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Ace the Interview by Being Prepared and Presenting Yourself Well
Acing a job interview is the goal of everyone who goes through the ritual of sitting down with a hiring manager with the aim of securing a position. While having the right qualifications for a job is very important, it does not automatically mean you will be offered the job. Face it, if they have called you in for an interview, they are already thinking you are qualified to do the job based on your experience and background. The interview is an opportunity to get answers to questions the hiring manager has about your experience and background. It is also a chance for the hiring manager to assess your personality and ability to fit into the work culture. The good news is that this situation puts you in the driver's seat to make a positive and lasting impression on the person seeking to fill a position.
The Obvious Job Interview Advice
There are things you should obviously do to ensure you ace a job interview. First off, dress the part. Do what you can to find out what the work culture is like at the place you are interviewing at and make sure you dress accordingly. Ensure your clothes and hair are in good order before entering the location where the interview will take place. Be a few minutes early for the interview. Being late is a big negative. It tells a hiring manager that you are not good at keeping your commitments, are not all that interested in the position, and generally don't respect their time. Greet the interviewer with a smile and a firm but not too firm handshake. A good first impression is important. Be cheerful, and speak clearly and concisely. Come across as a person that they would want to work with. Stick to the questions asked of you and be prepared to ask your own questions.
1. Research the Position and Company
Make sure you research both the position and the company. This is of paramount importance to excel during an interview. One of the things you need to do to ace an interview is connecting with the interviewer and instill confidence in them that you are the right person to fill the position. It is important to demonstrate your knowledge of the position and the company. It demonstrates to the hiring manager that you have a strong grasp regarding what the position entails and have a sincere interest in working for the company since you understand what they do. It will also put them at ease regarding hiring you, as it makes you appear prepared, engaged, and proactive.
2. Be Prepared to Answer Questions
If the interview follows the typical script, the hiring manager will ask you some of the standard interview questions. Practice your answers beforehand with your spouse, or a friend or relative. Think of brief stories to go along with your answers, as they will enhance one of your answers. Stories not only lighten the atmosphere, but they also help you connect with the interviewer, and can create a lasting impression with them. Telling a good brief story will make you stand out among the others being interviewed for the job.
The following are examples of good ways to answer some of the typical interview questions:
- What can you tell me about yourself? This often leads an interview and is used as an icebreaker. Instead of going into your life story with a lot of personal details about yourself, be concise and discuss your work history and a brief synopsis of the highlights of your career.
- Why do you want to work here? Do not make your answer all about your personal goals and desires. You can briefly include them, but ensure that you mainly focus on the value you will provide your future employer. Hiring managers want employees that will contribute to the organization and make their jobs easier to perform.
- What are your greatest accomplishments? This is a good question to use brief stories to provide answers. Do not just run off a list of your accomplishments. Talk about how you saved a prior employer money by coming up with a better way of doing things, or how you rose to a challenge and used a creative way to meet a deadline, or how you improved a relationship with an important customer.
3. Ask Questions During the Interview
Asking questions during an interview is a great way to impress an interviewer. It indicates that you are really interested in the job and want to know more information about the job and company you will be working for. As someone who has been on the interviewer side of the table, I can say from personal experience that when a person being interviewed does not ask any questions, even when prompted whether they have any questions, the job candidate is quickly relegated to the bottom of the pile of those under consideration. A lack of questions indicates a lack of real interest in the position and a lack of personal insight. Asking questions will not only impress the person interviewing you, but it can also provide you with important information regarding the position that will help you when you need to follow up on the interview or make a decision whether to accept a job offer. It also can help you to connect with the interviewer and instill confidence in them that you are the right person to hire.
The following are examples of good questions to ask during an interview.
- What role will I be playing in the company and your department?
- Please describe the culture of the company.
- I read that the company is moving into a new field. How can I get involved in and contribute to this new expansion? (If applicable)
- What do you see as the most challenging aspect of this job?
- Is there potential for growth in this position?
- Can you tell me more about the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?
- I have a question about the job requirements? (ask for clarification about any of the job requirements you don't fully understand)
- What are the next steps in the interview process?
