You know you're a perfect fit for the job, but before you can move into your new office, you'll need to make a great impression at your job interview. You know you'll be competing against other smart job candidates. What are your best strategies for nailing the tough questions and landing the job?
Here are some tips, gathered from career experts, that will make you shine in your next job interview:
1. Remember the real purpose of the interview.
In most situations, by the time you sit down face to face with a hiring manager, he or she has carefully reviewed your resume, looked into your qualifications, and likely checked both you and your former employer out on the Web and social media. So ask yourself: What's left to do before deciding that you're a good fit for the job?
Look at it that way and you'll realize that the hiring manager's main objective is to learn who you are as a person, particularly whether you're likely to fit in well with the company and its culture. That doesn't mean you won't need good answers to questions about your experience and achievements--you will. But keep in mind that the people you're speaking with will use their brief meetings with you to try to guess what it would be like to have you around for eight hours a day or more.
2. Do your homework. Then do some more.
Before you walk in the door, you should be thoroughly familiar with the company. So spend some time on its website, paying particular attention to its "About Us" pages, its information for press and investors, and its mission or vision statement, if any. All this will give you some clues to how the company likes to present itself and what its executives consider important.
Don't stop there. Do a news search about the company to see what's been notable there lately. Read up on the company's industry (if you're not already very familiar with it). Learn who its biggest competitors are and find out about them as well.
You're still not done. Your final homework task is to learn as much as you can about the person or people who'll be interviewing you. Usually the quickest and easiest way to do this is to look them up on LinkedIn or other social media. But also check for news items about them in industry publications. And if they have blogs, read back a few posts. You may be surprised how much you can learn about someone this way.
3. Pay special attention to culture.
I interview lots and lots of hiring managers and the word "culture" comes up in almost every conversation about finding the best employees. So smart job candidates spend a lot of time learning as much as they can about the culture of a company they're hoping to join. Culture can and should be reflected in the company's website, its mission statement, its office decor, its flexible or inflexible hours, the presence or absence of children and pets in the workplace, and even what people wear.
Snoop around a little to try to get a good sense of the company's culture. Try to find out what this company values more--and less--than other companies like it do. This will not only prepare you for the interview but may help you decide whether to accept a job offer if you get one. If the company's culture seems at odds with your own style and values, you likely won't be happy there.
4. Prepare thoughtful questions.
Many hiring managers will pause at some point during the interview and invite you to ask questions of your own. Having none to ask does not create a good impression, but neither does asking bad or clueless questions. This is one reason it's smart to do lots of homework: You'll already know the answers that can easily be found online, and you may have ammunition to come up with some intelligent questions.
Keep in mind that it's perfectly fine to ask things like, "What are the most important aspects of this job?" or "What are you most hoping to see in the ideal candidate?"
5. Get ready to show off your accomplishments.
Many experts suggest putting together a portfolio displaying your work. It might include such items as press clippings about you or your projects, programs at events where you were a speaker, awards you've won and so forth.
You should also be ready to talk about what you've done. Asking candidates to talk about the accomplishments that make them proudest of is a standard interview technique. If you're uncomfortable "bragging" and aren't used to talking about your own accomplishments and triumphs, do some role playing with a friend or in the mirror. Recount your top achievements a few times until you're comfortable talking about them.
6. Be nice to everyone.
You never know who'll be riding up in the elevator with you, or whom you're going to meet while waiting for your interview. And many clever hiring managers will ask the receptionist who welcomes you to the office whether you were pleasant when you arrived.
With that in mind, your smartest strategy is to be friendly with everyone you meet in or around the company's office. You don't have to become best buddies with everyone, but try to create a pleasant first impression.
7. Spend lots of time listening.
First of all, the more you listen, the more likely you are to gather valuable information. Second, most people--hiring managers included--really appreciate feeling heard.
Third, and possibly most important, remember that the hiring manager will extrapolate from your behavior in the interview to predict how you would behave as an employee. This is why career expert Vicky Oliver says one of the most common job interview mistakes is excessive talking. If you talk nonstop in an effort to impress the manager with all your expertise, he or she may assume you would also talk nonstop if you were hired.
8. Expect the unexpected.
It's common practice for hiring managers to deliberately throw job candidates a curve ball and see how they react. You may find yourself meeting many more people than you expected. You may be asked odd or surprising questions. You may be asked to give a presentation, solve a problem, or demonstrate your job skills. You may even be invited to play ping-pong.
Whatever happens, keep in mind that the purpose of the tactic is to learn about you and how you react to stressors and surprises. This knowledge alone should help you keep your cool. And then roll with the punches. Remember, it matters more how you handle the situation than whether you actually solve the problem or win the ping-pong match.
9. Don't forget to be yourself.
One big mistake people make in interviews is to come off stiff and emotionless. That usually results from straining not to say or do the wrong thing, or create a bad impression. But no one wants to hire a job candidate who comes off like a robot.
Don't work so hard to make a good impression that you don't let your true personality shine through. Hiring managers need to see who you really are if they are to like you and trust you enough to bring you into the fold. And if getting to know you makes them think you're not a good fit for the role, it's just as well. You wouldn't be happy in that job anyway.