Job interviews aren't much fun. Quite frankly – they're stressful. You're under the microscope and there's a lot of pressure to make the best possible impression in a short period of time.
The good news? There are strategies in approaching the interview process that you can undertake to reduce the stress and improve your chances.
- Dress nicely for the interview. Wear a suit. End of discussion.
- Remember - It's just a conversation. Sure, the people you are meeting with are judging you, and they're likely going to throw some curve balls your way, but in the end, an interview is just as much about demonstrating you can work together as much as the technical skills you bring. So do your best to remember that you're just having a conversation with the person seated across from you. You're both trying to find common ground. And often, the interviewer is looking for reasons to hire you – being easy to get along with helps.
- Do your research. The more you know, the more you'll be prepared to talk about. Learn about what's going on at the company and about the products they deliver by looking at the company's web page and by searching on Google News. Be prepared for the question you'll likely get, "What do you know about the company?" Likewise, if you have an agenda ahead of time telling you about your interviewers, check out your interrogators' LinkedIn profiles – you should be able to come up with some great discussion material (example: "I see you left General Motors to come work here. There must have been something interesting about this company, what drove your decision?").
- It's okay to bring a few notes. Most interviewers won't mind if you have a page of notes and research to job your memory during the interview, so long as it's not a crutch. Detail short, easy-to-read, bulleted discussion points so that you can glance quickly at your notes without having to study them. Notes can often project the positive impression that you have prepared.
- Prepare your war stories. Behavioral interviews are prevalent - interviewers will ask you questions about your past actions to determine how you'd behave in the future. The examples you present can be your opportunity to shine - choose examples that show your ability to identify and overcome adversity, to collaborate, and to come up with creative solutions to work problems. Have 5 or 6 go-to stories about your work successes that you can tell, and which will show you as a strong potential hire.
- Have your questions ready. At the end of the conversation, your interviewer will either run out of questions for you, or ask if you have any of your own. Never, ever, ever be caught without insightful questions to ask. They don't have to be earth-shatteringly profound, but they should demonstrate that you're engaged and have been paying attention. Some good standbys: "What does success in this role look like?"; "What does the average day in this position consist of?"; and "Why is this position open?" Find some other effective questions here.
- Put off the salary discussion, if at all possible. In fact, don't bring it up - at all. Let the interviewer bring it up, and if they do, handle it delicately. Focus on your interest in the job, and indicate that your concern regarding compensation is secondary.
- Send your "Thank You" notes. If you met with somebody during your interview day, send them a brief note (email is fine) thanking them for their time and consideration. I've seen a well-placed "Thank You" note push a candidate over the top. And don't send notes to some people and not others - everybody has a say in whether you get hired, from the receptionist through the CEO; don't let anybody feel snubbed and then feel like finding a reason to sabotage your chances.
Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. He is a Human Resources professional and staffing expert with almost two decades of in-house corporate HR and staffing firm experience, and is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC).
Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.