No matter how well you’ve presented yourself in your resume and cover letter, it’s important to prepare and make the right impression at the interview. It’s the point at which the key impressions are given and decisions made. In fact, a recent study found that 44% of managers rely on their gut instinct to make a decision and 47% of managers make hiring decisions in 30 minutes or less so your first impression is critical.
This is your first meeting with a potential employer and your aim is to make a positive, lasting impression. One way to be remembered, since interviewers can sometimes get overwhelmed with several candidates, is to distinguish yourself with a common connection with the interviewer. Look for clues in their office or check out their social media beforehand. Maybe you both love dogs, chat about it briefly so your follow up can reference this to help them remember you.
Before the Interview
Preparation is key when entering an interview. Re-read the job description in advance so you remember what they’re looking for, practice answers to general interview questions and gather multiple copies of your resume, cover letter and references to bring to the interview. The interviewer will undoubtedly have some of this information on hand but having the copies ready to distribute if necessary will make you appear professional and organized.
Memorize Your Resume
It may seem obvious – they’re your life experiences, how could you forget what you’ve done? – but in the middle of a stressful interview it’s easy to forget the reasons why you’re the perfect fit for a job. Take the time to memorize the information on your resume and cover letter so that you can go in and blow them away with your qualifications and experience.
Always research the industry you’re trying to get into and the company you’re interviewing with. Look over their website to find out about their values and goals, use Google to find any available news stories about them and research their competitors. Make sure to leverage this information during the interview to make it clear you know them and their industry. If possible, find an area they are interested in that you can offer insight into or help with.
The Day of the Interview
First impressions often dictate the success of an interview. Ultimately, you must always wear appropriate professional clothing. For men, this is a suit, plain dress shirt and polished dress shoes. No patterns, no sneakers and definitely no shorts! For women, this can be a dress, suit or skirt and blouse with flat or slightly heeled shoes. Minimal make up, no bright lipstick, excessive jewelry, short skirts/dresses and definitely no skyscraper heels! Finally, make sure your clothes are well-pressed and your hair brushed.
Always arrive 10 minutes early for an interview. This gives you the time to find the location, take a deep breath and read over any last minute information you’ve found. But don’t get there too early either. Arriving too early leaves you with too much time to overthink things and become anxious.
Turn Off Your Phone
It may seem obvious, but double check to ensure your phone is on silent or turned off before your interview. If it rings aloud, it will be difficult to recover from the negative impression it has given the interviewer. If it vibrates in your pocket, it can break your focus, causing you to lose your train of thought while answering important questions.
Fake It Till You Make It
Going into an interview is rarely a relaxing experience but it’s important you don’t give the impression that you’re uncomfortable. Enter the interview with good posture, a big smile, eye contact and a firm handshake to show the interviewer you’re self- confident and in control.
I know it’s easier said than done but having the right body language during an interview is just as important as having good body language entering it. Here are a few things you can do to relax and appear confident:
- Sit up straight
- Maintain eye contact
- Don’t cross your arms and legs
- Keep your hands and jaw relaxed
- Take deep breaths between answers and smile!
Use the STAR Method
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. It can sometimes be difficult to structure impressive answers under pressure. This method helps you frame quick, powerful responses to your interviewer’s questions. Briefly describe a Situation where you found a certain skill useful, the Task you were asked to complete, the Action you took to achieve it and the meaningful Results of those actions. This way you offer the interviewer what they want to hear without waffling.
Prepare one or two questions to ask your interviewer about the company and your potential role. The interviewer will undoubtedly ask you whether you have any questions at the end of your conversation and having a couple of thoughtful ones prepared shows intelligence and interest. Questions such as “Can I clarify anything further for you regarding my qualifications for this role?” are also useful. However, now is not the time for queries about salary, vacation or retirement plans. You don’t want to seem more interested in the compensation than the job.