You have applied for a job, submitted a resume, and now you got the call for an interview. It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned worker or fresh out of college, this can be nerve-wracking. You are about to meet people at a company in person and they will assess if you have the set of skills and personality to fit into the company’s work culture. Therefore, it’s vital to let them know you are the best candidate for the job, and being well prepared prior to the interview will help calm your nerves.
There are many steps you can and should take prior to the interview. Consider the top 10 interview tips that can help you leave a good lasting impression for the hiring team.
1. Do your Research
Research the company: Always research the company’s values and mission prior to an interview. This illustrates to your interviewer that you are prepared and dedicated in understanding the company’s vision, processes, and purpose. In addition to using any of the company’s lingo from the job description and website, you can also highlight the information you researched on their website when connecting your skills to their needs. You can also find useful information on websites such as Glassdoor, CareerBliss, Vault, and Indeed as they often have employee reviews, common interview questions, and salary information listings. These websites receive unfiltered information from current and past employees as well as interviewees. Be aware that not all of the information may be current and not all employee experiences are the same.
Research your interviewer: If you know the names of your interviewers, check the company website to see if their bio is public. You can also go online and see if they have published articles or a personal blog. Check if the interviewer has a LinkedIn profile. If the profile is public, you’ll be able to view it. Simply go to LinkedIn.com and type in their name. There will be many people on LinkedIn with the same name so look for the person working for the company interviewing you and check their title. If the facts match up, you probably found your interviewer.
2. Scope out their Location
Checking out the company’s location prior to the interview is always a good idea. This allows you time to estimate the exact distance from your home, scope out parking, and find the exact building the interview will take place in. You may also want to visit the location around the same time as the interview so you can also sense how heavy or light the traffic will be getting there during that specific time of day. You don’t want to arrive late on the day of your interview. Allow enough time to get there, it’s better to be there early than late.
3. Dress Accordingly
Dress the part. If you are applying for a warehouse, wear khakis and a polo. If the company has business attire, then ensure you have business attire on. Every business has different dress codes so find out what will be appropriate attire prior to the interview. Make sure the clothing is ironed, neat, and clean. Keep jewelry simple and try not to wear heavy perfume or cologne. This sometimes bothers individuals and will prevent distracting the interview team. If you are not sure what appropriate attire is for a particular company, you can scope out the company’s marketing material on YouTube or their website. Sometimes, a company’s marketing material will show videos from inside the company and you can see employees in the background. When in doubt though, dress up a level.
Color Theory: You can also use color theory to your advantage when choosing your interview outfit accordingly.
- Black = Power
- White = Innocence
- Red = Overpowering and can lose trust
- Blue = Calm and loyalty
- Green = Tranquility and health
- Yellow = Anger
- Orange = Excitement
4. Bring a Copy of your Resume
Yes, the interviewer may have a copy of your resume but it’s always a good idea to bring multiple copies. This shows an employer that you are prepared. There may also be more than one individual interviewing you and this may be a good way to reference or highlight some of the content you added that they have not seen. Bring at least 5 copies of your resume.
5. Entering the Door
The interview starts when you walk in the door. Be nice and professional to everyone you encounter. The hiring team may inquire with others (including a receptionist) about how you interacted with them while waiting for the interview team. You tone, body language, eye contact, and demeanor are all things that may be observed. In addition, turn your phone on vibrate or even better turn it off. All of these factors can play a role in getting your dream job and can pave the way to making positive impact on the hiring team.
6. Watch your Body Language
First impressions are key in winning over the interview team and your body language plays an important role in this whole process. Your handshake will be the first impression, use a firm shake and look the person in the eye; make sure your hand shake is not limp or bone crushing. Once seated your posture and sitting position are also important, sit straight, lean forward a little to appear engaged, and try not to cross your arms during the interview, preventing the appearance of boredom. Eye contact and fidgeting should be monitored as well. It is ok to be nervous, but try to beware of how your body language can be perceived.
7. Tell your Story
Most interviewers ask, “Tell me a little about yourself” at the beginning of the interview. The interviewer wants a quick overview of your work history. If multiple people are interviewing you, remember that these individuals may not have looked at your resume yet. Keep it simple, professional, and relevant to the job you are applying for. Do not state personal information unless you find it relevant to the job.
