Few things in life cause as much anxiety as job interviews. Think about it: you’re being asked to “audition” for the opportunity to earn a living doing work for somebody else. As a job seeker, you must convince an organization that you are A) qualified, B) responsible, C) better than anyone else they are interviewing before they’ll give you an opportunity to prove your worth as an employee. All of that before you’ve even been paid a dollar. That’s enough to make anyone want to avoid a job interview like the black plague!
Interviewing has a bad wrap, and for good reason. Nobody would chose to interview for a job if they didn’t have to. Having worked in the recruiting field for over 17 years, I’ve helped coordinate thousands of job interviews for candidates, and have seen my fair share of interviews gone belly-up. At the same time, having navigated so many job seekers through the interview process, I’ve developed a system that can help turn even the most skittish job seeker into a world-class interviewer.
Here are just a few of the key job interview tips I share with candidates prior to their interviews. I hope you find these useful, and, as always, feel free to email me with any specific questions you might have about interviewing.
Know who and what you’re interviewing for
This one seems like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen job seekers arrive for an interview without having done any initial research on the organization they are interviewing with.
That doesn’t stop with general research on the company. Savvy interviewers always take a few minutes prior to their interview to look up the profile of the individuals they are interviewing with on LinkedIn so they have a better idea of their background and experience. Knowing these details ahead of time can help you build rapport with your interviewer, which in turn will set you apart from other candidates who don’t bring this personal knowledge with them into the interview.
Most importantly: always be prepared to answer the question, “why would you want to work for our company?” If you’re not sure, pick out something from the company website that jumps out to you (ex: “I really like the company’s corporate social responsibility policy”, or “the executive team really seems to have a strong background in the industry and I want to work for a team that knows what they are doing!”
Be prepared to ask questions
True or false: during the interview, you should simple answer the questions the interviewer is asking you, then wait for them to ask another question.
Interviews are meant to be dynamic exchanges of information between parties, not one-sided Q&A sessions. In order to keep a steady flow of information between you, the job seeker, and the person interviewing you, you need to come prepared with questions.
For example, what do you want to know about the company? The team? The job itself? Asking good questions demonstrates curiosity, a trait every hiring manager is looking for in the people they chose to hire. Not only that, but by asking questions, you’ll set yourself apart from other candidates who merely “go through the motions” of the interview by simply responding to questions and not presenting questions of their own.
Remember to make sure your questions are “open-ended”, not “yes/no” questions. Frame your questions with “how” or “what” to give the interviewer an opportunity to expand on their answer, as opposed to just providing one-word answers.
“Close” on a next step
Surprisingly, this one often gets overlooked during the interview. After you’ve completed the conversation, you thank the interviewer for their time, they thank you and tell you they’ll be in touch. Then, you leave the interview and sit around waiting to hear back from them, often to no avail.
Is that because you failed the interview? Not necessarily. It could be as simple as you not taking the time to “close” the interviewer on the next step in the process. What do I mean by that? Let me explain.
Ever been on an interview and asked the interviewer at the end of the conversation, “what is the next step?” If you’ve gotten that far, congratulations – that’s more than most! Perhaps you’ve been met with a formulaic response like, “we have a few more people we’re talking to” or “we’re just getting started in the process.” That kind of response can often leave us feeling dejected, but don’t take it personally. Hiring managers are busy people, and often times fickle with their decision making. And that’s where you come in.
If you’re not getting a “buying sign” from the hiring manager at this stage of the interview, now would be a perfect time to ask them for the next step. A great way to do that is to say, “who else on your team would you like me to meet so they can evaluate my skills and experience?” Or, if that seems to forward, you can say, “I’m really interested in the position. What would be the next step in the process?” If you’re given a generic response, or worse, brushed-off (either directly or indirectly), it’s ok to ask the interviewer if they have any concerns about your ability to be successful in the role. In other words, based on our conversation today, what would keep you from hiring me for this position?
An easy way to frame that would be to say, “I’ve enjoyed our conversation. Can you share any concerns you have about me as a candidate for this role?”
You’d be surprised how often the interviewer will tell you any concerns they have. For example, your lack of experience in a particular area, or your gap between jobs, or the fact that you’ve been self-employed for the past five years. Whatever the case, when armed with this knowledge, you can mount an offensive attack by addressing their concern in your follow-up/thank you email.
Of course, these are just a few of the many job interview tips I share with members of the Top Biller community. For more tips and tricks like this, make sure to subscribe to the Top Biller newsletter.