10 Realistic Interviewing Tips to Give You an Edge on the Competition
You know the drill: show up 10 minutes ahead of your appointment, offer a nice firm handshake, make eye contact, and smile…
This guide assumes that you’re familiar with the basics of interviewing, so we intend to suggest some “guerilla tactics” for improving your interview technique, learned on the front line of recruiting.
This may sound kind of basic, but in order to avoid being caught off-guard by the interviewer, it’s a good idea to create a list of specific on-the-job accomplishments that demonstrate your skills and how they relate to the position. Instead of simply stating that you take initiative, give concrete examples of how you have done so in the past. Real examples illustrate your skills and add validity to your statement of accomplishments. A specific story will make the interviewer remember you much better than if you offer only two-word answers.
Know What You Want
One of the worst mistakes you can make is to apply for a job when you have no idea what’s involved, or worse, you know what the job is but you can’t figure out why you are applying. In either case, this is a waste of your and the interviewer’s time. Even if you get the job, you’re unlikely to suddenly develop a keen interest in it. More likely, you’re going to quit in a few months and make a black mark on your resume. Careless jumping around between jobs could cost you in the future. The best way to avoid this situation is not to kid your self. Only apply for a job that genuinely interests you, even if it’s only a part-time position or temporary work. Work seems less like a chore if you enjoy it.
Bringing a pen, or at least something to write with, appropriate I. D., and a resume may all seem like common-sense reminders, but it is amazing how uncommon remembering them is in practice. Forgetting your past employers’ names and addresses can cause considerable embarrassment and conveys the impression that you are a disorganized person. Remembering to bring a pen, a resume and a list of references implies just the opposite. For instance, bringing a list of typed references to hand your interviewer transmits the message that you are a safe bet, that you are dependable and that you are organized.
The Interview Begins at the Door
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the interview only begins when you sit down on the other side of the interviewer’s desk. You are being evaluated the moment you arrive for your interview. Be cordial to the receptionist. Strive to be flexible if asked to wait or fill out paperwork. Your reactions are often used to gauge your personality. Remember, one of the key aims of an interview is trying to establish (after a necessary consideration of your skills) how well you would fit into the company mix. If you insult the receptionist, or become intransigent over filling in an application form, your career hopes with that company are likely to be short-lived.
Knowledge is Power
Find out as much information about the industry, the company, and the position as possible. Check out their website, go to the library, and ask questions! You’ll come across as someone who is prepared and interested in getting the job. Nothing makes an interview run more smoothly than being able to faithfully talk about the job, the industry and the marketplace as it relates to the company. Being knowledgeable conveys the impression that you will be easier to train, and therefore, makes you more employable. Likewise, nothing is likely to end an interview faster that an unprepared applicant. After all, once you’ve introduced yourself and dealt with the pleasantries, what else is there to talk about except how well you are suited to work for the company. It helps to know what the company does.
Interview the Interviewer
The right questions will implicitly demonstrate your interest in the position and your knowledge about the organization. Ask how the interviewer feels about a new product or a division of the company. Find out where people who have left the position have gone and if there is any opportunity for upward mobility within the organization. Ask what skills the interviewer thinks would benefit the position. Use the answers to your questions to generate a conversation. Target questions to identify the type of person the interviewer is looking for then become that person in your responses.
Discussions of the importance of body language come and go but it undoubtedly plays a big part in the way you are perceived by an interviewer. While you shouldn’t worry about individual movements (the idea that scratching your nose means you are lying is a fallacy when taken out of context) you should pay attention to the way you sit, listen and answer questions. Inappropriate responses whether verbal or physical will count against you and an interviewer will be forced to conclude the worst if say, you suddenly start wiping your forehead feverishly when asked about why you left your previous position. The best policy in most cases is honesty. Interviewers are capable of empathy and understanding, although it is not recommended that this become the sole basis of your interview technique.
The Weak Link
When an interviewer asks what your greatest weakness is, it’s tempting to respond with something like, “Well, I’m a perfectionist” or “I’m compulsively on time”. Avoid giving a pat answer – – they’ve heard them all before and they ceased to be amusing after the hundredth time. Instead, come up with examples that illustrate how you’ve been able to overcome past difficulties on the job. Perhaps you’ve been challenged delegating and have, as a result, become more stressed than you needed to be. Explain how you were able to enlist the resources of your co-workers in order to complete projects, giving everyone a sense of ownership, while alleviating your own stress. If you can, find a weakness that is double-edged, i.e. you tend to be overly critical of yourself but this also means you push yourself to do the best job possible at all times. Bottom-line: pick a genuine weakness and turn it into a strong interview response.
An Interview is a Conversation
Interviewing well is a skill and requires experience. One way to tell if an interview is going well is to look at it as a conversation. You need to develop a rapport with the interviewer as soon as the interview begins. At the end of the interview, assess your experience in order to improve upon it next time. Did the questions and answers flow easily? Did you feel comfortable talking or did you feel like you were being interrogated? Remember what the interviewer is really trying to establish:
1. Is this person qualified for the position.
2. Is this person trainable?
3. (and most important) Is this person somebody I could work with?
Most interviews inevitably finish with the interviewer asking if you have any questions. Don’t be shy. If you really think about it, you must have a ton of questions you would like answered. Write down a few of these in the days preceding the interview. You are applying for a job that entails a lot of commitment on your part. Wouldn’t you like to know what is in store for you? What are your future prospects like? What happened to the person in the position before you? Were they promoted? What are the company’s goals in the next five years? Questioning the interviewer gives you the opportunity to find out more about the company and clear up doubts about the suitability of the job. A good question also telegraphs a clear message to the interviewer that you are a smart individual genuinely interested in the job your applying for.
We hope these suggestions have been of some interest and entertainment. Feel free to print a copy of these guidelines when going to your next interview.