Interviewing for a position at a new company or for a new position at your current company can be nerve-wracking. Being on the other end of a huge opportunity is not only scary it can be exciting. The interview process is one of dark mysteries. It shouldn't be this way. As an HR professional, I try to take the mystery out of the interview process almost immediately with candidates. The number one thing I want is for candidates to know what to expect - the passion behind this blog post!
Put yourself there...you've done it! You've found a job you are extremely interested in and you're the perfect fit for it! You know you have the skills, knowledge, experience, and transferrable tallet to bring to the table. You have taken the leap and applied for this position with a well-crafted resume and cover letter. You passed the phone interview and were invited in for an in-person interview with the hiring manager and HR. And here you are...waiting outside the door for your shot.
You have thought over and over again about how this opportunity is going to change your life. You could finally get that beautiful townhouse in the good neighborhood, and finally take that vacation you have desired, with these hours you can finally have a better work-life balance and attend your kid's softball games, or you can finally work for a company that gives back to their employees. Whatever your why for applying for the position, you believe in them full-heartedly.
You arrive at the interview on time and ready to go. You have prepared the perfect outfit, that red suit you have always wanted to wear to the perfect occasion. You have brought letters of reference, fresh copies of your resume and cover letter, a notebook for taking notes, and your game face - you are ready.
And it happens, a few minutes you are called into the interview room. Your nerves and expectations are high. I heard a great piece of advice once that really helped me in tough situations. Nervousness and excitement have the same energy frequency. So, instead of automatically defaulting to "I'm nervous" say "I'm excited" because you might actually be! Take a couple of deep breaths before stepping into the interview room, ground yourself, and take your shot!
Now, you have prepared the best way you know how from all sources. Maybe it is what you were taught in school, college, or a previous job you have applied for. Maybe tips you have learned from talking to friends or a coach. Maybe even tips you found on TikTok. But what you don't have is expectations in the minds of the HR rep on the other side of the conversation. Let's crack the code!
Interview Tip #1 - Answer questions directly without many tangents.
Interviewers are asking questions from a few different angles. They are asking from the job description to see if you can do the job. They are asking about your future goals. And more than likely getting to the bottom of your previous job history. So, when an interviewer is asking a question, be mindful of the delivery of your answer.
The interviewer does not have much time and usually sets between 45-60 minutes aside for the interview. So giving specific answers to questions asked with a little color is good. But going on tangents can easily get you in trouble. For instance, it might make you look like you're not focused. And it could come across as chatty or unprofessional. So, keep your answer specific and impactful.
They are also asking behavioral questions to determine who you are. Which brings us to our next tip.
Interview Tip #2 - Be YOURSELF. Hiring Managers are looking for fit.
The first thing I hire for is fit. I'm looking for my intuition to tell me the answer to will this person get along with, challenge, motivate, and seamlessly integrate with the team. Most aspects of the job (within reason) can be trained. But what cannot be trained is someone's behavioral tendencies. Of course, this is not the whole picture. BUT, hiring someone who fits the corporate values, culture, and mission will be a much happier employee and in turn, make happier employees than a hire that doesn't jive.
Essentially, don't worry about if you will fit or not. The only thing you need to do is be your authentic self. The rest will work itself out. If you don't get the job don't take it personally. The thing is, you may have dodged a bullet if the fit wasn't there.
Interview Tip #3 - Ask great questions.
My favorite part of any interview is when the candidate gets to ask me questions. This tells me if the candidate is paying attention, is truly interested, and gives an idea of how they will be as a team member. Come prepared with questions you genuinely have about the position and the company. But also write down questions that come to mind throughout the interview.
Here are some sample questions I LOVE to get asked:
What is the team like? What is the culture like? This will help you determine if this company is a fit for you.
What is your favorite part about working at x company? Gives a great overall feeling of how the company is to work for.
What would I expect in my day-to-day? Give a good insight to fit.
How do you measure success? A sneak peek into how you can grow within the organization and if it aligns with your vision.
What is the communication policy like? How often do I have visibility to the owners or senior management? Lets you know what kind of leadership team is at the company.
Where does the company see itself in the next 5 years? Gives you insight into the stability of the company.
Ultimately, these questions help you just as much as they help the interviewers.
Interview Tip #4 - Don't be an eager beaver.
Interviewers know when a candidate is eagerly awaiting to be hired. Desperation is not your friend. Even though you really want the job, play it cool! Keep an even head and be inquisitive without being too hasty in pushing a decision for the hiring manager.
Instead, ask at the end of the interview what the next steps are in the process and where they are in the hiring process. This gives you proper insight without overstepping and looking too eager.
Interview Tip #5 - Always shake hands and make eye contact.
Shakes hands before leaving the interview. And make proper eye contact throughout the process. I always appreciate when a candidate takes the time to shake my and the hiring manager's hands as we meet and say goodbye. This shows professionalism and true attention to detail before and after the meeting. I have been in interviews where the interviewer does not shake the HR (recruiter's) hands and only focuses on the hiring manager. Don't leave anyone out.
Bonus Tip - Don't get too personal.
DO NOT discuss anything personal that could make the company violate discrimination laws under the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) or health-related problems.
For instance, do not tell the interviewers your age. Don't tell them you need an upcoming surgery. Don't tell them you have 10 children at home waiting for you. Don't tell them that you have brain surgery.
Bottomline, this is awkward and puts the interviewers into an uncomfortable situation. AND it is not specific to your ability to do the job or not. If you need to request a reasonable accommodation to do the job, that is one thing. But oversharing may not be the best approach.
Bonus Tip #2 - Follow Up.
As a recruiter, I love when a candidate follows up after their interview with an email or a call. It shows they are highly interested in the position after the interview and that they take the opportunity extremely seriously. Following up with a 'thank you for the opportunity, I look forward to the next step' call/email within 24 hours of the interview will set you apart.
At the end of the day, just be yourself and be inquisitive and you will rock the interview. Ask questions, show genuine interest, don't be too chatty, and have fun. My favorite piece of advice is you are interviewing the company just as much as they are interviewing you. Remember that!