I’ve interviewed dozens of candidates over the span of my career. Below is a list of attributes from the ones that stood out the most. As a manager, I can tell within the first few minutes if a candidate isn’t prepared and it shows. However, if a candidate is fully prepared, after the interview I would feel like. “Wow, I just had an awesome conversation with a talented individual who really wants the gig.” Those resumes went straight to the top of the pile! You too can ace the interview and get closer to landing the offer by following these 12 commandments.
1. Research the Company – Seems obvious right? You’d be surprised how many people I’ve interviewed who didn’t do this very simple thing! All they knew was the name of the company, the industry it was in, and the fact that we were hiring. This is nowhere near good enough. The candidate who can recall recent company news will stand out and be better prepared to have the interview flow more like a conversation. One of my favorite resources for company research is Glassdoor! You’ll get honest feedback and insight from former and current employers about the company’s culture, career tracks, and salaries.
2. Research the Industry – If you’re going to interview for a major fashion magazine such as Elle or Vogue then you better be able to speak to the fashion magazine industry as a whole. Who are the top players in the fashion industry i.e. who are Elle’s competitors? Who is Elle’s target audience and how do they consume content – online or offline? If you don’t know these basics then how do you plan on becoming a change agent at the company? Research, research, research.
3. Research the Position – You should have an idea of what you will and won’t be doing in the job function. This knowledge will facilitate your ability to make the interview be more conversational and less formal (managers love this!). Is frequent travel required or will you spend most of your time at a desk? Are your clients external or internal? Will you work nights and/or weekends? A lot of these questions can be answered if you research similar positions in similar industries. This research will give you good material to discuss during the interview. This step will also help you with #4 below.
4. Prepare Questions – I can’t emphasize enough that the questions you ask are going to be just as important as the questions they ask you! It should be a two-way conversation. Without coming off as too aggressive, they should feel like you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. You want the employer to feel like you have done your research, are enthusiastic, and want to learn more about the company and position. That doesn’t mean you should ask about vacation days and their work-from-home policy. It means you should be having an engaging conversation about your experience, the company, and the position. FYI, if you have completed steps #1 – #3 then you should have plenty to talk about!
5. Dress Comfortably – Today is not the day to wear a brand new dress or pair of shoes that have yet been worn in. Let’s put down the pantyhose that cuts off your circulation at the waist. The last thing anyone wants to see an interviewee doing is shifting in their seat or sitting on the edge of their seat because they are afraid they are going to split the seam in their one size too small skirt. Keep the focus on you and not your discomfort.
6. Tailor Your Makeup, Perfume, & Accessories – Unless you are interviewing at MAC, to be a stylist, or for Vogue, I would recommend passing on bright red lips, dramatic lashes, multi-colored attire, and a dozen gold bangles. As I mentioned in #5, you want to keep the focus on you and not your accessories. Also, a lot of people are allergic to perfumes so the last thing you want is for the hiring manager to have an allergic reaction.
7. Be On Time – If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re 5 minutes ahead of schedule, you’re punctual. If you arrive 10 minutes ahead of schedule, you’re on time. Enough said.
8. Be Confident and Enthusiastic – Of all the candidates I have interviewed in my career, the ones that stood out were the ones that made me feel like they were excited to be there! They were probably excited because they prepared and were ready to go! It’s totally okay to be nervous. But if you come off as disinterested or unprepared then your interviewer will check out or end the interview early. You don’t want to make the employer feel like there are other places you’d rather be or that you don’t have any confidence because you simply didn’t prepare. If you’re just looking for any ol’ job then it will show and ain’t nobody got time for that! There is so much investment of resources that go into new hires so a manager needs to feel confident and secure that your work ethic won’t be sub-par due to lack of interest or preparation.
9. Review Top Interview Questions – So you know those annoying, “Tell me about a time when…” questions? They are behavioral questions and guess what? They are indeed going to ask you so be prepared! Be ready to share stories about your successes in previous organizations. Even failures result in growth and learning so don’t hesitate to share about a time when things didn’t go your way. As long as you also share what you learned from this failure and what you will do next time to have a better outcome. The key with these types of questions is to be specific. Discuss projects that you worked as an individual and as part of a team. Focus on aspects that illustrate you are a good team player and will do what is necessary for the better of the company. Oh yeah and don’t talk bad about prior manager or coworkers. It’s messy and will rub your potential employer the wrong way.
10. Bring Collateral – Did you run a successful campaign in the past? Have you put together awesome PowerPoint decks or financial analysis? Print those babies out and bring them in your briefcase. It might be odd to lay them across the table before the interview. However, when you are describing your past experiences, don’t hesitate to let the interviewer know that you have samples of your prior work. Depending on the position and hiring manager it might be what seals the deal for them. (Architecture much?)
11. Bring References and Govt. ID – Hiring managers don’t have time to waste so if the interview goes well they may ask you to provide references and government-issued identification the very same day of the interview in order to get the ball rolling on next steps. This is a good thing! Don’t cause any further delays by coming unprepared. That will allow room for another candidate to come in and take your spot.
12. Send a Thank You Note Within 24 Hours – Not the day after the tomorrow or next week. The same day (or the following morning). Don’t copy and paste a generic note that you find on the internet. It will be obvious and disingenuous. Be original and include content specific to the interview to show that you were engaged (#4) and are enthusiastic about the position (#7). A note with a personal touch will stand out from the rest of the competition.
Did I miss anything? What else have you done to prepare for an interview?
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