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14 Ways to Nail a Job Interview

May 17, 2010


Image via Susanne13

Your picture perfect résumé and stellar references landed you an interview for your dream job at your dream company. Now comes the real challenge. Most people stress about job interviews and end up dropping the proverbial ball by making mistakes that are totally avoidable.

Doing well in an interview is a very simple formula. It requires preparedness, professionalism and self-awareness. Read on for a list of specific suggestions and tips – in sequential order – on how to do well in a job interview and make it to the next round.

Before the Interview

1. Understand the position

Study the job responsibilities carefully, and look for potential areas of conflict or expectations that confuse you. If it’s a writing job that requires “light marketing” duties, inquire exactly what that means so you fully understand – and accept – the responsibilities expected of you.

2. Be able to answer this question

Though every interview is different, there’s one question that always comes up; “What makes you a good fit for this position?” Though this is probably something you’ve thought about, there’s a chance you haven’t actually verbalized your reasons. Expect to be asked this question, and plan a stellar, knock-your-socks-off answer in advance. And if you can’t answer this question, you should consider going back to the drawing board and re-starting your career search.

3. Research recent company news

Before heading to your interview, do a Google News search of the company. Take note of recent news items like layoffs, management changes or a shift in the company’s focus. Be sure to reference these in your interview and ask how they may effect your role in the company. Not only is this a wise thing for your own job security, it shows your interviewer that you’re in-tune and serious about the position.

4. Get to know your hiring manager

If you’re not sure exactly who you’ll be meeting with, it’s not rude or weird to ask for the name of your interviewer and their role in the company. That way, you can research who they are, what they do, and if you have anything in common that you can bring up casually in the interview. (You went to JMU, too?! How awesome are the veggie burgers at D-Hall?!)

5. Find strength in your flaws

There’s a chance you’ll be asked to list your occupational strengths – and your weaknesses. No one’s perfect, so if you answer “I don’t have any weaknesses!” you won’t be taken seriously. Instead, pin-point your flaws and prepare a way to give them a positive spin. Sure, you aren’t the world’s best multi-tasker, but you’re a pro at prioritizing.

6. Dress appropriately

Ahh. The age old question of what to wear. I argue that cleavage is out of the question, and that everyone should perform what I call the “Arm Length” test. Stand up straight and let your arms lie naturally at your sides. Locate the point where the tips of your middle finger hit your thighs and avoid wearing anything shorter than that.

During the Interview

7. Be friendly with people in the office

From the second you enter the building, take advantage of the wide range of employees you’ll be exposed to. Be kind, respectful and personable to everyone you meet and don’t be afraid to give a simple “Hello!” You showed up early, right? Of course you did! So chat with the receptionist while you’re in the lobby. Smile at people at their desks as you head to the interview room. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to talk to as many people as you can prior to your interview. Not only will it loosen you up, it will help you make an impression on people who, once you leave, will report to your potential boss how sweet and natural you seemed.

8. Focus on your interviewer

Eye contact is an essential part of the interview process. Looking around the room or scanning your surroundings throughout may give off the impression that you’re bored or not paying attention. The same goes for fidgeting. It’s distracting, unprofessional and comes off as nervousness. Instead, project yourself as calm, stimulated and focused.

9. Be yourself

I know, I know. This is easier said than done, but you should relax, act naturally and be yourself! There’s no need to use fancy language or be overly formal to impress your interviewer. Connect with them on a casual, yet professional, level. Now is your chance to show them how awesome and easy it would be to work with you.

10. Be honest

It’s tempting, but resist the urge to puff up your prior work experiences or exaggerate your skills. Doing so will cause big problems; you’ll be in a position you can’t handle and will be a waste of your employer’s time if you get hired. Chances are if you have to lie to get the job, you’re not suited for it.

11. Don’t get into salary or benefit specifics

Your first interview is not the proper time to inquire about salary or benefit specifics. Though it’s important to know these things, asking about them right off the bat can be off-putting and paint you as someone who wants the job for all the wrong reasons. Instead, focus on figuring out if the job is the right fit and spend time negotiating later.

12. Don’t get ahead of your role

Sure, you’re interested in moving up the corporate ladder. But avoid asking about “room for advancement” during your first interview. If you’re over-qualified for the position, search for a more fitting one. While you may think this says “I’m a go-getter!” to employers, it may come off as “So how soon till I get into some REAL work?” Remember – you create your own opportunities, so if you get into the position and want more of a challenge, do it on your own terms and the recognition and raises will follow.

After the Interview

13. DON’T send a thank you note

While thank you notes are a sweet gesture, they’ve never been the determining factor whether or not someone was hired for a job. Instead, send your interviewer an email thanking them for their time along with a reiteration of your relevant work experiences, enthusiasm and other factors that make you the perfect fit for the job. (Don’t know what those are? Go back to tip # 2.) Include any additional items you may have been too flustered to remember during your interview and really drive home the fact that they need you.

14. Know when to throw in the towel

Job interviewing is a lot like dating – if they’re interested, they’ll call. There’s no need for obsessive follow ups or emails inquiring about the status of your candidacy. In this competitive job pool, hiring managers are bombarded with applicants. Unfortunately, this means you may not even hear back about not being accepted. Just be patient and restrain yourself from being remembered as that “Stage 5 Clinger.” Because who knows – that person who got hired instead of you may not work out, and you may be getting a call for another shot at your dream job.

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