Do not ask about salary or benefits at this point in the interview process. The time to ask these important questions in the final stages of the process, as you want to be able to use them to negotiate your salary or benefits with a Human Resources person or the hiring manager.
4. Present Yourself as an Achiever That Will Be a Positive Asset
Do not make the interview about your desire to land a position with the company and how it will help your career. It may be what you are naturally thinking and want to share, but taking this approach can make you appear to be self-centered and uninterested in being a team player. Turn the tables around and explain how you can help the company achieve its goals.
When asked about prior work experience, do not just run off a list of tasks you have done in prior positions without any context. Make the interviewer understand that you are an achiever, that you accomplish important assignments given to you, that you make a positive difference and are a results-oriented person, and you intend to continue to be an achiever for their organization. Include relevant quantifiable information, such as how much you increased sales, how much you saved the company, or how many tasks you completed within a deadline. This will help them envision how you will be a positive asset to their organization.
Explain some of your career accomplishments, how they have helped prior employers, and how you intend to continue to accomplish things for the company you are seeking to work for. If they ask you why you want to work there, make it about how you want to use your work experience and abilities to help your future employer achieve their goals and how much you like doing the type of job you are seeking.
5. Leave a Positive Impression, Send a Thank You, and Follow Up
Just as first impressions are important to ace a job interview, so are last impressions. Make sure you thank the interviewer for their time and let them know you look forward to hearing from them. Failure to do so may leave the impression that you are not interested in the position. Be ready to provide an answer if they ask you when you can start, and try as best you can to be flexible.
Send them a thank you email within twenty-four hours. This not only reminds them about you and shows you are interested in working with them, but it can also be an excellent opportunity to summarize and reinforce your work experience and strengths. It can also be used to add a few positive aspects of your experience and strengths that you may have forgotten to mention during the interview.
It is best to find out the appropriate time to follow up at the end of the interview when asking about the next steps in the interview process. If you fail to do so and have not heard from the hiring manager within a week or two, send a gentle follow-up email, or if appropriate, call the person directly. You will have to gauge which approach is most appropriate for the situation. A hiring manager that is obviously overloaded and hard to contact may not appreciate being interrupted by a call. However, direct communication can be a powerful way to connect with a hiring manager and could provide you more insight regarding where they are with their hiring decision. Keep in mind that there can be delays in the internal hiring process. Following up is a good way to not only remind the hiring manager of your interest in the position but can also provide valuable insight regarding when a final decision will be made regarding filling the position.
Acing a Job Interview Poll
How to Ace an Interview: 5 Tips From a Harvard Career Advisor
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 John Coviello
Liz Westwood from UK on December 30, 2018:
This is a useful guide for any interviewee.
Ken Burgess from Florida on December 29, 2018:
Good article, for those who have not been through the process a few times.
A person's education and experience should weigh considerably in the interview.
For many years now, I consider all 'interviews' negotiations.
The first part is introductions, getting to better understand what they are looking for, what they need, who they are (the interviewers) in the business (if they are going to be your boss, or if they hold some other function).
I will often ask more questions than the interviewer, that can be a turn off if the person who is interviewing you is themselves unsure or unexperienced... but that can be good to know, if they are going to be your boss... the last thing you want to do is work for someone who doesn't know how to do their job, or you might be stuck doing their job for them, while they reap the rewards. Or they will consider you a threat to their position once they realize you are more capable and know more about the job than they do.
There are a lot of 'bad bosses' out there, identify them ahead of time in the interview, so you can save yourself from grief down the road.
The 'interview' is where YOU decide if you want to work for them, want to do the job, how capable are you of doing the job, etc.
I have walked away from more than one interview knowing I didn't want the job and didn't want to work for that person, and I wouldn't have taken the position if offered.
Once you decide you want the job, and are willing to work for the person, now comes the NEGOTIATION... its your job to REPRESENT your interests, you need be paid, and receive the benefits you want/need, so have that agreed to upfront... or else be willing to walk, and not take the job.
Always remember you work for yourself, its your reputation, your career, your time. If you are not looking out for your best interests, its doubtful anyone else will do it for you.