The formal interview is still used by most employers, and chances are you will encounter one. They can be one-on-one or meeting a panel of the employers’ representatives. You may meet someone for the first time in a formal interview (previous contact through HR or a recruiter) or it may come after a considerable amount of contact by phone, e-mail, or informal meetings.
An interview is the best opportunity you will have to sell yourself to a prospective employer. However, an interview is a two-way conversation and it is your opportunity to gather information about the company, its needs and the specific position then relate this information to your skills and experience. While your primary goal should be to get the job offer, or at least the next interview, do not reject a position before you get an offer!
The interview is your best opportunity to stand out from the other candidates who are competing for the open position. What you say and how you act will go a long way towards determining if you get the job.
Investing a few minutes to prepare will help you with this critical step.
Before the Interview
- Talk with the recruiter, or receptionist, or other person making arrangements so that you know the basics of directions to the office, where to park, the estimated length of the interview, who you will be meeting with and what you might be expected to bring, etc.
- Make sure you have your resume and references available to fill out employment applications.
- A notepad and pen to take notes, or at least prepared to take them.
- Allow plenty of time for your interview, to get there, park, complete paperwork etc, to ensure that you will not be rushed.
- Be informed about any current events about the company and industry before you arrive. Knowledge of the basic information impresses the interviewer with your interest and enables you to ask more detailed questions about the company and position, as well as being able let them know how you can contribute.
- Find out as much as you can about your interviewers. (Look them up on Google, LinkedIn, and other online resources at a minimum). Clarify your professional short- and long-term goals. Be able to articulate them clearly. Professional goals do not always mean getting to the top of a corporation in a short time frame. They may include: attaining specific levels of achievement or production, creating a desirable work situation, or having a business of one's own. Short- and long-term goals should be consistent.
- Know your resume. Re-familiarize yourself with past employers, roles, technologies, and employment dates. In addition to being familiar with the information on your resume, be ready to expand on any portion of it, and be able to relate it to the needs of the person interviewing you. Managers will inquire about all sorts of details found within your resume, and your inability to recall these events can be viewed as a potential resume embellishment or lie.
- Analyze the job description. Although many job descriptions may not be as clear or complete as you would wish, take the time to understand the role and responsibilities potentially asked of you. This may also help you in preparing for potential interview questions.
- Be prepared for the standard questions. Keep your answers specific and concise, and work to maintain a good balance of conservation with your interviewer. Try to limit answers to one or two minutes and be positive.
- Prepare Your Answers in Advance. Even the best candidates struggle to recall specific situations and instances, especially in a stressful environment like an interview. A helpful tip is to recall 4 or 5 specific situations in which you were responsible for a favorable outcome. Once you’ve identified these scenarios, try to highlight them in a way that shows your teamwork, communication skills, determination, or ability to manage others. Having these scenarios handy will help you to quickly answer all types of behavioral questions.
- Study up; make sure to take the time to review technical documentation, study guides, online interview questions, or technical assessments before interviewing for an extremely technical role.
- Ask questions about the position, its opportunities and challenges, have some questions already prepared. Job candidates, who do not ask questions during an interview are often perceived as uninterested or lazy, so take the initiative and ask at least a few questions. Leave questions about pay, benefits, etc. until a second meeting, or let the employer bring up the topic.
- Every interview is different. Be prepared for anything!!
- Remember, first impressions are everything during an interview. So be sure to use those first five seconds to look and sound your best. Also, your interview starts the moment you arrive at the company, so make sure you act professional at all times.
- Do not arrive late, but also not more than fifteen minutes early. If you are going to be even a minute late, the best thing to do is to telephone the person you are scheduled to interview with.
- Turn off your cell phone (or at least put it on vibrate)
- Be pleasant to the parking attendants, receptionists, or other people you meet at that company, regardless of their position. They often play key roles in the organization and can offer assistance in numerous ways, so it's best to treat them with the respect they deserve. Also, they often report back to their bosses about how you behaved and treated them.
- Stand when someone enters the room (either gender.)
- Stand to be introduced.
- Shake hands firmly with your right hand. This is one of your first impressions. A limp handshake can show disinterest and weakness, the arm pump handshake can be too aggressive. Your handshake should be firm, and you should look the person in the eye during the introduction/handshake.
- Make eye contact when appropriate and comfortable.
- Carry a briefcase with extra copies of résumés, references, portfolios, work samples, and any other information they may be interested in. Offer them if they seem appropriate.
- Do more listening than talking, but ask questions, especially if you need clarification. Maintaining eye contact shows confidence and interest in what the interviewer is saying. Listen through eye contact and expressions. Always wait until the speaker has finished; never interrupt.
- Be enthusiastic and positive. Try to mirror the demeanor of the person interviewing you and display enthusiasm for the opportunity. Stay positive throughout the interview; do not speak negatively about previous employers or job experiences.
- Sell Yourself. Tell the interviewer what you can offer specifically and emphasize what you will bring to the company.
- Project self-confidence by speaking positively about your abilities, experience and willingness to acquire new skills.
- Answer questions in an articulate and organized manner. Speak slowly, and be sure to use emphasis and inflection where appropriate.
- Watch your body posture and body language. Slouching, leaning on the interviewer’s desk, and moving around are distracting.
- Relate your work experience directly to the needs of the organization. Examples of past accomplishments effectively demonstrate your abilities.
- If you are asked questions about your personal life, use them as opportunities to emphasize how well you balance your personal and professional life. Always keep your answers job-related.
- When the interviewer ends your meeting, do not attempt to prolong it. Briefly express your strong interest in the company and the position, thank the interviewer for his or her time, and leave on a positive note and make sure the next steps are well-defined. Try: "I appreciate your time and the opportunity to meet with you. I am very interested in the position. When shall I check back with you?” is a good opener, because it leaves the control with YOU to call THEM back, without being pushy.
- Call your recruiter with your feedback of the interview and interest in the position.
- Dress appropriately and professionally for the interview. You’ll feel more confident the better you look.
- Avoid loud colors, faddish styles and anything that will be distracting. It is better to be too conservative in dress than not enough - white shirts, dark suits, etc.
- Check the details of your grooming, including neatly combed and trimmed hair; clean, shave, manicured fingernails; wrinkle-free clothing; and polished shoes.
- Send a thank-you note by the following day. Keep it brief and to the point. Thank the interviewer again for his or her time, restate your qualifications in terms of what you can do for the company, and express your interest in the position. Add any personal similarities you had to refresh their memory of you and your connection.
Prepare Your Answers To These Questions:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why do you want to leave your current company?
- How long were you at your former/current employer?
- What are your long-term and short-term career goals?
- What do you look for in a job?
- Tell me about your work experience.
- What do you know about the company?
- Why should we hire you?
- What is your biggest strength?
- What is your biggest weakness?
- How would your last boss and colleagues describe you?
- What has been your most important accomplishment?
- What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
- If they should ask, be prepared to name a salary range.
Questions To Ask:
- While you should always customize questions for a particular company or job, here are a few suggested questions for you to ask your interviewer:
- How long have you been in your position?
- What do you like best about your position?
- What are your expectations for this position?
- Do you have any concerns about my job qualifications? (This gives you the opportunity to overcome those concerns with reasons why you are qualified.)
An interview is an important part of the hiring process. Remember:
- Prepare for it like you would for any important meeting or presentation.
- During the interview, present yourself and your qualifications confidently.
- Listen carefully, and ask appropriate questions.
- Close the interview on a positive note.