How to Ace an Interview
A Few Tips on How to Look Your Best in Front of Your Potential Future Boss
So you’ve landed an interview for a job. Congrats! If you’re thinking, “now comes the hard part,” I have good news: you’ve actually already finished the difficult portion of the application process. When conducting interviews, employers aren’t looking for anyone and everyone. They have read through your resume and credentials and have hand-selected you to speak with in person to further confirm their impression that you’re a good fit for the job. When people think about getting hired in relation to their competition, they often compare experience and credentials. While having an awesome resume is definitely helpful, what someone has on paper doesn’t always translate to that person getting the job over everyone else. Often what it comes down to is whether or not that person is a good fit for the company: that is, will the person get along well with the team, and do they agree with what the organization stands for? This is where the interview comes in.
Aside from the typical interview tips, like “dress to impress” and “staying positive” etc., I’ve outlined a few things that I’ve picked up on over the years, from the interviews I’ve gone to. I hope they can be of use to you, too!
Make sure you know your stuff.
Before walking into an interview, it helps to be well acquainted with the company. This doesn’t just mean the company history (although it doesn’t hurt to have a quick read through of the organization’s past). The “about” page of any company site is where all the important information can be found—that is, important to hopeful interviewees. The about page is typically where the company’s mission statement and values live. This section of a website might be where you roll your eyes and scroll past the typical list of excellence, respect, and corporate responsibility, but I’m telling you to start paying attention to it, now.
The company values can be integrated into your answers, specifically ones that involve describing situations or examples from previous experiences. For example, suppose you were interviewing for a server job, for which the company values teamwork. When asked in the interview to explain a time that you experienced an irate customer and how you handled it, you could reflect on such an experience, and ensure you mention how you helped your co-workers—or how your co-workers helped you—sort through it together. The interviewer would surely pick up on the fact that you are an excellent team player, which fits with the company culture, and as described previously, is one of the main reasons to interview in the first place.
Other ways to be prepared include bringing a notepad or folder, which includes your resume, references, and a list of questions to ask the interviewer. Not only does this look professional, but the interviewer will know that you have interest in the job. Also, it just generally looks like you have your shit together, which is probably an important tip for everyday life.
Mimicking Your Interviewer
I won’t lie to you on this one: mirroring your interviewer can often feel a little greasy. But, from past experience, I’ve realized that to get anywhere in the world, you have to be ready to be a bit schmoozy.
Pick up on your interviewer’s attitude—use their body language and tone of voice to guide your own. For instance, if the interviewer warmly greets you, and perhaps makes a light-hearted joke about the weather, feel free to laugh along, and keep that attitude for the remainder of the interview. Again, the whole reason a company interviews its applicants is to ensure that they are a good fit for the team. If you and the interviewer get along well, they will remember your interview as such, regardless of what you say (although of course what you say is important also).
Once all the important questions are out of the way, and you’ve also asked job-relevant questions (as will be discussed below), don’t be shy to ask the interviewer about them. In my experience, people love to chat about themselves; a simple question such as “how long have you been working with Company X” can launch the interviewer into their lifelong story, depending on how chatty they are. I’ve had interviews where the interviewer will talk about their families and children for what feels like forever. But, of course, I don’t mind. It’s easy to kick back and let the interviewer speak. Giving someone permission to talk about themselves often makes them happy. And if you leave the interview while the interviewer is happy, regardless of where that happiness comes from, it will spill over into how they felt about the interview itself.
Do NOT be afraid to ask questions. It doesn’t make you look silly or uninformed; asking a question shows interest for the job. Before you walk into an interview, prepare a few possible questions and write them down on a notepad, or in a folder, to take in with you. I say “a few” because some of those questions will be answered as the interview goes on. If all your questions were answered during the interview, you can always pull a generic “what does a typical day look like” type of question.
So, a few key takeaways from this post, if you don’t want to bother reading it all the way through (no judgment):
- Read up on the company’s values and apply them to past experiences you’ve had.
- Speak the interviewer’s language—mimic their attitude and body language.
- Be prepared with questions to ask your interviewer—both job-relevant and interviewer-specific.
Hopefully, you’ve gotten something out of this post!
Or maybe you haven’t, and this was a colossal waste of time. Either way, go forth and rock your interviewer’s world.