GUEST POST BY APRIL KLIMKIEWICZ
Bad interviews are the worst. You’re not sure why they’re asking certain questions, you don’t know how to answer other questions, you’re worried you’re not coming across as professional, and you aren’t sure if you’re making a connection with the people you’re interviewing with. An interview that starts out okay can hit a road bump, and the resulting lack of confidence can send the rest of the interview into a nosedive.
I’ve interviewed a lot, on both sides of the table. Not only have I been an interviewee, but I’ve been an interviewer for over 14 years. Having the opportunity to work in the field of Career Development for many years and staffing teams of Career Counselors and Advisors have given me an intimate look at interviewing from many different angles:
I have taught countless people how to interview
I have taught college level courses with interviewing classes, components, and projects
I have trained career counseling staff on how to teach others how to interview
I have worked in Human Resources where I recruited, hired, and onboarded new staff
I have been a hiring manager
I have sat on numerous hiring committees
From all my years of experience, I want to share my top interview tips. I think you’ll find this list surprising and useful.
The number one thing that will help you feel less nervous during an interview is confidence. If you’re confident and you’re conducting yourself in a way that the real you comes across, you’re golden. The list below walks you through various methods and tips so you know just how to put your best foot forward on your next interview.
1 | Think Like An Employer
If you were hiring for this position, what would you look for? What qualities, skills, and demeanor would fit this position best? Take some time to think to yourself and write down a list of qualities, attributes, skills, and your own personal accomplishments that fit.
Here are some ideas:
For a sales position, you would hire someone friendly, outgoing, and who seems relaxed talking to new people.
For a content writer, you would hire someone who writes really well, so a good cover letter and portfolio of work would go a long way.
For a management position, you would want someone who is able to balance managing people and projects and who is communicative with higher-ups.
Take some time to think about what the ideal candidate for the position you’re interviewing for would look like. Who would you hire? And be sure to highlight those skills and attributes during your interview.
2 | Study Up
Interviewing is scary, and just winging it is a recipe for disaster. If you’re prepared, you’ll be much less nervous and much more confident when the day of the interview arrives. I suggest studying as if you’re studying for an important exam.
Hopefully, you wouldn’t walk into a comprehensive final exam without having studied. Similarly, you shouldn’t walk into an interview without thinking about what questions you might have to answer and practicing them.
What are they likely to ask? What are the common interview questions? What questions are related to your field or profession, or the specific work you’ll be asked to do?
How would you answer each of these questions? Write down your answers, and study them. The good news is, it’s all about you, so it should be easy to remember!
Go through the questions and practice answering them out loud. It’s amazing how differently things work when we write them out versus when we speak them out loud, so actually practicing your answers out loud is a game changer. Bonus if you can practice in front of a friend, partner, or family member for feedback.
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3 | Be Yourself & Consider How You Fit
Do you want to work in an environment that is professional or casual?
Do you want to work with people who get together after work to hang out or who just part ways to do their own things?
There are certain things that make you feel more comfortable and fit who you are, and there are lots of different ways to be in this world. It makes so much more sense to work for a company whose culture fits you than one that doesn’t. So, do some research beforehand. What is this organization about? How do the people who work there dress and interact with each other? Do your best to demonstrate the parts of you that fit the culture. Instead of pretending you’re someone you’re not during the interview, let the real you shine through. Remember that getting this job (or not getting it) doesn’t define you.
Remember, whether or not you get this job, even if it’s a really sweet gig, it is NOT the measure of you as a person. Making sure you actually like not only the work, but the culture of the organization goes a long way in ensuring your career happiness.
4 | Take Notes
You don’t often find this tip on a list of what to do during an interview, but I’ve found it to be super useful. Be sure to remain engaging and focused foremost on the conversation, but feel free to take down a note here and there when necessary.
Taking notes is a win-win, and here’s why: when you’re taking notes, you’re letting the person interviewing you know that what they’re saying is important to you. And a bonus – when it’s time to write your thank you note, you’re not racking your brain trying to remember specifics of a meeting in which you were hopped up on coffee and nerves.
Not sure if taking notes will fly? Just ask in the beginning if they mind if you jot down a few notes during the interview.
5 | Figure Out How To Answer Tricky Interview Questions
Tricky interview questions are the worst!
