“Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised” – Denise Waitley
This advice is golden and happens to apply perfectly to the frequently dreaded and often misunderstood interview process. Here are 14 interview tips for you to work into your job search and interview game.
1. Follow Instructions
Details matter! If the instructions say to send your resume in PDF format (PDF is the standard btw) to the manager, then do exactly that. The instructions are about showing that you can pay attention to detail and recognize that if they have asked for something specific.
Speaking of resumes, as you save your file in the PDF format, make certain that you give it a title that includes your name and resume such as “John Smith Resume.pdf”. You would be surprised how many resumes I receive that are simply titled “Resume”.
The instructions are all about passing the first test.
2. Spelling and Grammar
From the minute that you send your resume, respond to interview questions, and even the submission of the thank you note, everything is being considered. This means that spelling and grammar matter.
3. Do Your Homework
You’ve probably heard this before, but doing your research is an absolute must before an interview. This means looking at the company website, reviews, or social media presence to get a idea of who their company is. Most hiring managers are looking to weed out candidates, so take the time and give the company a Google search. Extra points if you can tie something about the company to a personal goal, value, or interest during the interview.
4. Be Kind
Let’s be real – internal staff talks to each other. Always be kind because you don’t know who is watching. In particular, be kind to the receptionist. Receptionists deal with all sorts of people and can quickly evaluate what kind of employee you are by observing what you do in the waiting room and how you interact with them.
5. Highlight Your Experience
Most people don’t like to brag on themselves, and that’s OK! But the interview is your time to shine. Talk about volunteer roles, relevant projects, how support the community, or how you overcame hardship.
Demonstrating a range of experience not only makes you more memorable but also gives you a lot more material to work with. The key is to focus on highlights, and how your experience directly applies to the position you applied for.
6. Dress for Success
Sure, it would be nice to think that hiring decisions are based on your experience and personality alone, but we are all human. Professional dress shows a level of care and can show personality. Just… don’t show too much personality. If you aren’t sure what to wear – ask your recruiter!
7. Take Charge
The interview is kind of like marketing. No matter what you are asked, you want to make sure that you are pushing the conversation towards you most interesting and professional highlights. Before the interview, make a list of talking points and find a way to touch on these. If you forget to add something, include this in your final answer or final question some way. It’s OK to say… “Also, one thing I wanted to add is…”.
8. Master Your Final Question
Hiring managers will always end the interview with “So, do you have any questions?” Have a prepared question ready and make sure it’s not boring. The final question is a great opportunity to get creative, dig a little to assess company fit, and leave them with a positive impression.
9. Be YOU
Something you within your past job history or something you said landed you the interview. As such, don’t lose your personality by following a script, but rather treat the interview as a conversation.
You don’t have to be perfect in the interview. It would be weird if you were. Be prepared but also be yourself.
10. “What’s your greatest weakness?”
The hiring manager actually did it, they asked: “What is your greatest weakness?”. Unfortunately, too many hiring managers ask this standard (cringe worthy) question. That doesn’t mean that you should offer a standard answer. Two bad responses would be: “I don’t have any” or “I’m a perfectionist”. These responses are boring and overdone.
The key is to know your weaknesses and give examples how you have overcome them. It’s super obvious when you’re just trying to please the interviewer.
11. Reference Check
Yes, most hiring managers do in fact check your references and they carry a heavy weight to your interview process.
It is important to be respectful of your references time by giving them a heads up that a call might be coming, as well as to prep them on what might be best to highlight. It is also a good opportunity to assess if the reference is still a good fit.
Helpful hint: recent professional references look way better than 10+ year former colleagues.
12. Back it Up
As important as storytelling is in an interview, a great way to set yourself apart is to make sure that you back your stories with data/metrics. This means that if you’re stating that an action that you took made a significant difference to a company’s performance, back it up with numbers.
Use percentages, dollars, or other measurables to show your success and value.
13. Less is More
Sure, the interview is technically about you, but hiring managers don’t necessarily want to hear your entire life story. They are looking for the right fit, what value you bring, and what type of person you are.
Be respectful of your interviewer’s time and energy levels by coming prepared with questions and being direct with your answers.
14. The Follow Up
Saving the best for last – the follow up. Sending a thank you message is a great way to leave a positive impression and provide confirmation of genuine interest to the hiring manager. Be very respect in your delivery and thank them for the time they took to speak with you.
Even if you don’t get the job you interviewed for, it will ensure that you are memorable, and potentially open different opportunities in the future.