Interviewing is a skill you develop over time and conscientiously aim to strengthen and hone, just like your resumés and cover letters.
It is the all-powerful first impression – first look, first handshake, perhaps even the first spoken word. The most detrimental thing you can do is underestimate its power.
Dress professionally even if you know the work environment is casual. Better to be over-dressed in a suit than under-dressed in jeans. For men, the dress pant with dress shirt combination is a great alternative to the traditional suit. For women, a pant-suit, a knee-high skirt (no shorter) with a dress shirt or nice sweater. If possible, ask someone who works at the company what would be appropriate to wear.
Know the company, industry and job description. Check out the company’s website and be sure to make use of Google. Searching the company’s name, key employees at the organization and industry keywords will undoubtedly supply critical information. Understand the position you’re interviewing for, especially the skills emphasized in the job posting.
Eye contact and a firm handshake. The handshake only lasts a couple of seconds so make sure you’re not wimping out. Focus on eye contact and nodding your head while the interviewer is talking, using these visual indicators to demonstrate that you are interested. Also, lean forward and rest your arms on the table in front of you (if applicable) as opposed to leaning back in the chair. When you lean back, it can relay disinterested and laissez-faire body language.
Be engaged! Talk to the interviewer(s) as though you mean it, as though you wholeheartedly want this job. Lean forward, gesture and show your drive, passion and zeal for the position. Be excited, responsive, and animated so you are memorable.
What you can do to put yourself over the top:
Prepare for behavioural questions. Interviewers often use behavioural questions that typically begin with, “Tell me about a time when…” The aim is to get the interviewee to describe the situation and then outline the task, the action and the result – also known as STAR. STAR is the most recommended method to use when answering these types of questions because its formula helps you effectively answer all aspects of the question.
Practice! Whenever I’m prepping for an interview, I always research first with written notes and then practice, practice and practice. It will help you speak intelligently about yourself on-the-spot, but don’t overdo it. That is, do not attempt to practice every interview question under the sun because you might end up over-thinking things. Exercise moderation and common sense.
Practice with someone, particularly someone who will be brutally honest and offer constructive criticism. This is the time to leave the sugar-coating and niceties aside, and work with someone who will be able to provide helpful advice and tips, point out your quirks and speech impediments, and ultimately help you improve.
My pre-interview rituals:
Review language, keywords and action words right before leaving for an interview so those keywords are fresh in your mind and will be easy for you to call upon at the perfect moment. Trigger words can include: leadership, initiative, teamwork, manage, co-ordinate, etc. Look at the job posting for ideas.
Come up with five past experiences from work or school that can demonstrate results, progress, the use of hard or soft skills, and/or things learned. Think about previous projects, tasks, mandates, teams, conflicts, etc. Have these well-thought out so you can easily and readily call upon one of these examples if ever you are caught with an unexpected question.
Finally… always remember to breathe.
What are some of the things you do to prepare for an interview?