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Top 10 Ways to Ace a Job Interview
So, here you are. You looked through dozens (maybe hundreds) of job postings, submitted your application, cover letter, resume (and maybe even a writing sample). The employer has called you for an interview. Congratulations! Here is a tip that sometimes gets lost on applicants: truth be told, by the time you get the interview, the company already knows that you meet the minimum requirements for the position. Good news, you are qualified. The interview is the opportunity for the company to get to know you and see if you will be a good fit for the company.
I have over 25 years of professional work experience. Most of my work experience has been in college administration and the legal profession. There have been times where I held part-time jobs, temporary jobs, and participated in volunteer work and student internships at government agencies. One thing all of these positions had in common was that there was an interview.
Many of us cringe at this part of the hiring process.
"Will they like me?"
"Will I get the job?"
"Will I mess up and say the wrong thing?"
"Do I smell right, look right, etc.?"
Many negative images can appear in the mind when it comes to the “interview thing.” I have been through more than my fair share of interviews in my life (and yes, sometimes I did not get the job). I have also been a position where I hired staff; so, I know what to look for in a candidate.
Here is how to ace that job interview and get the offer you want in my "Top 10 Style.” You will find that acing that interview is not so much about what you say; rather, it is all about who you are. One more thing, before you go into that interview (or the building), turn that cell phone off; really, you and the interviewer do not need the interruption.
Tip # 2 - Dress for Success
Tip #3 - Respect the Interviewer's Time
The Top 10 Ways to Ace a Job Interview
- Be professional: It does not matter what the job title is (a janitor, secretary, or CEO), you must present yourself as a professional because every job/career is in a business; and businesses want to make money. Businesses make money through the staff they hire and each role is an important one. Do not go into the interview with the mentality that this is like any other conversation you have with friends or family.
- Dress for success: Be well-dressed and well-groomed. You have one time to make a first impression. There is some truth in that if you do not take care of the way you look it’s because you do not care enough about yourself. If you do not care about yourself, you probably do not care enough about anyone else, let alone the responsibilities that go along with the job. Let the employer be the one to tell you how to dress for the job (i.e. jeans on Fridays). But at that interview, it’s a different story. Some basic tips include wearing clothing that fits well and is clean and avoiding clothing that is distracting or overly casual. When the interview is over and the hiring committee meets, you will want them talking about your skills, personality, and that you were put together well. You do not want them talking about the lady with the "club outfit" or "clown makeup" or the guy with the "mismatched socks" or "cartoon tie." It is just not the way to stand out among other applicants.
- Respect the time of the interviewer: Take the interviewer up on the first available time slot for the interview. Be punctual, if not a few minutes early. Employers want employees to be on time for work. They want to know they can count on you to be there and that you care about their time. After all, they have set aside this special time just for you.
- Use your voice: Speak articulately. No slang. No mumbling. Not too loud and not too soft. Loud speech can be interpreted as intimidating; and, if you speak too softly, it will be interpreted as a lack of confidence. Speak clearly and confidently when presenting your experience and abilities.
- Prepare for questioning: Be prepared with answers for certain questions by practicing. Common questions in interviews are: How did you become interested in this field? Why did you work at XYZ Company? Why did you leave? What were the most satisfying things for you in your previous position? What are your weaknesses? Never "bad mouth" a former employer or colleague.
- Prepare to question the employer: Be prepared to ask questions of the employer. Never ask about salaries in the first interview. Let the employer bring it up; believe me the employer will talk about salaries, bonuses, benefits, etc. Instead, ask questions related to the expectations of the employer. How do you evaluate the performance of employees? What types of programs do you have for professional development of employees? Why did this position become available? Forbes Magazine suggests that the questions stem from three focused objectives: (1) to ensure the employer does not have reservations about hiring you; (2) to demonstrate your interest in the employer and the position; and (3) to determine whether this position and employer is right for you. (Forbes). One final question I have used is "Is there anything else you need to know about me or need clarification about in order to determine if I am a good fit for this position?" Although this question is always nerve wracking for me, it lets me know where I stand. I believe that it also lets the interviewer know that I am very interested in the job and that I am open and honest. Also see the book Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview by Ellen Gordon Reeves for ideas on questions to ask employers.
- Demonstrate happiness: Smile. Be a happy person. Show that you are someone who has a positive outlook on life. The employer wants positive employees who will not bring negativity to the office. So, no matter what happened before you arrived at the interview, put on your happy face and leave the negativity out of the office. Have a “can do” attitude.
- A little humor: It is alright to insert a little humor into the interview; but make sure it is appropriate. In a recent article by CBS News, humor can be an important part of the interview because "It can lighten the mood, putting both you and your interviewer at ease; smooth over an awkward moment; and show what you're like to work with. But use it sparingly." One "joke" I use often is to explain my New York accent since I usually get the question, "where are you from." My response is usually along these lines, "I was born and raised in New York and though I moved out of the area 20 years ago, I cannot shake the accent. You can take the girl out of New York but you can't take New York out of the girl."
- Avoid fidgeting: Fidgeting shows insecurity, so no twisting hair, fiddling with your glasses, picking your nails, or squirming in your chair. Confidence and keeping these expressions under control shows that you are approachable. Exhibiting nervousness in these ways is distracting to the interviewer.
- Do your homework: Know the company! It gives you something to talk about. It shows sincere interest in the position. It gives you reasons to want to work for the company and you can incorporate that knowledge into the interview. “You know, one of the things I really like about this company is …….It is one of the reasons I would love to work here. Can you tell me more about it?” Just make sure it’s not about a benefit you will receive. Maybe the company participates in a particular charity or volunteer project. Study the company and pick out its important values; and, then, tell the employer what values you share in common. Always be honest.
What Not to Wear on a Job Interview
spaghetti straps or strapless tops/dresses
sneakers or flip-flops
shorts or jeans
obnoxious colored shirts/ties
platform heels or stilettos
Keep all underwear under your clothes (no showing bra straps)
clothes that are wrinkled
jewelry that jingles
unnecessary accessories (backpacks, sunglasses, gloves, etc.)
Don't forget to thank the interviewer for his or her time. Be grateful. It also helps to let the interviewer know that you enjoyed your discussion and that you look forward to hearing from him or her when the final decision is made. Have a great interview and good luck!
Share your opinion
In your view, how do most candidates fail in the interview?
Gordon Reeves, Ellen. Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview? Workman Publishing. 2009.
Konop, Joe. "10 Job Interview Questions You Should Ask." Forbes.com. June 18, 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2014/06/18/10-job-interview-questions-you-should-ask/. Access date: February 3. 2015.
Levin-Epstein, Amy. "No joke: How to use humor in a job interview." CBSNews.com. March 6, 2012. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/no-joke-how-to-use-humor-in-a-job-interview/. Access date: February 3, 2015.
By Liza Lugo, J.D.
(c) 2012, Revised 2015. All rights reserved.
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This hub was originally entitled "How to Sell Yourself in an Interview." It has been substantially altered and edited. Revised edition published on February 3, 2015. Latest corrections and edits made on February 23, 2015.