If you are trying to land that dream job and you have finally gotten an interview, then you should congratulate yourself! Of course, you may be thinking that the job search was the easy part because now you actually have to sell yourself face-to-face to a prospective employer. For some, that is terrifying. Even if it’s not, you are much more likely to receive a job offer if you are prepared to confidently answer common interview questions and showcase what you have to offer.
Because the interview process can be a little intimidating, let’s start with some easy tips to master your interview before moving on to some that require a little more time and effort.
Dress professionally for the interview
See? You’ve got this one covered. This tip to succeed in a job interview is all about presentation. In fact, you almost want the interviewer to overlook how you’re dressed because it is so appropriate that it doesn’t call attention to itself. For women, a nice business suit, dress, or slacks and blouse can suffice. A tasteful amount of jewelry is okay, but limit the bling. For men, a nice suit and tie, or business slacks, shirt/tie can do the trick. If you’ll be doing a tour of the facility, it’s advisable to wear professional but comfortable shoes. Generally, you will know how corporate to appear based on the job you are applying for, but even for more casual companies, it is a good idea dress “up” for the interview – you can always dress down later. Of course, you will also want to have your hair and beard well-groomed, nails attended to, and make sure you are protected against unwanted perspiration without being overly perfumed.
Arrive early and be prepared
Here’s another easy tip to improve interview performance. Even if you have to sit in your car for a few minutes before you go in for the interview, be careful to give yourself plenty of time to find the location and park, allotting for traffic and weather. Arriving in the reception area 5-10 minutes early is considered appropriate. You will also want to bring along a professional pad portfolio filled with extra copies of your resume, job application, job description, portfolio of work, or any other documents they may ask for. It always looks good to be prepared, even if they aren’t. If your interview is not face to face, we have plenty of tips on mastering your virtual interview.
Master your body language
Many of us don’t pay attention to our body language, but it speaks volumes. That’s why during the interview, you’ll want to make sure your body language is communicating the right message. For example, sitting up straight and leaning forward or sitting on the edge of your seat slightly will let the interviewer know that you are attentive and assertive. Also, it is imperative that you maintain eye contact throughout the interview, even if you’re an introvert. This will demonstrate confidence and interpersonal connectedness. Next, listen closely and engage fully. Avoid letting your mind drift to what you plan to say next, not only because it’s easy to spot, but also because you’re bound to miss something important. Another body language giveaway is a nervous tic, such as nail-biting or shifting in your seat. If you have one that is noticeable, you may want to spend some time getting it into check before the interview as it can make you seem uneasy or lacking confidence. Finally, make sure your handshake is firm but not overpowering. Just as importantly, be sure to look the interviewer directly in the eye when you reach for and shake his/her hand.
Research the company you are interviewing with
Now we’ll cover some of the more time-consuming tips to succeed in a job interview. It almost goes without saying that you will want to find out as much as you can about the company. Not only will this show the prospective employer that you took the initiative to do so, but it will also equip you with information for answering questions or when asking questions of your own. Explore the company’s website to learn everything you can about their mission and vision, facility, services, products, corporate culture, and staff. Also evaluate how it markets itself to the public. For example, if it is a family-owned business that prides itself on service, you can highlight values and experience you share and demonstrate how you would fit well into their culture through the role you are applying for. Also be sure to closely examine the job description and your resume so that you can discuss it intuitively. In addition to showing them you’ve done your homework, referencing details about the organization and the position throughout the interview will let the prospective employer know that you are truly interested in working there.
Prepare for common interview questions
This may be the most important tip regarding how to prepare for an interview. When devising your answers, make sure that each one displays confidence without arrogance. If asked to self-evaluate, be honest but always end on a positive note about how you learned in a situation or how you have taken steps to overcome a weakness or challenge. Frame each of your answers in a work-related context and provide concrete examples as often as possible. Don’t forget to sprinkle your industry knowledge and information about the company/role into your answers, as well.
Here are some common interview questions, to provide tips for answering these and more challenging interview questions.
- What experiences and skills make you a great candidate for this position?
- What has been your most meaningful work experience?
- What do you look for in an employer? or Why do you want to work here?
- Describe a major workplace problem you've encountered and how you handled it.
- What qualities make you a team player?
- What are your career goals, and how do you plan to achieve them?
- What is your greatest strength/weakness?
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are you passionate about?
- Why are you leaving your current job?
It will serve you well to be extremely familiar with the content of your answers so that you can interject any component when questions are thrown your way.
Formulate questions for your interview
Towards the end of the interview, many interviewers will ask if you have any questions about the position or the company. Even if they don’t, you will want to naturally insert some inquiries into your discussion, so don’t come unprepared. Unless your interviewer brings them up, you should probably avoid questions about compensation, benefits, and career advancement opportunities until a second interview, though you should have an answer in mind should he/she inquire what your salary requirements or career goals are. Also avoid topics like religion, politics, and personal information. Instead, questions should center around specifics of the job, how the interviewer sees your skills or talents being used to further the company’s goals, and details about the company culture. If you noticed any red flags while researching the company, ask about them tactfully without framing them in a negative light. Finally, before you ask a question, ensure that it hasn’t already been answered in the course of the interview.
Do a mock interview
Now that you have mastered the tips to improve interview performance, it’s time to test how prepared you are with a mock interview (or two or three). Find a friend or colleague who is aware of your job search and ask them to help you practice. You can provide them with some of the common interview questions along with a few uncommon ones, give them a copy of the job description, let them know what you’re hoping to accomplish, and have at it. It might be a good exercise for you to play the part of the interviewer a time or two, as well, so you better understand their perspective and discern how to make the interview a more natural conversation. Mix up the questions each time and have some mental bullet points and anecdotes that can be modified on the fly so that you are prepared for any scenario. Run through it as many times as you need to in order to feel comfortable and have your answers flow easily.
Be yourself in the interview
At the end of the day, this job could be your home away from home for the next several years, so you want to make sure you will be content with the company and the position. That’s why it’s important to allow your personality to show through during the interview in a professional and appropriate manner. Be true to your personal brand. The company is looking to hire a person, after all – not a machine. So, relax, take a deep breath, and insert your best self into your answers and discussion. Respectfully treat them like a person, as well. Afterwards, objectively evaluate if the company is a good fit for you, not simply if you are a good fit for the company. Life is short – you don’t want to wind up in the middle of a nightmare while trying to land that dream job!
Ottawa University's online degrees
If you discover that you need further education for the career advancement you’re seeking, Ottawa University can help you explore the benefits of earning an online degree so that you are prepared for the job – as well as the interview. Contact an enrollment advisor for more information!
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