Master the Art of the Interview

How to Effectively Sell Yourself and Make Your Mark

Preparation, follow up, and professionalism are the keys to your success. Grab your coffee and let’s dive in!

First and foremost, start researching the company the minute you connect with someone from the organization. First impressions are lasting and so often, companies hire candidates only after collective feedback.  Be courteous and engaged with everyone you meet with.  Show up to the interview with plenty of time to spare, and make sure you are ready. If the interview is virtual, be sure to open the link 5-10 minutes early to sort out any potential tech issues prior to the interview starting.

While each job is different, interview preparation remains standard.  First off, find a common ground for an ice breaker! Scan the room of your interview. We all have personal items in our office spaces that reflect a little bit about who we are. If you see something that you can relate to, let it be an icebreaker or a conversation starter, and don’t be afraid to say something about it.  The more at ease you are, and the interviewer is, the more you will get out of the interview. 

Once you have settled in, most interviews start off with a little “get to know you” exchange. You’ll often hear, tell me about yourself.  That answer does not come easy for everyone, especially off the cuff. What should you say?  Do I dive into my dogs, my kids, or my love for the Eagles? 

Rehearse your 30 second elevator speech that captures a little bit about who you are as a professional.  The more you have rehearsed your 30 second speech ahead of time, the easier it flows.

Find out all you can about the organization, from the company’s earliest days to its recent growth, information about their leadership, recent press releases, or the organizational structure.  The internet is your best friend.  Make sure you clearly understand the job description’s roles and responsibilities and look for other employees who hold similar positions within the company on LinkedIn. As you are doing your research, write down several impactful questions to ask during the interview.

With every question you plan to ask, think about how you would answer that question if it came back to you.  An interview is an opportunity to showcase your skills that will immediately benefit the organization.

Make sure you understand what the hiring manager needs so you can spend time focused on discussing your most relevant experience that will be critical for the position. Always make sure your answers reflect the roles and responsibilities. 

The result of an interview does not solely rely on all your technical training and experience, but your cultural fit is equally as important.  Are you driven, organized, prepared, professional, respectful, timely, engaged, humble? These are just a few reasons why we hear well qualified candidates don’t get hired. 

Make sure to let your positive traits shine through.  It may be a one-step interview process, or it may be multiple steps, meeting with several individuals. It is so important to bring your “A” game to every one of those interviews, and to be courteous and respectful to everyone throughout the process.  

Oftentimes, it’s a small world, and you may find people at organizations that you have worked with in one way or another somewhere else.  Make your first impression with this new organization a positive one.  Show up on time for interviews and come prepared.  Don’t let a hesitation or two while interviewing impact your delivery during the interview. 

As a candidate you want to be chosen for the role and whether you decide this is the best opportunity for you or not, you want to make sure that decision is left for you to make. Whatever decision you make, you will have left a positive lasting impression.


DO’S AND DON’TS OF INTERVIEWING


Do:

  • Prepare to discuss career changes and your career progression.  While answering these questions, it is so important to remain positive and respectful towards past and current employers.
  • Convey why you are interested in the role. Your reasons for interest in the opportunity should stem from what you have researched about the organization, the role itself, and why this opportunity aligns with your professional goals
  • Show your excitement and let your passion for what you do shine through. Be clear in your answers and professional with your responses.  Companies look to hire individuals who have a positive impact and who are enthusiastic about what they do.
  • Think about what you do at work, how you affect change, and how you impact the organization. What are some of your greatest accomplishments and challenges?  What are your most valued and critical responsibilities? We are limited with time in an interview, so it is important to emphasize the skills you have that will be crucial for this new opportunity.
  • Close the interview!  Close the interview by thanking the interviewers for their time, and make sure to reiterate your interest. Finally, ask them if there are any additional steps.


