To Impress in a Job Interview, Think Like an Interviewer

To Impress in a Job Interview, Think Like an Interviewer

If you’ve had several job interviews, but no job offers, there are steps you can take to improve your odds of success. After many years of hiring as well as helping people prepare for job interviews, I’ve noticed a pattern of behaviors based on what interviewers are trying to assess with each conversation. Following are key points that can make a big difference in how you’re perceived as a candidate:

  1. APTITUDE

    Demonstrate your ability to learn. Always review the company’s website. Read recent press releases, company history, product/service portfolio, marketing materials. If you can answer the following questions, you’ve done a good job preparing for the interview

    • Why does this company exist?
    • How long has it been in business?
    • Where are its locations?
    • What are its products/services?
    • Who are its customers?
    • What themes are highlighted in recent press releases?
    • What are the company’s values?
    • How does the company define its brand?
    • Does it have a tagline?
    • Do you understand each buzzword mentioned on their website? If not, look it up.
  2. ATTITUDE

    Be positive. Think about why the company would be lucky to have you as an employee. Think about  aspects of the company that impressed you (rapid growth, positive perception in the marketplace, happy employees, conducive office environment, customer satisfaction measurements, market leadership, etc.) Do not let traffic delays, bad directions, inefficient receptionists, or any of the day’s annoyances disrupt your smooth demeanor. Show that your feathers are not easily ruffled, that you get along with others, and that you don’t hold grudges. Demonstrate that you’re low maintenance. No one likes a complainer.

  3. EASE OF INTERACTION

    Make a phone interview a pleasant experience. Ensure a quiet environment. No barking dogs, doorbells, lawnmowers, TVs, etc.  DO NOT use a speakerphone. Avoid using a mobile phone, if possible. Anything that muffles your voice, disrupts a signal, or creates background noise will cause unnecessary stress. Sit up straight, even when on the phone. Take a deep breath and smile before answering the phone. Speak at a pace similar to that of the interviewer. Don’t rush your answers or speak too quickly. That could make you sound nervous or stressed.

  4. PREPARATION

    Come up with 3-5 questions for the interviewer in advance. Ask something strategic (e.g. corporate growth strategies for reaching the consumer market), something tactical (challenges in filling this position), and something personal (what do you like most about working here). Have questions written down in a notebook to show you’ve done your homework.

  5. LOGISTICS

    If interviewing in person, identify the location on a map and enter the address into your phone at least one day ahead of time. You should know exactly where you’re headed and how much time to allow to get there. Don’t just aim to be on time; make a point to arrive 15 minutes early. You can always spend extra time reviewing your notes.

  6. FOCUS

    DO NOT check text messages or emails during the call or interview. DO NOT answer call waiting (yes, some people actually do this). Your inattention will speak volumes. Make eye contact. Avoid being distracted.

  7. PROFESSIONALISM

    Dress in a crisp, well-fitting dark suit with unscuffed, like-new leather shoes. No loud colors, statement jewelry, jingling bracelets, giant necklaces or humorous ties. Do not make a fashion statement other than to appear polished. Make sure you and your clothes are clean and fresh. Do not wear any perfume, aftershave, or overly scented products. (No one has ever complained that someone didn’t wear enough cologne.)

  8. VALUE

    Don’t assume the interviewer has read your resume. Prepare an elevator pitch about your background and experience. Have three key points you’d like to make about the unique value you bring to the organization. Have several examples in mind of difficult challenges you overcame. Be able to recite specific, measurable achievements. Practice your answers.

  9. COMMUNICATION

    Speak clearly and succinctly. Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t drone on and on. Don’t feel the need to fill every  blank space of conversation. Don’t mention previous bad bosses, politics, religion, ex-spouses, money, benefits, or sensitive news topics. Do not use slang or foul language. Some people mistakenly use curse words to build rapport.

  10. CURIOSITY

    Ask follow-up questions. If the interviewer mentions a term you’re unfamiliar with, ask what it means. Don’t pretend to know everything. No one does.

  11. BODY LANGUAGE

    Sit up straight. Don’t slump in your chair. Lean slightly forward. Leaning backward may give the appearance of being disengaged. Don’t fidget with your hair, pen, tie, notebook, fingernails, watch, ring phone, etc. Don’t look around the room. Look at the interviewer.

  12. RESILIENCE

    You may be competing with in-house candidates, or the interviewer could be just shopping around without intending to hire you. Whatever the backstory, don’t take it personally. Try and learn from each experience to be even better prepared for the best possible job in the future.

A Reminder

Remember: it’s not all about you. The interviewer is thinking, “Will hiring this person make ME look good?” Identify the interviewer’s care-abouts and demonstrate how you can make a positive impact. Provide statements that can be used to brag about you, e.g. “She has an MBA in economic development, speaks fluent Spanish and Mandarin, lived in China for three years, and went to college at age 16.” You get the picture. Now go get the job.

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