You have perfected your resume, done your job search and sent out tens or hundreds of resumes. Your skills, expertise, qualifications and experiences had been reviewed and got you some job interviews. You’ve earned the opportunity to present yourself in front of the hiring team, and how you perform in these interviews will be even more important to seal the deal. Most of the interviews these days are done via video conference, so how you make an outstanding impression with your unique personality, positive attitude, focus, clear articulation of thoughts and ideas, and the ability to think on your feet and respond to spontaneous questions will ultimately make you irresistible to hire.
Tips to ace your next interview
If you haven’t had too many years of professional experiences, the interview process can be nerve-wracking, but, simply no excuses, you must bring your A-game, and anything less is a failure. Below are 14 tips to help you prepare, gain confidence and stand out among others in your job search.
I could have sounded like a broken record and repeat the word practice hundreds of times. Interviews are interactive among people, so planning on paper and thinking it through in your mind can only take you so far. Doing mock interview practices over and over again is the only way to truly turn you into a confident professional. Consider the following:
- practice with friends and get direct feedback from them,
- practice in front of a mirror and observe your non-verbal language, or
- record and watch your own interview practice and look for areas of improvement
Practice will reduce your anxiety, cultivate a sense of readiness and confidence, and enable you to fully and honestly present yourself in front of your potential employers.
2. Arrive early
Being on time says a lot about your character and commitment. If your interview requires you to meet in person, make sure you give yourself plenty of time buffer for possible traffic congestions, road construction detours, or sports events. Arrive at the office 15 – 30 minutes earlier, which allows you to take a short break, relax, use the bathroom to refresh yourself if needed.
If the interview is conducted virtually, make sure you first remove all possible distractions for yourself and the interviewers. Is there anything on your desk that could potentially fight for attention? Is there something in the background that could cause any misunderstanding? Test the technology multiple times, and make sure your internet connection, the lighting, sound quality and camera positioning are all in good order before the actual interview. Trust me, the seriousness and respect you have for this interview will come through the flat screen which makes you stand out from others.
3. Dress appropriately
First impression matters, and that interview you secured could be your first and last impression depending on how you dress for it. There’re no specifics for the dress list; it’s all about looking professional and appropriate according to the position you apply for, the company culture, as well as what makes you feel confident. The rule is to dress for your future success.
4. Do your homework
Do your homework to educate yourself about the company, the industry and the people you are about to meet with for the interview. It is equally important to clarify the job title and descriptions you apply for and the name(s) of people you meet for the interview. As I’ve mentioned on the second point, arrive early, doing your homework includes making sure your equipment works well to avoid any last-minute software update or device malfunction if your interview is conducted virtually.
5. Be enthusiastic and engaged
Smile, show your interests in not only getting the job but also in the people who are interviewing you. Build a good rapport and never forget interviewers aren’t only looking for someone to do the job, they are also looking for someone whom they’d enjoy working with on a daily basis. If it’s an in-person interview, be sure to give the person a good and firm handshake with eye contact. Use both your verbal and non-verbal ways to communicate and show your interests and excitement about the opportunity, the company, and the people you meet.
6. Be true to yourself
Whether it’s about your skills, experiences, expertise, strengths, values or attributes, it is important to be honest and genuine throughout the process. It’s definitely okay to share your why as well as your selling points for the job but stay true to yourself! Being true not only promotes your confidence and reduce your anxiety, it also helps your interviewers to assess and make informed decisions about your fit for the role and company.
7. Bring extra copies of your CV
Sometimes, additional people may be invited to your interview process without your knowledge. Having extra copies of your CV allows you to share it with the unexpected participants and makes it easier for them to refer to your CV for reference. At the same time, it demonstrates your preparedness and your attention to details.
8. Listen intently, take notes and answer the questions
If taking notes calms the butterfly in your stomach and helps you to concentrate better, ask for permission to take notes during the process. Listen intently, understand what are being asked and not. It is important to stay on the topic and provide a direct answer. When in doubt, politely ask for clarification of the question before you answer it.
9. Familiarize with the STAR method
STAR – Situation, Task, Action and Result – is a common interview technique that helps you structure your response to open ended behavioral questions. STAR allows you to describe a situation you were in, explain tasks you were given, action you took and the outcome of your efforts. STAR helps you provide clear response, showcase your skills and capabilities, and ultimately helps your interviewers understand how you handle real life situations.
10. Smile, nod and count to 3
When nerve is getting on you, smile! Smile, even a forced smile, can help relax your facial muscles and therefore reduce the tension and stress in you. Nodding and counting to three silently give you the time to mentally process the question. While nodding gives the signal to the other person that you are listening, it also gives you a few extra seconds to structure your thoughts at the same time.
11. Ask good questions
Make sure you prepare a short list of good questions prior to and/or during your interview. Besides listing out questions that serve your own curiosity (future career growth, new hire expectation, and etc.), the intent behind these questions is to furthermore establish your industry knowledge and expertise, show sincere curiosities and passion to learn and understand, and build mutual interests to work together in the near future.
12. Follow up
Follow up with a thank you email. You want to be polite and grateful of their time, you also want to use every opportunity to remind the interviewers of yourself. Include interesting nuggets from your interview to refresh their memories of you. I highly encourage you to also send a handwritten thank you card. You may say, “who sends snail mails these days?” Yes, that’s exactly the point; that written card will help you make an extra impression on top of your solid interview. Treat it as a marketing campaign for yourself, follow up regularly. Also, time is of the essence; make sure you send it out as soon as you can, within 24 hours after your interview.
13. Set the right expectation
Everyone wishes the offer letter would just arrive after the first interview, but it seldom happens that way. The objective for every interview is to mark a strong impression so you make it to the next round of interview, all the way until you are the finalist with an offer letter. Don’t be discouraged, be patient, and stay in touch with the hiring person.
14. Ask for feedback
If you didn’t advance to the next round of interview or if the company hired someone at the end instead, solicit feedback from the hiring managers and understand what could have been done differently and the areas they see you could improve upon. Don’t let any learning opportunities go to waste, you’d be surprised how many hiring managers are willing to give tips to help you become a much more attractive candidate for other companies.
Interview may sound scary but remember it’s a skill that can be learned. Taking the above tips to heart and taking time to practice surely will help you feel confident and prepared as you’re headed toward your next interview. If you do not feel confident and believe having additional professional support will help, reach out, we are here for you! Best of luck on your next job interview!
About Faye Weng
Your Online Life and Career Coach
Faye Weng is an expert life and career coach who works with clients to take back control of their lives by rediscovering their passions, living/working with a clear purpose, and becoming people who can positively impact the communities around them. As your life and career coach, Faye will help you minimize noises and distractions, focus your effort and attention on the right things, execute a clear plan of action, and celebrate alongside of you when each milestone is reached. Click here to book a complimentary session.