A few weeks after submitting your resume for a job opening, good news landed in your email inbox: a job interview invite. Because you were certain you would ace the interview, you didn’t bother to research the company or reach out to people working there.
Enter the interview day.
You got the first interview questions right, but later on, you got nervous and weren’t able to get past the first interview round
This scenario captures the experience of many job seekers and career changers. You might have even already experienced it yourself. Fortunately, you don’t have to anymore.
Keep reading to discover how to ace your next interview, including the pre-interview, on-interview, and post-interview stages.
If you haven’t quite landed the interview yet, don’t despair! Here are some tips for landing an interview without going through the stress of blind job applications.
Start with your circle. If you have close friends who work at your dream company, ask them for advice on how they got their interview to enter the company. If the company has any openings, look up the available positions and see if you’re a right fit for any of them. Once you figure out the right role for you, consider leveraging your friendship to land an inside referral.
Expand your LinkedIn network. As your confidence on LinkedIn grows, reach out to 3rd connections who work in your dream company and share a common ground with you. These could be your school alumni or those with common professional interests. You don’t always have to have common interests with strangers you hope to connect with. Merely showing interest in them is enough to start an authentic bond that will most likely become the referral that lands you a job.
Build relationships with important stakeholders at your dream company. C-level (CEO, CTO, CFO, COO, etc.), Vice President (VP), Director, Senior Manager, Manager, Coordinator (Entry Level), Associates, Executives, and Seniors are examples of important stakeholders in a company. They wield a strong influence on hiring decisions. Thus, if you land an interview, you should reach out and build a relationship with them. You can connect with them via their social media or in real life through events. After you connect with them, try to set up a meeting with them. In this meeting, ask important questions that identify their pain point. Days after the meeting, send a proposal detailing a framework to solve the problem and how your skill set can help implement this framework.
Have an irresistible resume. In a bid to land an interview without resorting to blind job applications, you shouldn’t neglect writing a compelling resume that sells your skills and accomplishments. Keep an effective resume handy just in case your contact asks for it.
Once you land an interview, here are steps you need to take on the days leading to the D-day:
Conduct comprehensive research. Research details about the company, including its history, values, mission statement, and news in the press. You can check this info on the company’s website, Glassdoor, Google, and Crunchbase. You should also read the company’s blog to get a sense of their tone of voice. Doing these will give you ample info to answer your interview questions in a way that proves you know the company well enough to work with them.
Identify your interviewer and get to know more information about them. Do you know the name of the person who will interview you? Perfect! It’s time to look up their profile. Visit their website (if they have any) and social media accounts to confirm their interests and see if you can establish a common ground. Doing this will ease the communication between you and your interviewer.
Try out the company’s product before the interview. If you haven’t tried it out yet, use the product before your interview. This will enable you to give a user perspective on how the company can improve the product, thereby positioning you as a valuable worker before you even resume work.
Network. Look up current employees at the company with similar roles or former employees. Send them personalized LinkedIn requests and ask them if they’d be willing to share their story and interview experience. Through their stories, you’ll be able to identify a pattern and prepare adequately to ace the interview.
Ask the recruiter. Don’t be afraid of asking a recruiter the best way to prepare for an interview or anything you should focus on with your preparation. Confirm the interview format to avoid getting surprised too.
Dedicate time to thinking about your skills and accomplishments. Most of your interview questions will revolve around your skills and how these skills translated into success at past positions. So spend a great deal of time reflecting on your top skills and number-backed achievements. Also, have an interesting story for each of your skills. Get ready to narrate scenarios where you had to use them.
Prepare an answer for the notorious “what is your biggest weakness?” To avoid being thrown away by this question, think of something you’re not good at but are seeking to improve. For example, maybe you’ve never been excellent at teamwork, but over the years, you’ve been taking on volunteering roles that mandate you to collaborate with others, strengthening your teamwork skills in the process.
Look up the common interview questions and have an answer for each of them. You can easily find common interview questions lurking on the internet. Sketch your answers for each question in a notepad and get familiar with them. You can refer back to your jottings on the interview day itself.