8. Prepare for the Questions
You can prepare for some common interview questions in advance. Common questions general center around common themes such as your weaknesses and strengths, why you should be hired over other candidates, where do you see yourself in 5 years, your best professional achievement, how others would describe you, a workplace difficult situation and how you handled it, and how do you prioritize your work. You can also research common questions asked in the field you are applying in as well.
Employers also want to know that you are able to solve problems and can handle conflicts when they occur. You may get a question on how you handled a workplace problem and how you resolved it. This allows an employer to assess your communication skills, critical thinking, and how you work under pressure. Employers want individuals that can keep a level head on their shoulders while remaining productive and be solution-oriented. During your preparation, think of examples that include these characteristics.
At the end of an interview, candidates are often asked if they have any questions. Some candidates may use this opportunity to ask when they may hear back or the schedule etc. However, if you have a recruiter you have been in contact with or those questions were answered prior to the interview, don’t ask them. You can always tell the interviewers that your recruiter has been thorough in answering questions about timeline and schedule. Then, ask a question that you truly would like the answer to, but would be impressive.
While interviewing for various positions, keep notes of interview questions asked that you remember from your interviews. You can reference those prior to future interviews. Add to the notes as you accumulate questions at interviews. Reflect on your answers and improve upon them.
Some common questions are:
- Tell me about yourself?
- Why do you want to work for our company? (what do you know about our company)
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Tell us about a time you made a mistake and how you corrected it.
- Describe a stressful situation and how you handled it.
- Why should we hire you over someone else?
- Why did you leave your last company?
- How would your former manager describe you?
- How would your former team members describe you?
- Describe a disagreement you had with a coworker and how it was resolved.
- How do you stay current in the industry? (relevant magazines, blogs, podcasts, or other professional development)
- Do you prefer working alone or in a group?
The interviewer may also ask what pay you expect. You can answer this a few ways. If you do not know the salary range at the company, you can answer any of the following ways:
- “Can you share the pay range for this position?”
- “I’m excited for the opportunity to work at such a great company, my salary is negotiable.”
- “Based on my experience and qualifications, I’m sure we can reach a common agreement.”
Until the company is actually offering you a position, this initial question is scoping out the salary they may offer. Remain open (if possible) at this stage unless they are ready to make you an offer. Sometimes entry-level jobs discuss salary right away. You may feel you should answer this question during the interview, so use your best judgment.
9. Be Positive and Start off Right
The first 30 seconds are crucial.
- Provide a firm handshake that is not too hard but also not limp like a fish.
- Make eye contact with the interviewer(s).
- Do not fidget or rock back and forth in your chair.
- Sit up straight and lean toward the interviewers a little.
- Do not overdo your cologne or perfume. This is easy to test with a friend prior to the interview. Tell your friend you are interviewing for a position and inquire as to whether your perfume/cologne seems too overpowering.
- If you have multiple interviewers, make eye contact with each of them. It is easy to focus on one person, but ensure you include them all. Remember, at the end of the interview they will collectively be discussing what they thought of you as a candidate.
- Do not adjust your clothing or touch your face during the interview.
- Do not sound desperate for the job. You want to come across confident, not desperate. It is fine to let them know you want the job, but that you don’t desperately need the job.
- Do not answer a question with a simple yes or no. Expand on the question. They want information from you. However, be careful not to give them a 10-minute history lesson on the topic.
- Be personable. You want the interviewers to like you. This may seem so obvious, but this may be difficult to pull off for those of you that are shy or nervous. Try to relax and understand interviews are a two-way street. The company is assessing if you are right for them, but you are also assessing if they are right for you! You are important and valuable! If you can bear in mind it is a two-way street, you can relax a little and focus on getting to know them as well.
- Do not ask about pay, benefits, vacation, and hours yet. They may share that information with you, but if they don’t the interview is not the appropriate time.
- Do not say anything bad about your previous employers OR managers. EVER!!! Think of some other reason you left places of employment that are not negative, do not lie, but you do not need to trash your former employers. Remember, if you mention that your manager was the worst manager of all time, the interviewees may question whether you may have been the worst employee to manage of all time.
- If you are having a phone interview, it’s very important to project an upbeat, professional, and friendly voice on the phone.
