08th February, 2016
Much has been written about the successful job search, but there is always one constant – you need to “nail the interview” or series of interviews in order to get the job. Throughout my career I have seen countless examples of job seekers with stellar credentials, well suited to the job they are applying for, scratching their heads when they didn’t receive the offer they expected. Recruiters and hiring managers will tell you that in 99 of 100 situations the reason a great candidate did not get the job offer was because of something that happened, or didn’t happen, during the interview. You can benefit by not making the same mistakes and applying the following interview tips into your job search “tool box”.
1. PREPARATION is key. Interviewing is a skill that can be developed and enhanced. Practice with others; familiarize yourself with different interview styles (e.g. behaviour based; case interviews); anticipate and practice responses for difficult questions, so you won’t be caught off guard during the interview. The more practiced and prepared you are the more confident and effective you will be.
2. KNOW the job. Make sure you read and understand the job description. Understand the distinctions in job titles and functions. Just this week I had several investment banking recruiters tell me that they are tired of interviewing candidates who don’t know the difference between Sales and Trading and Equity Research. Research the company and the broader business sector in which it operates. Be prepared to relate your experiences and skills to the elements of the job you are applying to. If you are transitioning to a different field, think about examples from your prior experiences that are applicable.
3. Although you have heard this before, dress appropriately for the job. Arrive a few minutes early and allow extra time for travel delays. Turn off your cell phone and avoid it at all costs during the actual interview.
4. Be nice to everyone. From the moment you walk in the building, smile, be respectful, personable and professional at all times. You want anyone who interacted with you to remember you in a positive way
5. LISTEN. Most job candidates are understandably a little nervous during an interview situation and tend to focus ahead on giving a good answer rather than focusing on the question and its context. This often results in incomplete or “off-target” responses.
6. Emphasize “articulate brevity”. Keep responses short and focused on the question. Certainly you want to be engaging and thorough, but be careful not to drone on. Include examples and incorporate actual circumstances and outcomes whenever possible in your responses.
7. Always stay positive. Never badmouth a former supervisor, co-worker, or organization in an interview situation. The world is small and you never want to burn any bridges or, even more importantly, give the impression to a potential employer that you’re given to negativity and inappropriate criticism. Always focus on the positive aspects of any situation.
8. Have a few great questions to ask when the interview is winding down. Don’t ask things that you can find the answers to easily. Make sure your questions demonstrate your knowledge of the company, the broader field, and your longer-term goals as they relate to the job you are applying for.
9. Know the next steps. Before you leave the interview be sure to find out what the timetable and next steps will be. If you don’t hear back within that time period, follow-up so you know where you stand. In following up always remember the “Three P’s” – patience, persistence, and politeness.
10. Send timely and personal thank you notes. Keep track of the people you met by noting their names and titles or asking for a business card. Sending notes by email is very acceptable – try to send them the very same day to demonstrate your enthusiasm and organizational skills. Always express your thanks, highlight a few of your greatest strengths relative to the job, and reaffirm your interest in the position.
There are never any guarantees in the challenging job search game but maximizing your interview skills and preparation always makes you a stronger contestant!