The prospect of a new job opportunity can be exciting! The decision to advance yourself professionally should be commended. One obstacle that stands in your way is the formal interview.
For most people, interviewing for a new job doesn’t happen every day. It’s important to prepare, and no matter what style the interview process may take—phone, group, or one-on-one—I encourage you to embrace the following seven steps to interview success.
Step 1. Know Your Elevator Pitch
An “elevator” pitch is the standard sales pitch that concisely describes a company’s product or service. Equivalently, a job interview is an opportunity to sell yourself, and will require a similar explanation.
It’s important to practice so you can best articulate the message you want to share. Although that may sound easy, the true challenge is determining what exactly you want to convey. Take time to come up with something that truly represents who you are as a person. Be sure it accurately reflects your goals and aspirations for the role and the potential opportunity with the firm.
If you’re interviewing for a job within the same industry, briefly describe your expertise and elaborate how you want to further that experience. If you’re going after a role within a completely new industry, share past and current responsibilities that mirror those of the job you’re interviewing for. The more you can tie your experiences with the roles and responsibilities of the new job, the better you will assist the interviewer in understanding why you’re a good fit for the position.
Step 2. Be Curious
One of my interview pet peeves is when a candidate has no questions. How can this be possible? Even if you’re interviewing for a position in your existing firm, nothing can be comprehensively defined by a simple position description. Questions can be broad to very specific, and it’s of the utmost importance for an interviewee to have as much clarity about the role as possible.
Questions can include: Is this a new position? Whom will I report to? What other teams within the organization will I be working with? Of the responsibilities listed, what is considered the “highest” priority? What does a typical day look like? How can I be successful in this role? What support can I expect from my colleagues? Will there be travel?
Asking questions not only gives you a clearer picture of the role and the organization, but also shows the interviewer you are genuinely interested about the role. The more you know, the more you can be successful when offered the job. Another point to keep in mind: when you ask questions, you immediately change the pace of the interview, putting yourself in control and giving the opportunity to move it more into a conversation.
Step 3. Come Prepared
Please, if you really want the job, come prepared. Do your homework. Read up about the firm. Go to their website, read the values and history, but do more digging. Go to the Internet and see what articles have recently been published about the firm.
Also, find out who you’ll be interviewing with and research them. They may have bios on the company website, but definitely visit their LinkedIn page. See what their past experience has been, where they went to school, organizations that they have been involved with. This is incredibly helpful, as you may find similarities and learn things that may resonate with you both.
As mentioned in Step 2, bring your questions! Yes, it’s completely acceptable to bring a notebook with your questions already written out. Even better, take one more step and take notes. No matter the length of your interview, it’s hard to retain everything that transpires, especially if you’re nervous, so take notes and you can reflect following it how everything went. This will also be helpful in any follow-up communication post- interview.
Also, be sure to have a copy of your resume on hand. Of course, the interviewer will have a copy (if they’ve asked you in), but it’s good to have an extra in the event they forget to bring a copy. If you have multiple interviewers, bring extra copies. Also, you can refer to it. It’s a great CliffsNotes and reminder to you of how to show past experience when being asked questions.
The most important part of being prepared is being ready to answer the interview questions! An interview can go a variety of different ways, but most questions come from your resume. Practice articulating your previous responsibilities. Think about specific experiences that have molded your career path. If you have these top-of-mind, it will be a lot easier to share examples when asked to elaborate further.
Questions that I find are rather common include: Tell me about yourself? (This is easy, so have something prepared and leave worry for the harder questions). Why are you interested in this role? What interests you about the firm? What challenges do you foresee with the position? What excites you most about the job? Define your weaknesses. Give us an example of when a client negatively responded to a project or deliverable. How do you manage a disgruntled customer? How do you handle multiple tasks at once? What one word best describes your personality? The list can go on, but questions like these inevitably will be asked. So practice these ahead of time, and preferably with friends and family, so that you’re confident when walking in on interview day.
Step 4. Dress for Success
No matter what the office dress code is, it’s important to dress for the job you want! That means you need to dress up. As a sign of respect and interest in the opportunity, definitely dress above the office standard. Yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask the human resources professional this question in preparing for the interview.
Lastly, when you do dress up, make sure that, whatever you wear, your clothes are appropriate, fit well, are pressed, and match. Pay attention to the details—your interviewer will. First impressions go a long way and the way you dress plays a large role in a person’s opinion of you. So make sure the impression is a good one.
Step 5. Be Early, Not Just on Time
The day of the interview, it’s essential that you arrive early. Arriving early shows respect, interest, and desire for the job. There may be some paperwork you have to complete ahead of time, and you definitely don’t want to impede on the time set aside from the interviewer.
Step 6. Be Critical
When interviewing for a new job, most candidates just want to ensure that the prospective firm likes them. Yes, that’s important, but what is equally important is if the candidate likes the firm. So be critical.
Observe the way the interviewer manages the interview. Do you resonate with this person? Do you like his or her personality? Do you think you can work together? Are they kind or short in responses? How are their mannerisms? You can learn a lot about people by simply studying the way they act when they are with you.
Additionally, ask for a tour of the office. Is this an environment you can see yourself in? Does the culture look like a place you want to come five days a week? Is it cold, or is it friendly? No matter how badly you want something, you owe it to yourself to take an honest assessment of what you’re interviewing for, and ask if this company and role is right for you.
Step 7. Write a Thank You Note
It may seem archaic, but it’s so important to write a thank you to those you interview with. The thank-you can be electronic, but make sure what you say is thoughtful. Reference a part of the conversation that you actually enjoyed.
Conversely, this is as an opportunity to ask unanswered questions or follow up on a question that you’d like to give more clarification. Ultimately, make sure that, whatever you say, it’s sincere. Your follow-up will show professionalism, good manners, and your genuine interest in the job.
Interviews are not necessarily easy. They can be nerve-racking yet exciting. Practice and preparation are the best things one can do. So prepare to win, and hopefully these steps will position you for a successful interview.