Be positive: Never speak negatively of past experiences, employers, or company policies during an interview, even if they are legit comments. An employer does not want a complainer. You also do not want to give the impression that when you leave their company, you’ll speak of them in a negative way either. During the interview, it may seem like the interviewee is looking for past negative experiences. Answer the questions without speaking ill of a previous experience. Always focus on a positive aspect when possible.
10. Sell Yourself
There are many soft skills employers look for. These soft skills are great to review and highlight during an interview. These are easy to highlight! For example, if you arrive at your interview on time, look professional, seem confident, and come prepared with a leather notebook portfolio and pen, they automatically view you as organized, confident, and professional – with good time management.
- Work ethic
- Communication skills
- Presentation experience
- Ability to motivate others
- Time management
- Research skills
- Leadership/Management skills
How you answer your interviewers’ questions will also tell them a thing or two about your communication and presentation skills. They are also likely to ask a few scenario-based questions surrounding how you handled particular challenges at your previous place of employment. This is how you can showcase your decision-making abilities. If your resume history shows longevity with your employers, you will be viewed as loyal and dependable. If you have reference letters, they may also highlight a few more for you, such as your work ethic or ability to motivate others – make sure you bring them. Employers do not want to train their employees in these soft skills, they want them to already bring them to the table.
At the end of the interview: The interviewer will likely ask you if you have any questions. At the end of the interview, it is entirely appropriate to ask “When will the hiring decision be made?” You may find a senior manager is on vacation for three weeks and a decision will not be made until that time. Perhaps the company has to wrap up its fiscal year. This question’s answer will give you some idea as to when this opportunity could come to fruition. This information is crucial because it provides you the dates in which you should follow up. If they say a decision will be made by next week Monday, and it is now Tuesday, you can send an email inquiring about the status of the position and express your interest in the opportunity to work for such a great company.
You might also ask, “Why is this position open?”
Perhaps you find out the company is expanding, that’s a great sign. Or the holder of that position was promoted, which shows movement within the company. At the very end of the interview, thank them for their time and express your enthusiasm for the opportunity to interview at such a great company. If the interviewers’ information is not available online, make sure you ask for a business card prior to leaving. This will give you their contact information and proper spelling of their name so you can properly follow-up.
Finally, try to gain the names of your interviewers so you can follow up with a thank you email after the interview. You can often discover their email address by looking at the formatting of any other email from someone else at the company. For instance, the recruiter’s email may be their first initial, followed by their last name, and the company: firstname.lastname@example.org.
BONUS Interview Tips!
After the interview, follow-up with a thank-you email that same day. This is just one more way to sell yourself and keep your name in front of that employer. They could be making a decision the next morning and you want to contribute to it. Here is an example email:
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name,
Thank you for the opportunity to interview for the [JOB TITLE] position. I enjoyed [STAFF NAMES IF APPLICABLE] enthusiasm for the company along with the welcoming reception by the staff.
[ABC COMPANY] offers (list something you learned during the interview such as cutting edge technology or innovation) which allows my strengths in (list your strength that aligns with the company mission) to assist [ABC COMPANY] accomplish its core mission.
I am very interested in starting a career at [ABC COMPANY] and look forward to hearing from you soon. Should you have any further questions, I welcome the opportunity to answer them.
If you have not heard from the employer for some time after the interview, it is acceptable to send a follow-up inquiry. A week after the interview is an appropriate time to craft and send a polite inquisitive email such as:
Hello Mr./Ms. First Last Name,
Thank you for the opportunity to interview at [ABC COMPANY]. I hop to still be considered for the [POSITION]. Any news would be appreciated. I hope to become [ABC COMPANY’s] newest team member and prove my value as soon as possible!
Thank you in advance for your time and response!
Negotiating salary can be a challenge, but it does pay off. If a company offers you a position, you know right away that you are their first choice. They don’t want to go through the trouble interviewing candidates again. Pause after being offered an amount and give a verbal clue that you are considering the offer. A simple “hm” will do. Then, negotiate a higher wage. If this is a minimum wage job, you may be able to politely ask if $1.00 more per hour is feasible. Stress that you would enjoy the opportunity, but hoped for a higher wage than was offered. Stress that you are dependable and hard-working. Sometimes everyone starts at a company at the same wage. Often you will know this up front and generally that starting wage is non-negotiable.