Ace the Interview and Get the Job With These 14 Tips
After countless applications that involved personalizing your resume and cover letter for each potential employer (you are doing this, right?) you finally got the big job interview. It’s not time to celebrate, though, because you still need to ace that interview and bag the job.
The key to excelling at the interview is seeing it as more than just a 30-minute-long chat. Of course, the main component is the interview itself, but acing it is a process that starts days before you ever put your backside in the manager’s hot seat.
Research, Research, Research
Any good interviewer will ask you to speak about the company you’re interviewing for. Generally, he or she will ask you what you know about it, but some will go even more in-depth with their questioning.
Employers these days are not looking for just warm bodies — they want people who are engaged in their jobs. Part of being engaged is knowing the company, and if you won’t take the time to at least know how long the company has been in business or about the products it offers during the interview process, there is no way you’ll maintain interest once you’re on the payroll.
This is a quick-kill method for any skilled interviewer: If you know nothing, you’re gone.
Get Some Questions Ready
You’re not going to learn everything through research, so you’ll want to ask a few questions to show you are interested in learning more. Find holes in your research and use those to formulate questions about the company in general.
Some great questions include:
- “What are the company’s key goals this year/quarter/month?”
- “What are the company’s key deliverables?"
- “What are some of the company’s most recent successes?”
You’ll also want to develop questions about the role. Some questions I like to ask include:
- “Is this a backfill role or new growth?”
- “What level would this role report up to?
- “What are some of the key performance indicators in this role?”
- “What is the hiring timeline for this role?”
Plan Your Arrival Ahead of Time
The last thing you want to do is wake up for your noon interview at 10 a.m. only to find out your meeting is at the company’s other office two hours away, not in the office around the corner.
Verify the office’s location on a map. Then choose a departure time to see what the projected traffic is around the time of your interview. This is one battle in the war of being on time and making a great first impression.
You’ll also want to check for other nuances in the route — unpredictable construction delays or roads that could close due to bad weather — and leave some extra time for these.
Get Lots of Rest
Wait until you actually get the gig before you start celebrating. Instead of going out the night before and coming home late, hit the sack early and get some much-needed sleep.
This will ensure you’re awake and ready to deliver a stellar interview.
This also helps prevent the dreaded “I overslept” excuse that few hiring managers will tolerate.
Wake Up With Time to Spare
Don’t be that person — you know, the one who rises at 10:30 for an 11a.m. interview. Give yourself at least two hours before you’re scheduled to leave your house or before the phone interview.
This gives you ample time to prepare and make sure nothing has changed ahead of the interview.
Yes, you may be able to get ready in 20 minutes and be stuck staring anxiously at the clock for the next 1 hour and 40 minutes, but in the off chance something goes awry, you’ll be thankful you had that spare time.
Dress for the Gig You Really Want
If you’re interviewing for an editor position, you likely don’t really want that position. Be honest with yourself — you want that editor-in-chief role.
You’ll have to work your way up to that, but it’s a good idea to dress for the role you want, not the one you’re interviewing for. You’d be shocked how many managers remember this small detail and reach back to it when it comes promotion time.
This applies to video interviews too. Don’t think that just because you’re at home you can do the interview in your Superman jammies. At the very least, put on a good shirt and jacket, and style your hair. The bottom half is optional, but I recommend the full outfit just in case you stand up during the interview.
You never know, that suit you wore just may convince your soon-to-be manager you’re ready for a promotion earlier than anyone expected. Worst case, you impressed the manager with your incredible sense of style and respect for the office.
Yeah, I am reaching back to grade school for this one. If you have a significant other or a roommate, have them play the boss while you play the interviewee.
This will not only calm your nerves, but it’ll also help you memorize your questions and notes you wrote after researching.
It may seem silly, but it could be the difference between crushing the interview and being crushed.
Bring everything you need for the interview and maybe even a few things you’re not so certain you’ll need.
- A few must-bring items for any interview include:
- A clean notepad – not one with doodles all over it
- A functional pen and a backup pen for when that one breaks.
- A few sticks of gum to chew before the interview – bad breath is distracting.
- A clean, crisp copy of your resume.
A quick note on chewing gum: Yes, chomp away before the interview because bad breath makes a terrible first impression. But do not chew it during the interview. Either swallow it (sorry grandma, it’s OK to swallow gum) or toss it in the trash before meeting the interviewer.
