If you’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to interview for the job of your dreams, it would be a shame to shoot yourself in the foot by blowing the interview. Being called to meet with a potential employer is a wonderful chance to knock their socks off, so it is absolutely essential that you do whatever you can to be sure you ace the interview and leave with the interviewer already thinking about offering you the job. Here are a few tips that can help you achieve that goal.
Look the part
Be sure you are dressed appropriately for the job you are applying for. You should at least be dressed as though you already work there, and preferably better. You can never go wrong with a suit. But be sure you’re wearing something comfortable; if you’re physically uncomfortable during an interview you won’t be mentally comfortable either, and the interviewer may pick up on that. Above all, be sure your clothes are clean, your hair is styled professionally, and your hands are clean. Nothing can kill an interviewer’s interest more quickly than an unkempt appearance.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
Even though the interviewer will most likely already have a copy of your resume, you should still take a few copies with you in case you meet other people who do not have a copy and want one. If you have a list of references, don’t forget to take that with you. Be sure to have with you a pen and paper to take notes, for two reasons: taking notes will help you remember things the interviewer tells you, and having notes to refer to will help you craft questions of your own to ask.
It is always a good idea to do your homework before an interview and read up on the company, so that you can ask pertinent questions or make comments that indicate you are already familiar with the company’s goals and objectives. If you have a portfolio of any work you want to share with the interviewer, you will be able to offer a visual presentation of your accomplishments.
Practice, practice, practice
The day before the interview, spend as much time as you can practicing your responses to standard questions most interviewers ask: ‘Tell me about yourself.’ ‘What makes you a good candidate for this job?’ ‘What are your short-term and long-term goals for your career?’ ‘Why are you interested in leaving your current job?’ You should already know the answers to these questions by heart, before being asked. Your answers should be straightforward, to the point, and honest. Make a point of talking about any specific professional accomplishments or training pursuits that might leave a favorable impression.
When offering personal information, or talking about jobs you held years ago, don’t go into too much detail and leave out anything that isn’t pertinent to the job at hand. When talking about your current job, do NOT say anything negative about your boss, the people you work with, or your office environment. The best response you can give is to say that you have outgrown your position, you want new challenges, you are seeking opportunities for advancement that aren’t available in your current position—anything to make it clear that you aren’t unhappy at your current job, you just want something better.
Leave a lasting impression
When the interview is over, as you stand up to shake hands with the interviewer, the best way to leave a lasting impression is to actually ASK for the job. Smile and simply say something like, ‘I appreciate your time; I would very much like to work for your company.’ If you’d like, you can also add something like, ‘What are the next steps in this process?’ But you don’t want to seem pushy or overeager—the simpler the better.
Follow up is key
After the interview, you should immediately—that day, if possible—send an e-mail or letter to everyone you met during the interview process. If you choose to send an e-mail, treat it exactly as you would a typed letter; use a formal salutation, a polite and brief thank you message, and a standard closing signature. Keep the tone of your note professional and don’t be too casual or familiar no matter how friendly and convivial your interview might have been. You’re still trying to get a job, so your thank you letter should be just as carefully constructed as the answers you gave the interviewer.
No matter how successful you think your interview may have been, don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Don’t stop reading job listings and want ads while you’re waiting for an offer; keep applying for any jobs that interest you. If the interviewer didn’t give you a timeframe for the company making a decision, then it’s okay for you to place a follow-up call to see where the process stands—but you should wait at least a week before calling. When you call, simply say who you are, and that you interviewed for the position on <date>, and you’re calling to see if you can provide them with any more information. Phrasing your call that way doesn’t assume anything and doesn’t come off sounding pushy.
If they’ve already made a decision, they will most likely tell you. If they are still interviewing or considering you, they will probably tell you that, and may even tell you when they anticipate making a decision. Either way, your follow-up call will solidify in their minds the fact that you really want the job. And if you’ve worked hard and aced the interview, you’ll probably get it!