(Posted by Ramesh)
Written & Edited by Kim Roberts
"Congratulations– you've been selected for an interview!" As a professional recruiter, sharing this news with my candidates is one of my favorite parts of the job. I look forward to hearing their excitement and anticipation when I inform them that the hiring manager is impressed with their resume and would like to meet them. It indicates that the candidate's hard work, and mine, have paid off and they now have the opportunity to showcase their skills, qualifications, and personality to the hiring manager. A well-written resume is a step in the right direction towards landing that dream job, but nailing the interview is a way to bring your resume to life and demonstrate what you know and what you can contribute to the organization.
As exciting as it is to be selected for an interview, it can also be terrifying. Interviews can be a nerve-wracking experience for many, mainly because of the pressure to perform well in terms of making a good first impression to the interviewer and providing all the 'correct' responses to every question. However, it is important to keep in mind that the interviewing experience is a two-way street between the candidate and the interviewer, and it serves as an excellent opportunity for the candidate and the interviewer to learn more about each other. In order to help candidates to more thoroughly prepare for their experience, I've compiled a list below of some of the most effective interview tips that I've either discovered from personal experience, received from others, or located on career development sites such as Monster, CareerBuilder, and LinkedIn.
1. Do your homework. First and foremost, it's important to be familiar with not only the position itself, but the company as a whole. Be sure to familiarize yourself with information found on the company or organization's website, including its mission, culture, products or services, and any recent news or social media items that you find that involve the company. This will allow you to demonstrate what you know about the company and will give you more of a focused approach to asking relevant questions.
2. Dress for success. This may sound cliché, but it is critical to make sure that your appearance is professional and clean cut. Before leaving home, check to make sure that your skirt isn't riding up, your pants aren't too short, or your neon-colored socks aren't showing. When in doubt, it never hurts to overdress. If you aren't sure of the company dress code, it is always safer to err on the side of overdressed rather than overly casual.
3. Be prepared. Arrive with several extra copies of your updated resume, cover letter, and reference page in case you meet with multiple interviewers. Additionally, be sure that you have responses prepared for commonly asked interview questions, such as "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" or "Tell me about your greatest accomplishment?" or "How do you stay organized?" I've heard many stories about off-the-wall interview questions as well, so it can be difficult to prepare for every possible question you may be asked. If you get hit with a totally unexpected question, feel free to take a brief moment to collect your thoughts or ask an additional question or two to gain clarification before responding.
4. Have a success story. In addition to preparing answers to common interview questions, be sure to have examples of projects you have accomplished or problems you have resolved in previous jobs. If you're new to the working world, come prepared to discuss school projects you mastered, and try to focus on how your accomplishments will relate to the position for which you are interviewing.
5. Develop a rapport with the interviewer. Before the interview process begins, make small talk with the interviewer. Take note of your surroundings and comment on something you see, if possible. If you can strike up an enjoyable, laid-back conversation with the interviewer, you're more likely to give a positive impression and make the interviewer feel at ease. However, even if you "hit it off" with the interviewer right away, don't let your guard down. Be sure to maintain professionalism and courtesy throughout the entirety.
6. Know your strengths and weaknesses. You'll likely be asked about your biggest strength and your biggest weakness. When it comes to talking about your best strengths, choose those that are applicable to the job at hand, and be prepared to provide evidence of when and how you have demonstrated those strengths. Be cautious when selecting a weakness to discuss; avoid mentioning anything that is essential to the requirements of the position. Focus on a weakness that will not affect your ability to perform the functions of the job, and be sure to elaborate on how you're working to correct your weakness, or how you have developed professionally as a result of your weakness.
7.Ask questions! One of the most important aspects of the interview process, in my opinion, is that it be treated as a two-way conversation. When your interview asks if you have any questions for him/her, ask away. Come prepared with at least 4-5 questions that show your genuine interest in learning more about the organization, the position, the company culture, opportunities for advancement, etc. It is important, however, to refrain from asking questions that can easily be answered by viewing the company website. Ask questions that show you've done your research, but you'd like to learn more about what you've read and how you can stand out from other candidates.
8. Follow-up. Be sure to thank your interviewer for their time, as well as send an email afterwards as an additional note of gratitude. If you can, mention something specific that you learned during the interview or found particularly interesting, the interviewer will appreciate that as well. This will also help to set you apart from other candidates who may have interviewed for the same position. Let them know that you're looking forward to hearing from them, and ask what your next step in the process should be. Your interviewer will want to see that you're being proactive and that you're truly interested in the opportunity.
9. With these tips in mind, put your best foot forward, stay optimistic, and be yourself. Good luck!