You applied to your dream job and was invited to come to an in-person interview. Congratulations! You are almost there, but you have to ace the interview. So what is the best way to prepare for your interview and land that dream job? Here are 8 tips for a successful job interview.
Research. Research. Research.
One key way to impress and interviewer or search committee is to research key details about the company. It is common for an interviewer to ask what you know about the company or how you perceive the company’s position in its industry. Candidates that are able to speak intelligently about a firm’s mission, values, goals, and competitive position are immediately given a gold star for the time and effort to research the company.
Know the Job Description
This falls in line with the first tip. Print out a copy of the job description for the position you are being recruited to fill. Review and underline specific skills the employer is looking for. Try to identify skills or key words that are mentioned several times in the job description. Strategically crafting your answers to questions that emphasize these skills may give you an advantage in the interview.
Prepare for Common Interview Questions
Every “how to” article or book has a list of “common interview questions.” Take a look at any of these lists and create your own list of questions you’re most likely to encounter based on what you know about the job. After preparing your list, create a transcript of your answers to each question so you won’t have to guess or think about them during the actual interview.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
Writing an answer to a question and memorizing the answer is one thing, but saying it out loud and sounding convincing is another challenge altogether. The first time you rehearse your answer in an audible format you will more than likely sound unsure or confused. It may be clear in your mind, but it may not come out that way. Practice another 10 times, and I promise it will sound smoother and more precise.
Another good way to rehearse is with a friend. You can practice interviewing each other and get a taste of what it feels like to be the interviewer and interviewee. Upon finishing the rehearsal, give feedback to each other. Go for four or five rounds and switch roles as you go.
Master the First Five Minutes
Studies have shown that interviewers and search committees make their minds up about candidates within the first five minutes of an interview. The rest of the time is spent then validating that decision by how well the candidate does in the rest of the interview. What can be done within the first five minutes to solidify your spot as a top candidate? First, ensure you arrive early for the interview and are dressed properly. First impressions are lasting impressions. It’s an old adage but still true. Be enthusiastic when greeting the interviewer or committee. Smile and shake everyone’s hand. Express appreciation for the opportunity and make a positive statement about the company. Energize the room, but don’t overdo it. It’s an art and when mastered, you will wow the interview team within the first few minutes.
Prepare a Portfolio of Your Work
I am of the opinion that portfolios are not just for artists. I think every job candidate should prepare a portfolio when attending an interview. Unfortunately, most do not. Every time I have shown up with my portfolio, the interviewer or committee was blown away! Why? It shows a level or preparation that no other candidates have shown. The portfolio should include things like resume, cover letter, past evaluations, letter of reference, sample of past work assignments and articles written.
While it can seem tempting to embellish your skills and accomplishments, interviewers find honesty refreshing and respectable. Focus on your key strengths. Give details as to why your background makes you uniquely qualified for the position. Admit weaknesses, but show how you have addressed them.
Send a Personalized Thank You Letter
Ask for the business card of each person you speak with during the interview process and follow up with a separate thank you email. If possible, send your follow-up emails the same day. It is a good idea to make each email or letter distinct from the others.
There is no universal guideline for how to ace an interview. However, if you follow these 8 tips, you will set yourself apart from other candidates. The key is to make sure you are comfortable and confident in your approach. Good luck!