Do a series of mock interviews. Identify someone in your circle who has experience conducting interviews (or can), then reach out to them to ask you a series of questions relating to your role. At the end of each mock interview, ask for feedback on your performance and constantly repeat the interviews until you have better control.
Prepare a list of questions. Towards the end of your interview, your interviewer will most likely open to questions from you. Having a list of questions prepared demonstrates you as an interested and passionate candidate. Here are some of the questions you can ask:
Make physical copies of your resume. For most in-person interviews, interviewers prefer to have a physical copy of your resume so they can ask you questions easily. Prepare for this likelihood by printing out at least 5 copies of your resume and keeping them in a file that you will take to your interview.
Have a list of references. While you might not eventually need it, it is better safe than sorry. Prepare a list of least references, highlighting their name, title, organization, department, telephone number, and email address. You should add a sentence explaining your relationship with each of these referees.
Know the directions beforehand. If your interview is physical, it is best you look up the directions and routes before the D-day. You can also do a practice run. Try to arrive at least 15 minutes before the interview time.
Pick a suitable interview outfit. It takes 1/10th of a second for someone to form a first impression about you based on your physical appearance, according to Princeton University researchers. This leaves you with only a split second to impress your interviewers with your appearance. When deciding what to wear to your interview, you have three options:
If you’re not sure what outfit option to go with, here are tips to help:
Eat healthily and rest well. Sleep deprivation and a bad meal can throw you off your game. And so, ensure you eat a balanced meal hours before your meal and get at least 6 hours of sleep. This keeps you more alert, focused, and aware during the interview. Self-care such as facials or a haircut will help you feel good about yourself and boost your confidence too.
Test your technology. If you’re prepping for a virtual interview, test your setup using the platform, internet connection, and hardware you’ll use during the interview. You can also have a friend video chat with you to ensure the video quality is clear and your voice is audible. If you’re not familiar with the program, take time to get familiarized with it.
Here is how to excel at the actual interview:
Arrive at least 15 minutes before the interview time. Punctuality eases you and also gives you more time to go through your notes once again if you need. Plus, it leaves a positive impression on your recruiter.
Switch off or silence your phone. You cannot do without taking your phone to your interview, but you can avoid its potential distractions by turning it off or silencing it.
Mirror the interviewer’s body language. Per the chameleon effect, people tend to like a person more when they exhibit similar body language. Leverage this by copying the body movements your interviewer makes. Let it appear as if you’re dancing with them.
Don’t discard the pre-interview small talk. While it might seem insignificant, an idle chit-chat with your interviewer can leave a lasting positive impression on your interviewer. According to researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology, Texas A&M University, and Texas Christian University, “candidates who did a good job making small talk in mock interviews received higher ratings on the job-related questions than candidates who were less adept at chit-chatting, meaning the interviewers’ first impressions had colored their overall impressions.”
Take notes. This displays high engagement on your part and might prove useful as you can use your jottings as a reference after your interviewer completes his questions.
Be straight to the point. When asked a question, don’t lose the opportunity to leave a lasting impression by talking too much. Instead, answer the question asked. Include only relevant details.
Be confident. Maintain eye contact, avoid speaking in a monotone, and smile at your interviewer. You want whoever is interviewing you to see you for both your skills and your personality.
Now that your interview is over, here are steps to take:
Appreciate your interviewer. Once the interview is over, send a thank you note to your interviewer. If possible, go the extra mile of sending a handwritten note. However, if you can’t find an address, be sure to include what you enjoyed about your interview. These personal touches make you memorable as a candidate.
Review your performance. This is one of the most important steps in the post-interview stage. Sit back to think about what you did right and how you could have performed better. Note these down and use them as feedback to improve in future interviews. Soon, you will become a well-oiled interviewer.
Follow up. If the interviewer said they would get back to you at a certain time, don’t be afraid to send a gentle reminder. This doesn’t make you seem desperate as you might fear. Rather, it depicts you as a candidate very much interested in the role.
Whether you are a novice or experienced interviewee, the tips mentioned above make your interview process easier. From how to land, prep for, and ace an interview to how to follow up graciously post-interview, this article offers suggestions to help you along your way.
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