Leave Time for the Unexpected
Leave for the interview 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
I know, you planned and planned again, so why leave early? Because you just never know what may happen. Maybe you get a flat tire. Maybe traffic gets unexpectedly heavy. Maybe you get stuck behind the dreaded school bus that seems to have an infinite number stops.
Don’t let any of this ruin your chances of acing this interview. There is no harm in showing up 30 minutes early. If anything, it shows you’re interested in the position.
Treat Everyone You Encounter With Respect
This point is massively important because you just never know who the hiring manager may pull in on the decision-making process. I have seen many managers ask the receptionist how the interviewee acted in the waiting area.
When you meet the receptionist, greet him or her warmly, and clearly state what you are there for and the person you need to see. Once the receptionist contacts the interviewer, thank him or her and grab a seat. Keep in mind, you may be waiting for a while, so patience is key: Don’t blow up on the receptionist because the manager is 30 minutes late.
Even if you happen to encounter someone in the elevator or walking into the bathroom, just be courteous, smile and say, “hello.” You never know who the person next to you may be.
Don’t Deliver a Swampy Death Grip
When the hiring manager finally comes out to greet you, it’s time to make that first impression. You are dressed for success, there early and clearly prepared. Now’s time for the good ol’ handshake. Forget what grandpa said about squeezing the life out of someone’s hand to prove you’re superior.
A firm, confident grip and a rigid wrist is all you need — don’t leave the manager crippled from your death grip. This will make it hard for him or her to sign your paycheck after you get the gig.
It’s also perfectly fine to be a bit nervous — managers expect it — but please wipe the sweat swamp from your hand before shaking. Just a quick pant-leg swipe ought to do, and no one will ever notice.
Make the Interview a Real Conversation
Too often I have sat with a prospective employee and had him or her do nothing but answer questions. This told me nothing more than the person is good at responding.
Instead of yes or no answers, turn your answers into long-form ones that can spawn other conversations. Getting into a real conversation with the interviewer shows how great it would be to work with you. It also gives you a chance to feel out the manager to see if you would work well with him or her.
When the manager asks you open ended questions about yourself, like what makes you a great remote employee, don’t give some ho-hum “I am dedicated” response. Show the manager why you’re dedicated with examples and situations you’ve been in. I, for example, like to bring up that I have been with the same remote client for nine years and another for four years. This is a quick way to show that I am both dedicated and trustworthy.
Finally, use your body and eyes to your advantage. Never sit cross-armed and looking away from the manager during an interview — this gives you a nasty aura. Keep your arms at your side or rested on your legs and use them to show you are animated — of course, try to avoid any Kramer-style flailing. As for your eyes, I recommend 75-80 percent eye contact during the interview. Anything more is just creepy, and anything less makes you seem distracted or insecure.
If your interview is on the phone, make sure you wait your turn before speaking. Give the interviewer a full second before replying to any questions just in case he or she has more to say. Use your voice as your body language by changing your tone and sounding energetic. And avoid “um” and “uh” like the plague. If you are stumped by a question or need a sec to gather your thoughts, fill the dead space with other things, like:
- “Wow, great question.”
- “No one’s ever asked me that.
- “That’s something I never had to think about.”
Make Them Remember You
This is one that requires special consideration, as too much is just silly and too little is forgettable. One prospective employee sent a package filled with company-tuned swag. It was cute, but it ultimately ended up in the trash and she was not hired.
Instead, close the interview with a great question or leave the hiring manager with a statement that makes you stand out.
Don’t be afraid to highlight your talents here and explain to the manager how you plan to use these skills to better the company. Tread lightly, though, because you do not want to come off cocky.
Find contact information for the hiring manager and send him or her a friendly note showing your appreciation for the opportunity and reinforcing what you can bring to the company one last time.
The key to delivering a great follow-up note is being humble and concise. The manager likely has little time to read fluffy thank-you notes, so a quick four or five sentences should be just the right length to remind him or her just how awesome you are and that you’re stoked about the job.
The last thing you want to do is come off rude or assuming. Too many follow up email read something like this, “Well, it’s been three days since our interview and I haven’t heard back, so I assume you are not interested. If you are, though, I would love to speak with you again.”
No — just no. That is a sign of insecurity and shows your passive aggressive side.
Don't blow a good interview on the last step. Send a great note and seal the deal.