Career Success Series – Tips to Nail an Interview

In our first post in the Career Success Series we reviewed How to Write A Resume. Now that our resume is polished, we are ready to ace the interview! So what is an interview and why do we bother? The interview is your opportunity to sell yourself, explain to the hiring manager why YOU are the person for the job.

Interview Steps

The first step in most interview processes is a phone screen. During this time you will likely speak with some in Talent Acquisition or Human Resources (like myself) to ensure you meet the basic qualifications.

The next step is either an in-person or a virtual face-to-face meeting. This is where you and the hiring manager will do a deep dive into the role and your experience.

Depending on the position, there may be one in person interview or several. The more senior the position, the more interviews you can expect.

Before the Interview

When preparing for a job interview it’s important to research the company. Visit the company website, LinkedIn and Glassdoor pages, and read reviews from current and previous employees. Many employers will ask why you want to work for their company, and the information gathered from these resources will help determine that answer.

During the interview, the employer will be evaluating your fit for the role and the organization, but did you know you should be evaluating the employer as well? This is your opportunity to ask questions and ensure this is the right career move for you. Before the interview prepare 3 – 5 questions that you would like to ask. What sets them apart from other employers? What is the manager’s leadership style? What is the team dynamic like? What are the companies long-term growth plans? The answers to these questions can help ensure this is a company where you can see yourself.

Re-read the job description and your resume and be prepared to tell your story and how your experience relates to the job description. It’s also a great idea to practice your answers to common interview questions, this will help reduce anxiety on the big day. Common interview questions include:

  • Tell me about yourself?
  • Why are you looking to make a career move?
  • What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • How would your boss or peers describe you?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

You will never get a second chance to make a first impression, so make sure it’s positive. Practice your interview etiquette as you prepare for the job interview.

  • Smile to demonstrate you are approachable.
  • The handshake is a universal greeting and can help make a lasting impression on the employer.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Engage in active listening to show you are truly interested in the role.
  • Demonstrate confidence, you’ve got this!

During the Interview

We’ll dive into this a little deeper, but be sure to dress appropriately for the role you are applying for. The interview for an entry level role will likely be more casual than that of one for a manager or senior level position and your attire should match the level of professionalism of the organization.

Punctuality is a key workplace skill, start off on the right foot by arriving 10-15 minutes early. Any earlier and the interviewer might not be ready, leaving you in the lobby for an extended amount of time. Any later and it could seem you aren’t serious about the role.

The interviewer(s) will likely have a copy of your resume, but just in case bring a few printed copies with you. An interviewer might have been invited in at the last minute and may not have had a chance to review. Being prepared also shows that you are organized and take initiative.

Hopefully this goes without being said, but turn the ringer off on your cell phone. Nothing will leave a bad taste in the interviewers mouth more than a ringing cell phone during a serious business meeting. Better yet, leave it in the car.

As mentioned previously, ask questions. At the end of the interview, when the interviewer asks if you have any questions, you better have at least two. If all of your questions were answered during the conversation, ask about the company mission or sustainability commitment. Anything. Never say “No, I don’t have any questions”. Doing so demonstrates disengagement, and no one wants a disengaged employee. A couple of back up questions you can keep in your back pocket include: What is the company culture like? Or How will you measure success in this role?

As the interview comes to a close, find out what the next steps are. Should you expect a call in a couple days or a couple of weeks? What is the next step in the interview process? How quickly do they plan to fill the position? Also ask for business cards or an email address where you can follow-up if you don’t hear back in the indicated time frame.

Last but not least, don’t forget a firm handshake and thank the interviewers for their time!

After the Interview

After the the interview, follow up later that day with a thank you email. In the email, highlight any key initiatives that came out of the conversation, how your skills align with the company and position and what areas you can bring value. Thank you emails are becoming less and less common so taking time to do this small piece of follow-up goes a long way and definitely sets you apart from other applicants!

Each interview you go on should be seen as a learning opportunity. The more you do it, the better you will become. Take a moment to self-reflect and ask yourself, “Is there anything you should have done differently?”

Hiring Managers are often interviewing multiple candidates and typically confer with others in the organization before making a hiring decision. So be patient. If it’s been more than a week or two follow-up via phone or email to show you are still interested in the position.

Dress for Success

When going on a job interview it’s important to dress for the job you are applying. Keep in mind, you might dress slightly more casual for a retail or construction position than you might for a professional office position. Either way, it’s important to look professional, confident and competent.

Another important point to keep in mind is that a video or virtual interview is still an interview and proper dress is expected. Don’t show up to your virtual interview in a hoodie and a bun.

A few tips to ensure you are dressed to impress include:

  • Keep the color palette neutral with solid blouses and button down shirts.
  • Dress pants are most appropriate, knee length skirts can be worn as well.
  • Dress shoes should be worn, closed toe, with low or flat heels.
  • Hair and facial hair should be clean and well-groomed.
  • If wearing make-up keep it conservative and natural.
  • Nails should be trimmed and neatly manicured, if wearing polish keep it neutral or a light color.
  • Wear minimal jewelry and keep it simple.
  • Avoid perfume or cologne.

By following these tips and through continued practice you will be on your way to landing your dream job!

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