I know a lot of people that are actively interview right now. Let’s be honest – who doesn’t? And I’ve had a ton of friends tell me their interview went great, only for them to not get offered the position. On the other hand, last year when I quit my job and everyone told me I was crazy, I found a position within two weeks (it was one of three positions I applied to). And this year, I interviewed at two companies, was offered a position at both, and received a counter-offer from the position I was then in. None of this is to brag, but to illustrate that it’s more than just a numbers game.
There are a ton of candidates in the market right now, so companies have the option to nit-pick candidates until they find exactly what they are looking for. Meaning, you have to step up your skills in the interview process as well as on paper. Of course, to get in the door is its own issue, but once you have, there are a few things you can do to make a good impression with your future employer.
1) Do your homework!
The obvious part of this is to know about the company you are interviewing with, and to know what the industry landscape is. Often, people forget that it’s important to research the person interviewing you, and other key players at the company. Not all interviewers care that you researched them, but if you get the one that does you’ll be glad you did. Most importantly, know what it is you are looking for from the company – use this to develop a list of about 10-15 questions you can ask during the interview. Here are a few examples:
- What’s your management style?
- What’s the office atmosphere?
- How are you competing against your top competitor?
- What is the company doing to ensure goals are hit in the next year?
- What is the growth opportunity?
- What’s the day to day look like for this position?
- What’s the ideal candidate look like?
2) Look the part!
It’s no longer enough to just put on a suit and hope it gives the right image. Of course you want to look good and feel confident. Everyone’s heard that you should dress for the position above the one you are applying for, but I have two problems with this. First, the person interviewing you isn’t going to want to hire his or her replacement. Second, it costs a lot of money to hire and train someone to fill a role, so the interviewer should be looking for someone that will fit into the current dynamic. You have to find the sweet spot that is not too casual but also not too professional; use your network and find out how everyone dresses and what the bosses prefer. Or sit outside the building during lunch and see how the people coming out look. If you can’t tell, always err on the side of professional.
What you don’t want to skimp on for any reason, are the big three: Face, Hair, Shoes. Sub-consciously, first impression is based on these three factors. Let me re-state this: SUB-CONSCIOUSLY the first impression is based on a person’s face, hair, and shoes. Everyone tells me it’s not true, but I tested it. My mom works in a male dominated workplace as an engineer. She had only worn old shoes from the time we moved to Florida – about a 9 year period. I got her to buy 5 new pairs, one for every day of the week. Right away she was asked, “did you do something different with your hair?” and “is that a new shirt?” No one asked about her shoes, but all the guys mentioned that she looked good.
3) Take Control of the Interview.
This might sound easier said than done, but I’ve learned that there’s a pretty consistent structure to the interview process. Typically, after you sit down and have completed the 1-2 minutes of small talk, the interviewer will want to go through your resume. Some will ask you questions about each of your previous positions, and others will ask you to walk them through your history. I personally like to walk the interviewer through chronologically starting at the beginning and ending at the present day. It’s important to include why you made each decision to move or stay at a specific company – it gives the interviewer an idea of what motivates you.
When that’s finished is when the interviewer will ask you questions. Here, you’ll get everything from “if you were an office supply on my desk, which one would you be and why?” to questions that pertain specifically to your ability to perform. There’s no way you can prepare for all the potential questions you’ll get here, but do what you can and don’t worry about it. Never rush your response, and always give complete answers with examples where necessary. It’s also a good idea to confirm that your answer was what the interviewer was looking for.
Finally, my favorite part, the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions. This is where you get to turn the tables and be the interviewer. Use all those questions you prepared, and really get detailed answers. Don’t be afraid to ask for more detail or to get clarification. Ultimately, this will show that you are really looking for a place to stay, and are putting the proper consideration into the decision. When you have asked all your questions, go in for the close. Ask the following series of questions:
- “Is there anything you’re looking for that you haven’t seen from me today?”
- “What are the next steps?”
- “When can I expect to hear from you?”
4) You’re not done, Follow-Up!
Thank You notes have to be a standard practice for you. Again, it’s one of those practices that not all interviewers will require, but some will and if you don’t, it can cost you the position. Some people say write one and leave it with the receptionist when you leave, but I personally prefer to send an email at the end of the day, and here’s why. If you take a little longer and really put some thought into what you write, it’ll leave a better impression than,
“Thanks for taking time to meet with me today. I really enjoyed speaking with you, and I know I’ll be a great fit for the position. I look forward to speaking with you again soon. Thanks again!”
The structure is the same, but put some thought into it. Number one, thank them for their time. Second, reference the conversation you had and how it affected you. Then highlight any key skills you think make you stand out from the competition, or didn’t get enough recognition during the interview. Finally, thank the interviewer again and state that you want the position. Here’s an example:
Thank you for setting time aside to sit with me today. It was a pleasure meeting you and learning more about the Business Development position.
Our interview reinforced my interest in partnering with Company. I can see that the company is poised to take on the number two Industry spot, particularly if the management team is as enthusiastic about the goal as you clearly are.
I’m confident that my sales skills will translate into success with T-Mobile, and that I will be an excellent fit to the team. I’ll also bring to the table strong communication skills, organization, and the creative ideas to the solutions side of the sales.
Thank you again for taking the time to meet with me. I am very interested in this position, and look forward to hearing from you soon.
That’s my process for getting through an interview and hopefully ending on success. But there are a couple other aspects that make a big difference. First, BE A PERSON and build a relationship with your interviewer; people want to work with people they like. Second, be INDIFFERENT! Nothing is worse than someone that wants it too badly (think of the guy/girl that is too desperate to get your attention). Employers are no different, if you need the position and they can tell, it’s not as attractive. Most importantly, HAVE FUN!