Congratulations! You’ve landed an interview with what you believe to be your dream job. For many, this may seem like the time to sit back, relax and enjoy the process. Unfortunately, landing an interview is just the beginning.
Here are a few things you should do before, during and after your interview to show your potential employer that you deserve to be in the position that you’re in.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
1. Complete Research on the Company you will be Interviewing for
You never want to go to an interview without digging in and finding out more information on the company. Think of this exploratory phase as a way for you to understand the company and the industry that they are in and whether or not the position truly is a good fit for you. Completing in-depth research before you even apply to the job would be in your best interest (but let’s just assume you have done so already).
During this discovery phase you should make an effort to find information such as press that the company has been included in (good or bad), individuals that work for the company and even past employees who previously worked there and finding out from what they liked/disliked most about the company and their position. All this information will be integral in one of the upcoming steps that I have outlined below for you to be successful in the interviewing process. Also note, if a company does not have a digital presence (ummm, it’s 2017), I would be wary in moving forward as it may turn out to be a scam or a position that is no longer desirable once you are on board due to false advertising (which is never fun to get involved with). Check out this article on The Balance on how to not get scammed.
All in all, it is never a bad thing to go into an interview with having an overabundance of knowledge. Not only does the hiring manager need to know that you have an interest in the company, but knowing information as if you are already an employee will let the hiring manager see that you could be a really good fit.
2. Find out who is doing the Interviewing
This is usually outlined to you when a recruiter or executive assistant is scheduling an interview with you. Knowing who will be conducting your interview beforehand may put your mind at ease. Additionally, this is a great opportunity to inquire about the person on a personal and professional level. I realize that interviews have the stigma to always be about you, however, splitting up the interview to learn more about the interviewer can transform your nerve-wrecking interview into an actual conversation. The interviewer is doing research on you, so why not do the same and make the most out of small talk.
Lastly, all of your interview answers should be polished, direct and to the point. However, depending on the title of the person conducting your interview, you should prepare a variety of questions. Questions directed towards HR, a manger or CEO could be vastly different and you want to make sure you know who your audience is to tailor the right questions for the right person.
3. Prepare a List of Questions
As explained in the previous step, this will be very crucial during your interview. It’s considered to be one of the most important steps. When the employer asks you if you have any questions, never say no. Not coming prepared with questions shows that you are not really interested in working at said company. It also makes you look unprepared and that you are just looking for a job to have a job (which I know that’s not the case because you are a motivated and an inquisitive person)! Below is a document that can be used in an interview to guide your discussion with a potential employer.
4. Practice, Practice, PRACTICE
According to U.S. News most candidates don’t practice for interviews… and it shows. I for one have had my fair share of unfortunate interviews, but you live, learn and move on with your new learnings to have an exceptional interview in the future. When candidates do practice interview questions they seem to be more polished and poised in their answers which results in a very effective interview.
Ensure that you are prepared for your next interview by thinking about the questions you are most likely to be asked or practice the answers to questions that you stuttered through in previous interviews. Make sure that you are writing out your answers and practicing them out loud in the mirror or to someone you know and trust. You want to make sure that you get really familiar with the job description and highlight skills that you know are your strengths and that the employer is looking for within the position you applied to.
One final thing you should most likely do, but is not entirely required is to do a dress rehearsal a couple of days prior to the interview. Make sure that the attire that you plan to wear is dry cleaned, pressed and without stains or holes. For the ladies, always stick with a skirt or dress that is finger tip length (yes, I’m going back to grade school). Basically, if you sit down and your skirt or dress is essentially a mini skirt, you should not wear it. As for dress type, business appropriate clothing never goes out of style, however, with the surge of startup companies and businesses that have more of a casual everyday work attire, I would strongly suggest conforming to business casual. Although a business suit never goes out of style, the potential employer wants to also make sure you will make a good fit into their company culture. If you are unsure what to wear, always resort to business, but if you know someone who works there or has worked there, I would strongly recommend asking them about the dress code. When preparing what you wear, always ensure that you feel comfortable and confident.
5. Research the Salary Range
All the above are very crucial, and since we have student debt to pay off and bills, it is key to know that you will be taken care of by the company that you potentially will commit a lot of time, money and resources to. Knowing an estimate of what you could potentially make is always a plus, but do not make that the centerpiece of conversation. It may leave a bad taste in the hiring managers mouth. In my experience you should never bring up how much you could make or negotiate a salary until you know for sure they are interested in hiring you. The only exception would be is if they ask you what your salary expectations are. In any case, you want to make sure you are prepared to answer that question as well.
I will say this – know your worth. If you have had a previous job prior to the one you’re applying to, great! At least you have a baseline of what your salary expectations are especially depending on what industry you’re in. However, if you are unsure what you should be making there are plenty of resources you can use such as other professionals in your network, your previous professors, advisors or mentors and websites such as Pay Scale, Glassdoor and Salary.
DURING THE INTERVIEW
6. The Face-to-Face Interview
Now that you have done all the above. You should be ready for your interview! Its time to show off your hard work. The challenge is to articulate all that you have practiced into short, meaningful sound bites to the interviewer. The Boss Group calls this, “30-second commercials… quick, concise, verbal snapshots of your skills and talents and how they match the job requirements.” All employers are looking for the same—the most qualified candidate at the most reasonable pay rate who will be highly motivated to contribute to the success of the company, department or project. Something about you has piqued their interest. And that’s all it takes to open doors. Here are a few helpful tips once you’re inside:
- Arrive at least 5 minutes early.
- Be well-groomed, clean and modest in your appearance.
- Shake hands firmly and make immediate eye contact with a smile.
- Be articulate, but don’t try too hard to impress . . . be yourself.
- Look the person in the eye and show interest, even if you’re bored.
- Try to get the employer to talk about himself/herself. The best interviews follow the 50-50 Rule . . . half the time you talk, the other half they talk.
- Bring at least three clean copies of your resume, a list of your references, and a business card if you have one. More and more of today’s job candidates are also leaving behind professional portfolios containing artifacts of their achievements.
- Bring a pad of paper to take notes.
- Ask for business cards from each of the people with whom you interviewed.
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
7. Always say “Thank You”
Always send a thank you note within 24 hours to all of your interviewers. The thank you note shows that you are considerate. It also helps the employer to remember you, gives you an opportunity to reiterate your interest in the position, and to add anything you forgot to tell them that you want them to know. The deliver can either be via email or snail mail – personally, I like to send a hand-written thank you note which shows I put in the extra effort.
Not only is it just good manners to follow-up an interview with a thank you note. While you can send notes in the form of an email, make sure to send them separately to each individual who was present during your interview. This more personal approach will stand out.
On the contrary, if the employer goes cold after your interview, it is appropriate to follow-up via email or phone call at a minimum of seven (7) days after your interview took place. Not only will this show that you are willing to take initiative, but you’ll also be clear on where your application stands. Should you not hear back from the employer, it is appropriate to follow-up at least three (3) times until it’s time to turn in the towel. Realize that individuals are very busy and may be up against deadlines or are traveling for work, so always keep that in mind!
It can be hard to let go, but if an employer fails to get back to you when they said they would follow-up, do some major evaluation on whether you think the company is the right fit. Just think, if you consistently do not follow-up with someone, do you think they would want to work with you? Same goes for an employer not following up with you. Make the decision that is in the best interest of you!