Don’t:

  • As you become more comfortable during the interview, don’t let your guard down. Refrain from obscene language and remain professional throughout.
  • Don’t ramble. It is great to be conversational. You want to provide good details with every answer you provide, but don’t dominate the conversation and focus on being clear with your examples.
  • You can do the job, and confidence in that is important and key to a successful interview; however, overconfidence/arrogance is an immediate turnoff.  It is important to show a sense of humility during the interview. If you don’t have experience with something, be honest about it and don’t let that be a sticking point.  The best way to overcome something you don’t know is to share something transferrable that you do know.
  • Never ask about salary or benefits in your first interview!  If salary is asked of you, you can share what was asked on the application or shared by your recruiter.  A recommendation is to use your recruiter as a sounding board for salary discussions/negotiations.

DRESSING AND PREPARING FOR THE INTERVIEW

  • Dress to impress.  If you opt out of wearing a full suit, choose a jacket/blazer, dress shirt and pants, or a dress. A clean, well-groomed appearance is so important. Leave the perfume & cologne for another day, spit out your gum, and turn the cell phone off.
  • Bring something to write with, the questions you prepared in advance, and a couple of clean copies of your resume.
  • Know where you are going, plan for traffic, and bring along contact information in case of an emergency. Ideally, arrive at least 15 minutes early, and DO NOT BE LATE!
  • If interviewing via Teams, dress as if you are going to an in-person interview.  Make sure that your sound and camera are working.  Test out your signal and the link well ahead of time. Make sure you are in a place where you will not be interrupted.
  • Don’t get too chummy. It is nice when there is an immediate, friendly connection with the interviewer, but don’t get so relaxed and comfortable that you start to appear less professional.
  • Have a nice, firm handshake and make good eye contact.  Do your best to remember the names of those you meet with, and if at all possible, get their contact information/business card, and offer yours as well.
  • Relax, be yourself, be confident yet demonstrate/show a sense of humility.
  • If interviewing via phone, make sure you are in a place where there are no distractions.  Don’t take an interview while driving.  Not every circumstance allows for a dedicated space, but put yourself in a situation where you can have undivided attention for the interview.
  • Send a thank-you note.  Should it be by email or handwritten? Both. Here’s why: The email gets delivered instantly and when the company is interviewing several candidates, speed counts in distinguishing yourself. A handwritten thank-you card has a personal touch that is valued highly by many companies but it relies on snail mail. Write and send both the same day as the interview.   Make it personal and incorporate a nugget of information from the interview. It doesn’t have to be long – just a couple of sentences will do. And don’t use the exact same text in both the email and the card. You will set yourself FAR ahead of other candidates with this simple act.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT AHEAD OF TIME

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What do you like to do in your spare time?
  • What do you like most about your job?
  • Describe 2 or 3 of your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • What is most important to you when looking for a new job or working for a new Manager?
  • Tell me about a difficult situation you encountered, and how did you handle it?
  • Tell me about a time when a project you worked on did not end with a result you wanted.
  • What has been the biggest challenge for you in your career?
  • What impact have you made in your current role or for companies you have worked for in the past?
  • Tell me about your leadership style and what do you feel is most important when leading your teams?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years and/or what are your short and long-term goals?
  • Do you enjoy working alongside others and tell me about your experience working with other teams.
  • What do you like most about our company, and what has driven your interest in working here?
  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • Why should we hire you? 

Having your resume ahead of time, the manager has already formulated an opinion of who you are before you walk in that door and a few minutes into the interview they have developed a strong sense as to whether you are a strong candidate.  This first impression is greatly impacted by how engaged you are, how you answer those first few questions, and how prepared you are.  Your goal is to get to a conversational level.

Remember that an interview is a two-way street. While the interviewer is assessing you as a candidate, you are also assessing the company as a future employer. The more relaxed you are, the easier it will be for you to ask your questions and to answer the tough ones. 

When you prepare well ahead of time, you will inevitably be confident in your knowledge and relaxed during the interview.

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If you have an interview scheduled, there's a lot to consider and prepare for. We're here to help with that, and sell yourself the most effectively to get your dream job.

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