Tips for Interview Success

Bring your A-game and Ace that interview.

With unemployment on the rise and scores of people competing for a limited number of jobs, it’s never been more important to streamline your job search process for success. Many people say the toughest part of the job search is landing the interview—and this may be true since employers are faced with mountains of resumes for each job opening. However, that doesn’t mean you can sit back and rest on your laurels once you get the interview. Your resume got your foot in the door and the interview is your opportunity to close the deal. Here’s how:

BEFORE THE INTERVIEW

Do your homework. Do some research to prepare for the interview. Learn as much as you can about the company’s history, mission, objectives, and future plans. In addition, find out as much as you can about the company culture. This research will serve you well during the interview—when asked why you want to work for the company, you’ll have plenty of background to provide an informed answer.

Familiarize yourself with the position. Re-read the job description and be prepared to provide detailed answers regarding why you are a good fit for the position.

Practice makes perfect. There are countless books and websites that provide thorough lists of potential interview questions. Familiarize yourself with the most common interview questions and rehearse your answers. Enlist a friend or family member to conduct a mock interview to help you prepare.

Reduce your online footprint. Most employers will do their own online research to find out more about you. If you use social media and networking sites, be sure to lock down your privacy settings. Even with the most secure settings, be careful what you post on the Internet. In fact, you may want to consider disabling or hiding your profiles during your job search.

THE INTERVIEW

Arrive on time. This should be obvious, but it always bears repeating. Be prepared ahead of time. If possible, do a drive-by of the interview location a few days in advance so you know where you’re going and don’t have to navigate new directions on the big day. Arrive at least five minute early, but not more than ten minutes early.

Dress to impress. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Your research should have given you a good idea about the company culture and attire. Dress accordingly—and comfortably. Go easy on the perfume, or forego it altogether.

Turn off all electronic devices. The last thing you need is for your phone to ring during an interview. Power everything down so that you can focus 100 percent of your attention on the task at hand—nailing the interview.

Come prepared. Bring extra copies of your resume and/or portfolio, especially if you’ll be interviewed by a team of people who might not have seen your resume yet. Also, bring a notepad and pen and take notes. This sends the message that you care—and also will help you remember details after the interview.

Be yourself. It’s tempting to check your personality at the door and put on a serious game face, but that’s not necessarily the right approach. Smile and make eye contact. Relax, be yourself, and engage in the conversation. Sure, you’re nervous—but you’ll interview better if you treat this like a natural conversation. So, take some deep breaths and smile—it will help you feel confident and seem approachable.

Ask questions. Asking questions demonstrates that you’re engaged in the conversation and reinforces your interest in the job. If you’re really interested in the position, you should have a few questions for your interviewer. Remember—you’re interviewing them too. The whole idea is to see if you are a match—it’s kind of like a first date.

Keep it positive. Never badmouth a former boss or supervisor. Never. It’s unprofessional and only makes you look bad. Just don’t do it.

AFTER THE INTERVIEW

Send a thank-you note. It’s amazing how many people overlook this simple step in the interview process. Take the time to write a brief note thanking the interviewer for his/her time and reinstating your interest in the position. Thank-you notes leave a lasting impression and can often help you float to the top of the list if an employer is deliberating between several candidates who might be a good fit. Use your judgment to determine whether an email or a handwritten note is important. Whichever method you choose, do it within 24 hours of the interview.

Follow up carefully. Once you’ve interviewed and sent your thank-you note, you’ll need to wait patiently. The interview process can be long and laborious with some companies. You may not hear back from them as quickly as you’d like, but be careful with how you follow up. It’s a fine line between showing your interest and being annoying. You don’t want to cross over that line.