There are definite rules on how to interview that can help you make a great impression. Athletes have trainers and coaches who help teach them the correct way to compete in different situations. You, the job seeker, are no different. You need a coach or trainer. You need to invest some time into developing your interviewing skills just as an athlete would train and practice.
The job interview is the highlight of the entire job search process. You invest so much time and energy into your resume so that it can get you to this point. This is your chance for a one-on-one discussion with the potential employer and tell them why they should hire you. You must be prepared for this discussion no matter how great your resume is. Remember, once you get the interview, the resume has done its job.
This article will act as your personal job interview coach or trainer to get you started. Remember, you must learn how to make yourself stand out in the interview process and appear confident and qualified. Beyond the actual discussion at an interview, another big part is your interpersonal skills—that is, how you carry yourself and interact with others. Do you come across as friendly, do you smile, do you make good eye contact or stare at the table, do you offer a firm handshake, do you have enthusiasm and energy in your voice when you speak?
Step 1. Do Your Research Before the Job Interview
Congratulations! You have been invited to meet your potential employer. You should be excited because you made the cut! But now the hard work begins. You need to take time to learn about the company and the challenges it faces, as well as any recent news about them. In just an hour or two, you can research them on the Internet and take notes on the most important items you find. Do they relate to the position you are applying for at all?
Next, research a little further. You can use LinkedIn to find information about companies and the people who work for them. Often, you can find profiles on the people who might interview you. Read about what they have done at the company.
When you are done with your research, compare all of the information you have gathered against your background and experience. What comparisons can you make? Do you see a way that you can discuss your experience so it is directly relevant to their needs. Come up with several good related stories or examples can you tell them about in your interview. Companies are using behavioral interviewing techniques more and more, and want you to share lots of examples in answering their job interview questions. Don’t worry, if you are prepared, it will help your confidence in the actual interview.
Step 2. Know How to Answer Interview Questions
When people think of interviews, this is what they think about most. Or, should I say fear the most? Honestly, there is no way to know what interviewers will ask. You must prepare for the most common interview questions and have your answers ready. Behavioral interviewing is becoming more and more common, so make sure you have plenty of examples that you can talk about in the interview. You will want to share stories about handling specific types of situations or performing tasks relevant to the job you to which you are applying.
You need a coach to guide you along through your preparations. Take time to learn how to answer the most common interview questions the right way. Yes, there is a right way. If you take the time to practice, you will come across as confident and clear in your answers. I keep a list of the top answers to interview questions resources on my site for those interested. I know that any one of them will help you excel and serve as that coach you need to prepare.
Step 3. Your Key Selling Points
You must go into each interview knowing what key points you want to leave your interviewers with after you leave. Identify what will set you apart from the other candidates they are interviewing. You must remember this key point: the best qualified candidate is not always the one that is hired.
Make a list of the top three key selling points about yourself that will make you stand above the other candidates. Consider these to be your ‘win themes.’ They are the message you want your interviewers to remember about you. Take any opportunity to work these ‘win themes’ you’re your conversation and answers to interview questions. Much as a political candidate presents their ‘talking points,’ you also need to make opportunities to present your case within your interview question answers. Consider your ‘win themes’ carefully and know them well before you head to your interview.
Step 4. Practice, Practice, Practice
Athletes have coaches and trainers that work them hard. Without a personal interviewing coach or trainer to push you to prepare, you will have to discipline yourself to work hard. If you want to appear confident at your interview, you must invest time in preparation. Practice, practice, practice. And then, practice some more.
There are many different ways to practice, but you must do it. For example, you could sit in front of a mirror, practice with a friend or family member, or video record yourself. Only through actual interviewing practice can you become comfortable with your responses and identify any actions or habits that could seal your fate. Now is the time to learn what they are and deal with them. Some of the things you want to pay attention to as you practice include:
- Not making good eye contact with the interviewer(s). I have always been told to pretend there was a dot on everyone’s forehead and to look at that as you speak to them.
- Nervous twitches or actions, such as shaking leg, tapping foot or pen/pencil, licking lips, scratching head, sighs or deep breaths, etc. If you have these, keep them under control and be aware of them.
- Over use of hand gestures or facial expressions. These are good tools to show energy and excitement, but do not overuse them to a point where they become a distraction.
- Slouching or relaxing too much.
- Not being able to quickly and confidently form a great response to a question. Look for long pauses before answering, saying ‘Um’ or other delaying tactics. These are confidence killers. Create opportunities to work in your key selling points.
- Speaking too softly or, more commonly, too quickly. Find a nice volume and pace to speak so you are clearly understood.
- No enthusiasm or excitement. Avoid monotone speaking. You are talking about what you know best—you! Sell yourself to them and make them excited about what you have accomplished and what you can bring to their company. Tell interesting and exciting stories in response to their questions. Give lots of examples of similar things you have done to answer their questions.
A Final Thought
You got the job interview! Congratulations on this big accomplishment. Of all the people that applied for the position, you were at the top of their list – you made the cut. Now you must begin to prepare for the job interview so you can be confident. Be ready to answer common interview questions. Be ready to share stories about your experience that show them how you have handled similar situations. Your resume got you this far, and now you need to take this opportunity across the finish line. Be enthusiastic, energetic and confident. As long as you take the time to prepare, you will do great.
About the Author
David DeFazio has over 20 years experience in resume writing and recruiting. His blog, resumeremodeler.com, provides job seekers with advice,tips, and the best resources to land new a new job.