by Howard Kurlandski, Executive Director, Kesher Employment Services
Those are the words that every job seeker is longing to hear. But putting yourself out on display in an interview can sometimes be a daunting experience. You may be thinking to yourself, ‘What if I’m nervous? What if I say the wrong thing? What should I be saying?’, or ‘What shouldn’t I be saying?’ Doubt, especially self-doubt is an interview killer, so here are some great tips to nail that interview, and get your dream job.
Many people believe that the interview starts when you are sitting in front of the person who is interviewing you. NOT TRUE. Your interview starts before you even enter the door. So, like a good Boy or Girl Scout, your motto should be to “Be Prepared!” The first thing you need to do is research the company. Employers want to see that you have an understanding of who they are and what they do. It also demonstrates your interest and initiative. One of the first questions many recruiters ask is “What do you know about our company?” You can research your prospective employer not only through web sites, but through newsletters, company marketing material, and company reports. Don’t sit there speechless. Try to give a short overview of the company, as well as how your experience is an excellent match for their organization.
Besides knowing the company, you have to know yourself. You have to be prepared to know and to speak about everything that is on your resume. If you have to think about it on an interview, you might come across as tentative and uncertain. Try and use the name of the interviewer in the course of conversation. This personalizes the interview process. This is a courtesy which people appreciate.
Before going in for an interview you should familiarize yourself with typical interview questions. If you know what to expect, you will do a better job of presenting and selling yourself to a prospective employer. You should also prepare questions to ask the employer. These questions should not be, how much will I be paid, or how much vacation will I get. Questions should be thoughtful, such as, ‘what goals does the company want to achieve over the coming year’, or perhaps something like, ‘what do you see are the main challenges in this position?’ You can then address your experience to what matters most to the employer, and demonstrate that you are a good match for this position.
Check out where the employer is located, and how long it will take to get there the day before the interview. Nothing is more irritating to an employer, than someone being late for an interview. Allow for traffic delays, and try and get to the interview a minimum of 10 minutes early. Being late creates a bad impression, and may lead people to think that you might be late all the time when you show up to work.
Avoid any horror stories about your last boss, or what a terrible working environment you had in your former job. Future employers will distrust you if you bad-mouth former employers, even if you are justified. If this was the cause to find a new job, simply say that there was not a meeting of the minds in your former workplace, and are looking to utilize your skills more productively, and leave it at that. Keep this response short and simple.
Dress for success. Make sure you look presentable. Studies show that people form lasting impression within 3 to 27 seconds of meeting. If you dress too formally, you may give the impression of being too rigid. If you dress too casually, you send a signal that you do not take the interview, or the job, seriously. You should be well groomed, with clothes that are clean, tailored, and pressed.
Bring more copies of your resume than you think you will need. You should also be prepared with reference letters, or names and contact information of references.
Make sure your internet presence is presentable. Look over your Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts. Employers will look at your on-line presence to see if your personal persona is a good match for their professional persona.
AT THE INTERVIEW
You’re ready at last to present yourself to the interviewer. Have them at “Hello”. Your interview begins the moment you step into the office. First impressions count. Be courteous, polite and friendly with all staff including the receptionist. You’ll be surprised how often employers will ask front office staff for their opinion.
Watch your body language. Don’t rock back and forth in your chair, shake your foot, drum your fingers on the desk, chew gum, or play with your hair. These gestures make you look disinterested or distracted. Above all, make sure your cell phone is turned off.
To make a positive first impression sit up straight, look the interviewer straight in the eye, and smile. Show your enthusiasm in your speech, body language, and expression. Nod and make positive gestures in moderation. Don’t bring in a coffee, or drink coffee if offered. There is nothing worse than spilling coffee over the interviewer’s desk or talking with your mouth full.
You know when you are having a good interview when there is an equal flow of conversation back and forth. If the interviewer or you is doing all the talking, then the parties are not engaged with each other. When the interviewer provides an example of a responsibility, provide a short concise example how your experience relates to the task at hand. You should see the interviewer making mental checkmarks as to how your experience matches his needs.
Make sure you can give clear concise examples of your skills, abilities, and responsibilities. Your response should demonstrate how you were able to attain your accomplishments. When asked the question, “Tell me something about yourself” don’t go on and on. Your response should be in two parts. You can say something like, ‘on the professional side, I have met and surpassed all performance goals and am constantly focused on improvement’. On the personal side, you can say something like ‘I am a dedicated individual who has a passion for everything I do” You can then follow this up by mentioning a hobby or two.
In an interview, remember your objective. It is to get the job. The interviewer is not your buddy. Avoid being distracted. Let the interviewer know why you are a good match, and that you want the job. Employers are looking for motivated candidates. An unmotivated response will take you right out of contention for the position.
Some candidates proceed to tell the employer how to run their business or want to know about advancement, and they are not even working there yet. Employers want candidates to listen, understand their business, and then advancement and promotion will fall into place. Remember, they are looking to fill the position you are applying for, not a future position. Getting ahead of yourself, will ruin your chances of being hired.
Watch out for potential roadblocks. Do not bring up salary unless the employer brings it up first. Let the employer see you are interested in the position and not have only dollar signs in your eyes. If asked about salary requirements, try and see if the employer will give you the amount they have budgeted for the position. You don’t want to come in too high or too low. If forced, give a range of salary, and say that there is flexibility but that the position is what matters.
Above all, stay away from personal problems. The employer is not your psychologist, or your friend. Interviewers want someone who can do the job, not someone who will disrupt the office. So be pleasant, friendly, and focused.
Finally, leave with grace. Thank the employer for their time, and tell that you feel you are a good candidate for the position. Ask when a decision will be made. You should also ask for a business card. That way you can send a thank you email to the interview, and you have all the correct contact information at hand.
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
Follow up with a short email, thanking the interview for their time, and in a very short concise way, drive home in a sentence or two how your experience is a good fit for the job, and that you are very interested. Employers like people who are interested in them, so this is your final opportunity before a decision is made to make a positive impression.
Once the interview is over, don’t forget to assess your performance. If you don’t get this position, review how you could have done better, and fine tune adjustments to make your next interview the best ever.