The U.S. economy is strong and that’s great news for job seekers because companies are hiring! However, it’s still a competitive job market and those who have the best interview skills are going to get the best jobs. Being good at a job interview is a skill that can be learned. Here are my seven keys to a killer job interview:
Do your research. Start with an honest assessment of your own social media such as Facebook. Assume that an interviewer will search your social media (many will) and that the photo of you on spring break competing in a limbo contest with a beer in both hands will not help create a best first impression. The photo with you and your family having Easter lunch…perfect!
Next, spend some time researching the company with an eye towards being able to discuss three to four topics related specifically to the company and its operations. For example, “I see that you have operations in three states. I’d be happy to work at any of your offices.” Essentially, you want to know enough about the company to be conversational about its operations and offer specific reasons that you’d be a good fit. Finally, if you know who will be conducting the interview, see if you can find out about them and look for commonality…something you can use to make a ‘connection’ with the interviewer.
Dress for success. The last thing you want is for your appearance to be a distraction from the first impression. Let’s be clear, every interviewer will have an instant first impression based on your looks. Yes, you may be able to overcome a poor first impression with a great interview, but why lay a hurtle out that you must overcome. How you ‘dress for success’ will depend on the particular job you are seeking but if you’re unsure what’s appropriate lean towards more conservative and more ‘dressy’.
Be 5 minutes early. Don’t be 30 minutes early; don’t be ‘on-time’; and definitely don’t be late. I strongly recommend that you plan to arrive on site thirty minutes early just to make certain you can arrive for the interview five minutes early. Stay in your car and review the notes you have for your interview.
Understand this: The interview process begins the moment you step through the company’s doors. My partner, Greg Weyandt, CPA, does the interviews for our company. After a recent interview, he asked our receptionist for her impressions of the candidate. Her response was, “His social skills are awkward”, which confirmed Greg’s own opinion.
Show confidence. Going on a job interview can be a very nerve-racking, intimidating process. Nevertheless, the best jobs will go to the folks with the most confidence. This starts with posture; a firm handshake; looking people in the eyes; as well as how you communicate. If this is not your strong suit, I suggest that you practice. Find a family member or friend and practice the whole interview process from start to finish including mock interviews.
Ask good questions. Don’t expect the interviewer to carry the full interview. You’ll want to be prepared with questions related to the job responsibilities, the opportunities for advancement as well as be prepared to discuss why you are uniquely qualified for this job. Be clear that your job is to sell yourself. When I was twelve-years-old, my father put me out in a neighborhood with a box of aerosol-type cans used to put out stove-top fires and told me, “Son, don’t come home until you sell them all”. I’d ring the doorbell and my conversation and sales pitch went something like, “Would like to buy this?” I quickly learned that being a cute, skinny, baby-faced kid was not enough. Discouraged, but not defeated, I went home and developed a new conversation oriented towards my audience and became a selling success.
Be sure to ask for the interviewer’s business card before you leave.
Say ‘Thank You’ with a hand-written note. Writing a hand-written note is almost a lost art which is exactly why it leaves such a strong impression. It doesn’t have to be a long note. Simply tell the interviewer that you enjoyed meeting him or her and thank them for their time while expressing your admiration for their company and how excited you’d be if you had the opportunity to work there. Your note needs to be neat and legible. If you simply can’t write legibly, send a typed, hand signed letter. Your note should be written and mailed within one day of your interview.
Don’t forget to follow up. You have a lot of time invested in this interview. Be sure to make a follow up phone call within an appropriate time frame. The interviewer may give you a time-frame. If not, do so in one week. Remind them who you are; when you had your interview; and that you are very interested in working for this company. Also, add how you feel you can add significant value for the company. Note, if this must be done through a voice mail, be concise and be sure to leave your call-back information.
The world needs you, your enthusiasm and your skills, so use these seven keys and go get your dream job!