You get to a point in your life when you want to change your job. You want to change in a working environment, industry, career or you’re simply forced by life circumstances to make a change. You will just whip out your resume, put some fancy clothes on and go to a job interview. The new job is already on horizon and you can see yourself accepting the new offer. Sounds all nice and dandy except that it isn’t like that all. Simple is far from it and oftentimes you don’t know where to start. I’m sure many people found themselves in a situation where they were looking for an advice on how to ace the job interview but were left empty handed, to say the least.
“Just be yourself and you will do fine.” is something a family member would probably suggest. Contrary to popular school and home teachings, being yourself is rarely a good advice, especially under the circumstances in which you want to impress a prospective employer and land a job you want. This isn’t to say anything bad about the notion of being yourself, it’s just that people have expectations and visions of what they want, in this case, job employers wanting the right candidate. The most important advice for any interview is to be prepared. You wouldn’t go into the woods on a picnic without all the right equipment and tools to spend the weekend, right? You would need a tent, food supplies, extra clothes and miscellaneous tools, all of which would ensure the proper experience and satisfied outcome. How do we connect this analogy to job interviews?
Job Interview preparation checklist
Let’s assume a prospective employer invited you for the interview. It’s a position you really want and naturally want to make a unique impression. There is a list of essential things which cannot be overlooked, in my opinion, but more often than not are easily ignored. Let’s list a few:
- Know the basic info on the company – this usually doesn’t seem like it would have to be mentioned but many people take this part for granted. There’s nothing faster than shutting the employer’s interest down if they figure out you weren’t serious enough to read their website. You don’t have to learn the entire history of the company or know the details of their business, just reading their About us page will suffice. Don’t underestimate this.
- Know the position you’re applying for – this one is similar to knowing the basic info about the company. Obviously, you have to know what the position is about and an employer might want to inspect on how much you’re really interested in them by directly asking you if you know what the position is about. Know this and know it by heart.
- Dress to impress – ever hear the famous saying that the clothes don’t make the man? Yeah, I usually agree but not here. The clothes will leave an impression and it is your job to make it positive. If you’re applying for an office job in a building full of professional and smart attire, mimic the style and show that you can present yourself with professional courtesy. Putting a nice blazer on with a tie and a shirt will make a significant difference which more often than not can be a deciding factor on why someone got the job or were rejected. Do it.
- Body language – I will cover this topic more in depth in another article but we cannot overlook this. Let me give you an example of my own failure. I was rejected once because they way I sit in the interview was deemed unprofessional (I was sitting slouched back instead of maintaining the upright posture). Another example of one hiring manager saying that the candidate we had just seen had a very weak handshake. Stand and sit straight, maintain an eye contact and don’t twitch. Many hiring managers with experience will also gauge your self-confidence which is highly visible through the way you carry yourself. Your vocal communication won’t matter much if you’re projecting insecurity through your actions. Be observant of this.
- Turn off your phone – this is quite self-explanatory. It isn’t a red flag in my book anymore but many employers don’t like it when your phone rings and startles everyone in the room in the middle of a conversation. It looks very unprofessional. Turn it off or at least put it on mute.
These are the basic actions which need to be taken care of before you enter the interview. Once you got that down, you have to give good answers which will back your presented persona up. How do we do that? We give constructive answers to questions.
Great interview answers
Many hiring managers will ask you open ended questions which will require answers that expand into potentially different topics. This is done with the purpose of getting to know the candidate as much as it is possible as well as identifying a wide range of competencies or skills which are sought for the position in question. So how do we know if our answers are constructively sufficient with enough information? We use the STAR method when giving answers. Let’s break it down:
- S – stands for situation
- T – stands for task
- A – stands for action
- R – stands for result
Whenever a hiring manager asks you a question, you give an answer constructed into these 4 phases. Let me give you an example:
“Tell me about a time you felt stressed at work.”
I will give an answer like this:
- S – Two clients asked me if I could provide 10 people who needed to start immediately. (Situation that caused me stress)
- T – I needed to solve the situation so both clients could be more or less pleased. The problem that I had at the time was that I couldn’t deliver 20 people at that exact moment or the week after for that matter. (Task which needed to be done)
- A – I went to social media and posted the job on various channels, got couple of referrals and did a few extra interviews. (Action I took to solve the problem)
- R – After 10 days, I found 17 people and placed them through two clients accordingly. (Result of my action)
This is how it looks like in the simplest manner possible. The more you elaborate on the situation, the better the outcome it will be. Possible issues could be that your answers might be too long or they could digress but with enough practice and experience, you will know how and when to finish each thought.
The last part of the interview
The last part of the interview is one of the most important parts. Why? Because a hiring manager will probably ask if you have any questions in the end. This is the part where you can make yourself shine even more and stand from the crowd of other candidates. Prepare yourself at least 3 questions which you will ask. Depending on the interview and what you talked about, these questions will be interchangeable. Here are 3 universal questions you should ask:
- What is your department comprised of?/How is your department structured?
- What is the level of stress in your team?/How does your team handle stress?
- Can you elaborate on the company’s mission and vision?
These questions are more related to the company itself and they might be obsolete if you already covered them during the interview. Here are the questions which I personally like to ask which incidentally almost definitely leave an impression because they’re directed at the hiring manager:
- What would your advice be for me in the first month on this position?
- Can you tell me about the obstacles you had to overcome to succeed to your current position?
- Why did the last person leave this position?
To be fair, you have to have a fair amount of confidence to ask these directly and it also heavily depends on the position itself. But at the very least, the hiring manager or the recruiter will be left surprised because these questions are rarely asked and they leave you to be unique compated to others.
Take all of this with a grain of salt. These methods are not the definitive formula for the success but they will leave an impression. Each interview is a learning experience which provides you with more knowledge on how to handle yourself and be better next time. If you have more ideas or experiences, please do share them in the comments!