You’ve probably come across a weird question during an interview where you’ve wondered, “What the heck does that even tell them about me?” Being blindsided in an interview is the worst because you’re already nervous and trying to remember all the great points you want to bring up to show them you’re a perfect fit, and now, BAM: “What sort of animal would you describe yourself as?” rears it’s ugly head. Now you’re left looking like a deer in headlights. (Hint: Compare your best qualities to the qualities of the animal or object they’re asking about.)
Figuring out how to answer common as well as tricky interview questions will leave you feeling confident. Practice helps!
When you’re asked a question you just didn’t prepare for, it’s okay to take a few moments to think about the answer. This isn’t a timed test, so take 30 seconds or so to compose yourself and determine why they are asking the question and what they might want to know from you.
The right interviewer will appreciate that you’re thinking about your answers.
6 | Make A Meaningful Connection
What are the things that make you feel connected to another person? A shared hobby? A love of travel? A passion for volunteering?
If the interviewer drops a hint that something is important to them, and you also happen to be into that thing too, it doesn’t hurt to mention it when the time is right. Be careful, though. You don’t want to get caught out pretending you’re into something you don’t know very much about. If you’re interested but aren’t necessarily versed in the topic, you can always say you’re interested in knowing more about it, and hopefully that person will take the hint that you’re opening the door for them to share more about themselves and their interest with you.
Also, take a hint from what’s around the office. How is it decorated? Are there photographs, paintings, memorabilia, or decorations? If you notice something that strikes a chord with you, mention it.
Maybe there’s a picture of a dog on their desk, and you have a dog, too. When there’s an opportunity to mention it, you can say you noticed the picture of their dog, you have one at home too, and ask a question about it. Or maybe there is a photograph of them snowboarding, and you ski, but you’ve always been nervous to try snowboarding. Mentioning that could get a good conversation going, too.
There are usually little things around the office or workspace that can give you insight into the interviewer’s personality. Bringing the human element into the interview can help them see you as human too, with a dog just like they have, rather than just another interviewee.
7 | Ask Questions
Because interviews are often structured and there are a lot of nerves people deal with the day of the interview, it can be hard to convey that you are really interested not in just getting any old job, but specifically in this position with this employer.
One way to demonstrate true interest in the position and the organization is to ask well-thought-out questions that show you’ve done your research and you have interest in the future of the organization and your future with them. You absolutely want to have questions prepared for the end of the interview, but if it’s a more conversational interview, you can always ask questions about projects they mention or goals for the organization that come up naturally in conversation.
Asking meaningful questions and engaging the interviewer in a conversation will leave the employer knowing you’re interested for all the right reasons.
8 | Avoid Discussing Salary
It’s the interview, and salary very often comes up. If the employer shares the salary range with you and asks if it sounds good, you can let them know if it sounds good or if it’s out of the range you’re looking for. There’s no sense in wasting everyone’s time if they’ll never meet your salary minimum. There’s also nothing more to talk about at this time if it’s in your range or over.
Discussing salary before they’ve decided they want to hire you could sway the decision. On the other hand, once they’ve decided you’re the person they want to hire, and they’ve made you an offer, this is the time to discuss dollars and what makes sense in terms of benefits, perks, and time off. Because they’ve already decided they want you, they’ll be more willing to work with you around salary, benefits, equity, and perks, if they can.
9 | Follow Up Like A Boss
Following up after the interview is super important, and I’m not just talking about a thank you letter.
Some places take longer than others to make a hiring decision, so you want to come across as professional, interested, and helpful even after the interview is over and the thank you note is sent.
Calling or emailing to check in and follow up is a good idea, but doing it right is key so you are seen in the best light and continue to remain a viable candidate for the position.
Asking a question like, “Have you made a decision yet?” can make you come across as desperate or pushy. Instead, “I just wanted to check in and let you know I’m still extremely interested in the position with your organization,” comes across as helpful and confident.
10 | Relax
If you’re preparing in advance, you’ll have enough time to take a break from serious interview prep the day before your interview. Do something that makes you feel good. Exercise, get a good night’s sleep the night before, and find some time to take a few deep breaths to get yourself focused and centered. You’ve practiced, you’re prepared, and you’re ready to rock the interview!
Use the resources available to you, such as a career coach, and schedule a mock interview for practice before your next job interview!
Schedule a mock interview with April, our trusted career coach, here...