges, and achieve its goals.”
How is this done? By being prepared to present “anecdotal evidence and factual, data-based examples of how you’ve done it in the past.”
Dress for Success
You want to project an image of success, so be sure to dress the part. Appropriate attire is key to making a good impression.
If applying within a very traditional/conservative workplace such as a bank or law firm, formal business attire is your best bet. Formal business attire is generally viewed as a full, matching business suit, including a jacket and dress pants or a dress skirt.
Even if applying at a very informal workplace, it’s best to err on the side of caution and adhere to a business casual dress code. This might mean a button-down shirt and slacks, or a modest dress. No jeans and no sneakers!
Remember: It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.
Bring the Right Documents
Make things easy on the hiring professional, and demonstrate your preparedness, by bringing the following documents:
✓ A printed copy of your resume.
✓ A printed copy of your professional references. For each entry, include the person’s name, title, organization, and contact information.
✓ A business card, if you have one.
✓ Any other supporting materials. These might include a portfolio (for creatives), press clippings, case studies, or anything that will help show the employer that you’re qualified for the role.
During the Interview: How to Succeed and What to Avoid
Now that you’ve actually arrived at the interview location, it’s time to show your stuff. How can you set yourself apart? Here are Gomez’s best tips for interview success:
Tips for Interview Success
- Set the tone.
According to Gomez, a proactive approach can set a positive tone for an interview. Asking “What is it that you are seeking for your team and for your organization? What are your short, mid, and long term goals?” will immediately pique the interviewer’s interest. The answer will also give you a better idea of what skills and achievements to emphasize in the interview.
- Steer hard questions into selling points.
One of the most dreaded parts of job interviews is the inevitable challenging questions, like “What is one of your weaknesses?”.
“There’s a way to turn it around so that you crush it,” says Gomez, suggesting that you turn these hard questions into positives. For example, when asked about a weakness, you might say, “I occasionally get swept up in the details and I try to be a perfectionist which can sometimes prevent me from seeing the bigger picture. However, that problem didn’t get in the way of me delivering results here, here, and here.”
By offering examples of times that this so-called “weakness” actually worked to your favor, you can steer the conversation back to why you’re a killer candidate.
- Mirror the interviewer.
According to Gomez, an excellent method of connecting with the interviewer is using a sales tactic called neuro-linguistic programming. This is a method of looking to the interviewer for cues about appropriate language and overall demeanor, and subtly mirroring them.
Are they formal and erudite? Follow suit. Are they informal and relaxed in their posture and tone? Don’t be so formal in your conduct. This individual is representative of the culture of the organization. By being observant of their style, you’re demonstrating that you can fit in with the company culture.
What To Avoid in a Job Interview
There are certain things that can kill the vibe of an interview fast. Avoid these gaffes:
- Don’t speak negatively of past employers.
You’ve heard the adage “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This is good wisdom for job interviews. Even though you may have had negative job experiences in the past, smack-talking past employers is not a good way to gain favor from a new employer.
- Don’t be passive.
Being passive and just waiting for the next question won’t set you apart in a job interview. Be proactive in your approach, and don’t hesitate to ask the interviewer questions of your own. Don’t be scared to help guide the interview. Without taking some initiative, you’re less likely to set yourself apart from the many other candidates.
After the Interview: How to Finish Up and Follow Up
As the interview comes to a close, how should you end things? Here are some tips:
Ask for the sale. As our expert Rafe Gomez concludes, “If you don’t ask for the sale, you’ll never get the sale.” To ensure that you’ve effectively demonstrated to a potential employer that you’ve met their expectations, a direct approach is best.
Asking something like “did our discussion meet what you were hoping to achieve?” can help you know where you stand, and it can also open the door for following up post-interview.
Follow up. A thank you email sent within 24 hours of the interview is typically seen as good etiquette. Once again, a direct approach is best. Instead of simply saying “I hope to hear from you soon,” be proactive and ask if you can provide any additional information about how you can help the company achieve its goals.
Acing the Interview: The Final Word
If you want to cut your job search short and score the job of your dreams fast, then you’ve got to nail the job interview.
By following the tips in this article, you’ll be better prepared to showcase yourself as the best candidate for the job…and you might snag that dream job quicker than you thought!
This requires being proactive and dynamic and effectively presenting yourself as the perfect solution to help the company achieve its goals.