Our staffing and recruiting experts at TeamBuilder Search have conducted thousands of job interviews. In addition, we have conducted thousands of post-interview debriefs with hiring managers. We have learned what successful candidates do in job interview preparation. In the process, we have discovered the most common mistakes made during interviews. Follow the advice in this post to greatly enhance your chances of success in landing your dream job.
Ask your recruiter what to wear.
An important part of interview preparation is attire. If you are unsure of what to wear, dress in layers. You can always remove a suit jacket if you find that you are overdressed. Also, remember to bring extra resumes and take notes.
Show up early.
Being late for a job interview can kill the opportunity. Showing up precisely on time can leave you flustered and anxious. Know where you are going ahead of time. Calculate drive time based on time of day. Know where you are going to park and how long you’ll have to walk. If possible, drive by the location ahead of time.
Be prepared to answer “Tell me a little about yourself.”
This question is crucial to interview preparation. Avoid speaking too long or rambling about things that aren’t relevant. Your interviewer should be thinking, “Wow, this person is a really good communicator!” and “Wow, this person has all the basic things needed to be successful in this role!” Describe your career chronologically. For each position, share what you learned and the achievements you accomplished that are directly relevant to the role. Explain the reason for each move or promotion. Do not criticize previous employers. Bring prep notes to the interview, possibly in the form of an annotated resume. Your answer to this question should remain between 90 and 150 seconds. Your answer can be longer if you are a senior executive, but keep it under 3.5 minutes.
Give specific answers with specific examples.
Vagueness creates mistrust in communication. job interviewers need to believe that you can do what they ask. Specific examples clarify how your skills and successes are applicable to company needs. Also, never answer a question with just “no.” Relate a similar experience. In addition to being specific, keep answers to 60 seconds or less (with the exception of the “Tell me a little about yourself” question described above).
Be prepared to discuss strengths and weaknesses.
Ideal job interview preparation means being able to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses ahead of time. Become comfortable speaking about them. Be able to provide at least one specific, relevant example for each. Strengths should relate to the role. Talk about how you have learned to successfully manage the weakness. Provide a specific example of when you prevented that weakness from causing failure. Hiring managers want to know if you can learn and grow.
Your interviewer may ask about your greatest failure. Focus on taking accountability. Don’t shift blame to others. Share what you learned and give an example of how you used that learning to not make that mistake again. Hiring managers hire people who take accountability.
Choose an appropriate place for a phone or video interview.
You may participate in a phone or video interview prior to an in-person interview. The same rules apply as if it were an in-person interview. Choose a quiet place with no distractions. Ensure that your sound quality is as good as possible. For a phone interview, dressing up will put you in a professional frame of mind. For a video interview, dress as you would for an in-person interview. Check that your webcam is at face-level. Choose a setting that does not have any distracting or offensive objects in the background.
Know the names, roles, and backgrounds of your interviewers.
When you are invited to interview, you are typically given the hiring manager’s name. You may be given the names of other leaders who will participate in your job interview. Familiarize yourself with the names and responsibilities of the interviewers. Visit their profiles on LinkedIn and on the organization’s website. Also, research their professional social footprints. This helps you understand where certain questions come from and how to best respond. This research will also help you learn more about the organizational structure.
Ask insightful questions.
The questions you ask tell the interviewer what is important to you. Some interviewers make hiring decisions based on the questions the candidate asks. Prepare 6 -10 questions ahead of time. Develop these questions by researching the company. Never ask a question that is easily answered on their LinkedIn profiles or company website. Don’t ask about salary or benefits before an employment offer is made.
Prepare for the questions asked most often during job interviews.
Other popular interview questions include: Why do you want to work for us? Tell me about a time you exhibited leadership? Tell me about a time where you had to work as a team? Tell me about a time you had to work with a difficult person? Tell me about a time you overcame an obstacle? Tell me about a time you had success? Be able to provide a concise, specific story for each of these questions. Don’t talk poorly of anyone. Keep responses under 60 seconds.
Smiling is an overlooked part of interview preparation. It is the easiest way to exude confidence. Do not exhibit nervous laughter or giggle, as that makes conversation awkward for interviewers.
Close the interview professionally while expressing interest.
Tell the interviewer why you are very interested in the position. Remind them how certain achievements and experiences have prepared you for success. Keep all remaining questions positive. Ask, “Is there anything in my background or experiences that would keep us from moving forward? What are the next steps?”
Follow up with an email immediately.
If you are working with a recruiter, ask them if the thank-you should go directly to the hiring manager or through the recruiter. Companies expect a thank-you within 24 hours of your interview. Thank the hiring manager or interviewer for their time and reiterate why you are a good fit for the role.
Job interview preparation cannot prepare for everything that may happen in an interview. However, you can put the odds of success in your favor. If you are the best person for the role, you must demonstrate that in the interview process. Prepare as this post describes and you will be a very formidable candidate.