Connecting with candidates every day comes along with a lot of questions, like: “What do I wear?”, “What questions should I have prepared?”, “How do I explain this particular situation I struggled with?”
The list goes on, yet still doesn’t address all of the emotions we feel before an important interview. We all feel nervousness, excitement, doubt, and sometimes even a bit of overconfidence. Interviewing can be an intense time in all of our lives, but it’s inevitable.
Next time you schedule an interview, remember the goal: to market yourself to the best of your ability and articulate why you’re the perfect person for the job.
Sounds easy right? Trust me, it takes practice. During an interview, a million things are going through your head, so here’s a high level overview of how to prepare for the dream job before, during, and after the interview.
- Be prepared, please!
Before the interview, you should understand how this role fits into the organization and department. Do research on the company’s particular product or service. Figure out who their competitors are and what distinguishes them from the pack. If you can’t find the answer in your research, write the question down to ask in the interview.
Hiring managers love nothing more than knowing a candidate did their research and invested time in the opportunity. Preparing for the interview doesn’t need to be your full time job, but you should feel comfortable with the basics of the organization; or at least have questions about the things you’re not familiar with.
- Know your audience
Depending on the organization and the hiring process, there are a variety of people who could end up interviewing you. It might be a human resources professional, a potential teammate, a hiring manager that could be our new boss, or even the CEO or owner of the company.
The way we approach these people will likely be different, depending on their relationship with the position and their personality type. Human resource professionals are often the first screen, looking for basic skills, personality, and culture fit. If you’re talking to the hiring manager, they are thinking about how your skillset fits the role description and how you would fit in with the team. When we sit down with the CEO, focus on demonstrating your value and why the company should invest in hiring you.
- Remember the STAR method
Situational questions can be the most difficult because there is no easy way to prepare for them. When answering this type of question, remember STAR: S – Situation, T – Task, A – Action, R – Result.
The hiring manager doesn’t want to hear, “Well, I’ve actually never done something like that before, but I know I can do it.” Dig into your transferable skills. It may not be something you’ve ever done before, but you’ve likely experienced a similar situation or something that required the same type of skills to resolve.
Explain the situation or project, share more about the task at hand, explain the action we had to take in order to deliver the results, and explain the outcome. The outcome may not always be favorable, but your ability to problem solve, work with others, and deliver results is what they are looking for in your answer.
- Try to maintain a 50/50 balance between talking and listening
As much as you want the job (or may even be desperate for it), an interview should be a two-sided conversation. You need to ensure it’s a good fit for you as well.
There’s nothing worse than realizing the second day on the job that you’ve made a terrible mistake in taking the opportunity. A surprising amount of candidates say, “This isn’t what I signed up for!”
Did you do your research? Did you ask the appropriate questions to learn more about how this might be a good fit for you? It’s a 50/50 balance. If you treat it this way, it can be a dialogue instead of an interrogation. The job should be just as good a fit for you as it is for them, or you’ll end up looking for another job as soon as you start.
- Ask good questions
This aspect of interviewing simply can’t be emphasized more. The interviewer can tell which candidates are genuinely interested in the opportunity based upon the questions they ask. Be curious and pretend you already have the job. What do you need to know in order to be successful in this role? Are we getting a full picture of the role from the questions the hiring manager is asking? You can get a lot more clarity about a role, project, department structure, etc. if you simply ask the right questions.
If the interview is more formal and questions should wait until the end, write the questions down as they come up throughout the interview.
- Balance your confidence
Confidence is a tough balance to strike sometimes. You might be the type to get so nervous, your confidence disappears and you can’t remember why you’re qualified for the role in the first place. On the other hand, you might think you’re so perfect for the job already, why bother trying to woo them when you should be wooed by them.
There needs to be a balance! Having too much confidence can be just as bad as having none at all. Remember, you got the interview for a reason, but no one is perfect. Don’t act like you don’t deserve the job because of one checklist item on the job description. But certainly don’t act like you already know everything; that can come off as arrogance or an inability to be coached. Find that ideal balance of confidence!
- Ask for the position and closing the interview
As you near the end of the interview, you’ll likely want to know how you did and if they like you. Ask them! “How do you perceive me fitting into the organization?” or “I like what I have heard throughout the interview and am very interested in moving forward. Do you have any hesitations?”
This is also a time for some honesty on your part. If you didn’t click with the interviewer or got turned off from what they shared, you don’t need to butter them up telling them how excited we are for next steps. This is a good time to evaluate if the feelings are mutual and give us a better gage on next steps.
- Send a thank you
After an interview, recognize that you have taken a fair amount of time in someone’s busy schedule. Acknowledge this in a thoughtful thank you. Whether that be a thank you email right after the interview or going the extra mile by sending a hand-written thank you note, it always feels good to be appreciated. This is also a time to reiterate your interest in working for the organization and why we are a perfect choice. That polish and appreciation is what will allow you to rise above the other candidates and land the job.
Look at the interview as an investment for yourself and the organization to further decide what that ideal next step is. Remembering these steps and preparing yourself properly could be exactly what gets you that perfect next opportunity. Are you following these guidelines to leverage your career?