Once you have landed the interview, you are already among the top candidates for the job. Congratulations! You were selected for a reason: The hiring manager is already impressed with how you look on paper. You are one step closer to finding your next job.
The job interview is your opportunity to impress the hiring team in person with your specific skills and qualifications, and perhaps most importantly, demonstrate your fit for their specific needs. This guide will share tips for making the most of your job interview, including sharing what most interviewers are looking for and successful techniques for answering interview questions.
1) Preparation Before the Interview
In terms of being ready to shine during the interview, it is important to thoroughly prepare. This means doing solid research on the company, the people you will be interviewing with, and industry trends that are relevant for the sector you will be working in.
In addition, practice beforehand by preparing answers to common interview questions and examples of previous work history. Doing mock interviews with friends and family can help you feel confident and relaxed so that you can put your best foot forward during the interview.
2) Demonstrate Your Fit
A job interview is an opportunity for the hiring team to assess their top candidates to decide who to hire. The most critical aspect of this decision usually comes down to fit for the position being filled. Therefore, your primary goal in an interview is to make the case that you are an exceptionally good fit for the job.
“Fit” is a concept that has multiple dimensions. Here are the most important aspects of fit:
Hiring managers are looking to add members to their team who will thrive in the environment established by the company culture. For example, some workplaces strongly value creativity and autonomy, while others have a more rigid hierarchy and expect employees to stick to predefined boundaries.
You can gain information on the corporate culture by doing your research on the company website, employer review platforms, and by talking to current employees if you have them among your contacts. In addition, listen for clues from the hiring manager in terms of what styles of work are most valued, and draw attention to the qualities you have that demonstrate a strong fit with those expectations.
The Next Step in Your Career Story
One of the things that you may have tried to do with your resume and cover letter is to tell a story that this job is the next logical step in your career trajectory. However, here is your chance to be very explicit. Be ready to discuss why this job is the perfect “next step” for your ultimate career ambitions.
Creating and practicing an elevator pitch for the job you are interviewing for beforehand can help you be concise and strategic when asked a common, very broad type of interview question: “Why are you a strong candidate for this job?”
Skills and Qualifications
Chances are that the hiring team already has a sense for your skillset from your resume. However, it is important that you do some review of your resume to be sure that you can be specific about your skills during your interview.
Remember that the goal of your interview is to demonstrate your fit for the position. During your interview, emphasize your most relevant qualifications to the exact job that you are interviewing for.
For example, if your last job was working as a manager in a retail outlet store, and the job you are applying for is in marketing, you would be wise to focus on skills such as representing the retail brand to customers, effective product placement strategies, and your experience working with local advertising venues to promote the store. On the other hand, your experience with bookkeeping and inventory management are less relevant to the job you are interviewing for and should get less emphasis during your interview.
Valued Member of the Team
Make sure that you find the balance between taking credit for your accomplishments while also demonstrating that you are good at working with others. Be prepared to discuss how you listen and respect other people’s perspectives, communicate clearly, and lead by example. Have at least one on-the-job anecdote about your past performance working in a team.
Passion for the Work
Enthusiastic employees bring more dedication and focus to their work. Hiring managers will sometimes choose a less qualified candidate who shows a great deal of ambition to succeed in their career. Make sure that you convey excitement about the work itself. In addition, be prepared to share a meaningful moment about a time when you learned this was the right career choice for you.
3) Key Qualities to Convey During an Interview
In addition to metrics concerned with fit, employers are looking for certain personal characteristics that make for excellent employees. Of course, this list will vary depending on the type of work you are seeking. However, a common list of positive attributes often includes:
Obviously, employers want employees that can be trusted. One of the ways to convey your integrity is simply to be sincere about your accomplishments, work history, and skillsets. In addition, make strong eye contact and avoid fidgeting during your interview.
Ability to Take Direction and Criticism
It is important to show that you can learn on the job, taking constructive criticism where necessary. Employers need to know that you have the potential to grow into the position and be flexible enough to learn new ways of doing things. Be sure to come prepared with at least one story from a time on the job when you took directions from a supervisor or colleague and grew professionally as a result.
Are you dependable in a crisis? Do you show up to work on time? Will you be someone that your new employer can count on to go the extra mile to meet deadlines and quality expectations? Be sure to convey these qualities during the interview. One way to do it is to choose a few examples of when you have shown these qualities in the past and work them into your answers naturally.
The hiring manager is looking to find someone that will be a pleasure to work with. Try to relax and allow your personality to shine through during your interview. Look for opportunities to smile and affirm what others are saying during the interview. After all, they want to hire a person, not a robot.
It is still important to maintain professionalism. That is, you can go too far trying to be likeable and tread into being too personal. Keep the subject on work and the kinds of issues that are appropriate in the workplace. Avoid asking personal questions or offering up information about your own personal life unless specifically asked.
4) Interview Question Answering Techniques
Practice how you answer questions. Answering questions is as much about the substance of your answers as it is about how you deliver them.
Look for Common Ground
Connecting with members of the hiring committee on a human level is an important way to stand out among the top candidates. In addition, when you connect in a genuine way with people, you will be more likely to be remembered in a favorable light.
In your conversations before and during the interview, be on the lookout for shared professional interests. It is appropriate and even encouraged to draw attention to such common grounds. Be genuine about the kinds of experiences that you are passionate about, otherwise, you may come off as insincere.
Keep Answers Direct and Concise
It can be easy to talk too much when you are feeling nervous. However, it is important to try to be concise and clear with your answers. Going on and on about irrelevant details can make you look less qualified than you are. Instead, make sure your answers get right to the point and leverage specific skills and qualifications that address the question directly.
Carefully Listen and Ask for Clarification
During the interview process, it is important to have a sharp focus on the people talking or asking you questions. Keep strong eye contact, nod to show your understanding, and listen closely. If you are unsure about how to answer a question, it is appropriate to ask for clarification. It is much better to answer the question accurately and completely than to guess at what the person may be looking for.
A common type of interview question is a behavioral question that asks about your prior work experiences. The STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method of answering such questions makes sure you cover all of your bases:
- Situation: Be specific about the details of the situation that are relevant to the question.
- Task: Describe the problem itself and your responsibility in the role you held at the time.
- Action: Talk about the actions you took to resolve the problem.
- Result: Discuss the end results of the actions you took, being as specific as possible.