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Most of us think of the New Year as a fresh start. We have a new conviction to accomplish all of those “things” that have been on our “to do” list for the last 12 months. Getting a new job with more responsibility and compensation is high on many lists. Maybe you’ve had a number of interviews but just can’t figure out how to nail it. So what is the secret is to getting an edge on your interview? The best place to look when seeking out interview tips are the experts who spend most of their time interviewing candidates. This would be recruiters and Corporate HR professionals. If you can’t make it past them you certainly won’t get to interview with the hiring manager. What are they looking for that makes you stand out (or gets you eliminated)? Why does one person get selected over another? To answer those questions (and many more), take a look at the following tips from the experts.
1. Your Appearance:
- It doesn’t really matter what you think about how you look or dress for an interview. It only matters what the interviewer thinks. Skipping the obvious basics like make sure your hair is combed and that you are not wearing jeans and sneakers:
- Don’t wear pants or shirts that are too tight
- Don’t show cleavage (or your midriff)
- Get a second opinion. Ask your friends, relatives and significant other how you look. How they perceive you is more important than what the mirror is telling you
2. Your Handshake:
You don’t need to crush the other person’s hand, but your handshake should be firm (regardless of whether you are male or female). Don’t hold on for too long and, if you tend to have sweaty palms, dry them off before you go into the interview. There are some common handshake “types”, some to be avoided and some to consider.
3. Your Story:
I’m sure you’ve heard of the “30 Second elevator speech” (see Do you have your 30 second Elevator Speech?). If you don’t already have this practiced and memorized, now is the time to do it. At some point in the interview, you will be asked to give a brief overview of your experience. This is the time to use your elevator speech and to work in the bit about why you are the best person for the job (see #6 below). This is a critical part of the interview and will likely determine how the rest of the interview (and your chances of making the shortlist) goes.
What do you say when they ask you the inevitable question “What do you do?” If your 30-second answer is boring, cringe-worthy or forgettable, the rest of your preparation is worthless.
4. Do Your Homework:
If you haven’t done your homework and you don’t know anything about the company where you are interviewing, then you shouldn’t be on the interview. You should do extensive research on the company and the interviewer(s) before the interview. This information is not limited to public companies, there is a wealth of information on Linkedin and similar sites. You should also try to find out some inside information regarding the company culture and what it’s like to work there. See also 15 Tips for Improving Your Job Search. All of this will help you with #7 below.
5. Your Body Language and Interpersonal Skills:
Second to your initial handshake, your body language is a key part of the interview. Maintaining eye contact (or semi-contact) is critical and there is a delicate balance between staring and keeping eye contact, so you may want to practice with friends. Looking away too often at the walls, table or anything else can hurt “the first impression”.
The rest of your body language is important as well. The obvious “don’ts”:
- Don’t chew your nails (or anything for that matter)
- Don’t fidget or pick your nails
- Don’t slouch
- Don’t point
- Don’t cross your arms
- Don’t nod at everything the interviewer says
6. Know Why You are the Best Choice for the Position:
The follow-on from #4 above (Do Your Homework) is to leverage everything you’ve learned about the company, the job and the interviewer so that you are convinced that you are the best choice for the position. Again, the delicate balance is between letting your interviewer know you are the best choice without sounding conceited. There is really only one thing the interviewer wants to know – that you are the right person for the role. This is not just limited to your job knowledge and experience, but also your interpersonal skills and how you would “fit” in the overall team.
7. Know Why You Want to Work There:
Another common question that is asked at interviews is why you want to work at that company. You should be well prepared based on items #4 and #6. Don’t wait to think of an answer at the interview. Come up with your answer prior to the interview.
8. Don’t be Late or Too Early:
Nothing annoys a hiring manager more than showing up late for an interview (with showing up too early a very close second). If you have the time, several days before the interview you should take a trial run visit to the interview location. Knowing exactly where the interview is located, how to get there and how long it takes to get there takes a huge pressure off when the interview day arrives. Also factor in any building security time delays as you will most likely need to sign in when you arrive and this could take a while if there is a long line in the lobby.
9. Don’t Ask the Wrong Questions in Your First interview:
You know the old saying “There is no such thing as a stupid question”? Well, I’m sorry to tell you that yes, there are stupid questions. Sometimes it’s just a matter of timing. There are some questions that should be asked later in the interview process (such as benefits, vacation time, etc.), there are some questions that should be asked at the first interview (see below for some links) and there are some questions that should never be asked. The lists are too long to list here so I’ve provided some links for your review:
Sounds like a strange tip, but you would be surprised how many people forget what they put on their resume. Re-read