By Ariella Coombs
Here are eight solid interview tips from our experts:
When you’re preparing for your interview, you need to make sure you cover all of your bases. Here are some tips on what to say to a potential employer:
1. Stay away from superlatives.
Keep it singular. Superlatives such as “weakest” or “worst” or “biggest” indicate the greatest degree of whatever is it describing. “Worst weakness” is the weakness of the highest degree implying there are other weaknesses of varying degrees but weaknesses nonetheless. That begs the question, “What are some others?” Likewise, “need most to improve” implies there are others areas for improvement. In any case, try this as an alternative, “If I had to come up with one…” (No negatives, no multiples.)
2. Be prepared with questions for the employer.
Each interview takes on a different format, but somewhere along the way an employer will likely ask if you have any questions. Even if the interview was packed with information, always have questions prepared to ask the employer that have not been touched on or that you can benefit from by having more information. Asking questions expresses to an employer that you are serious and sincerely interested in the company and position.
Asking the “right” questions can also help solidify a positive impression. For instance, if you have done the proper research on the company before the interview, you may have knowledge of developments happening at the company or within the industry that may have an impact on the job you apply for.
Asking questions that express you are thinking ahead about the job and how certain developments may impact the business demonstrates to an employer that you are a “smart” candidate. You are already thinking like you belong in the position and looking ahead at how to address possible challenges. These types of questions can also help the employer see how you fit right in.)
3. Show them you did your homework.
One great way to build your interviewing confidence is by conducting plenty of research on the company you’re applying with and the position it’s offering. A common question interviewers ask is, “Do you know anything about our company?” Most times, candidates are forced to answer “No.”
If you’re able to share the company’s background information and showcase knowledge of its future goals for the position in question, you’ll undoubtedly catch the interviewer off-guard, in a great way!
Being prepared to answer any question that comes out of the interviewer’s mouth is a big advantage in interviews. Here are some questions to go over before your next interview:
1. “How do you handle stress?”
Interviewers are generally looking for an answer that indicates you can handle multiple priorities and projects at the same time. An answer stating that stress is a natural part of life and you feel equipped to handle the challenges of the job and balance them with the rest of your life may be just the answer that earns you the job.
2. “Tell me about yourself.”
What the hiring manager is really asking: “How do your education, work history, and professional aspirations relate to the open job?”
How to respond: Select key work and education information that shows the hiring manager why you are a perfect fit for the job and for the company.
For example, a recent grad might say something like, “I went to X University where I majored in Y and completed an internship at Z Company. During my internship, I did this and that (name achievements that match the job description), which really solidified my passion for this line of work.”
3. “Tell me about a time when you did ______.”
Just because you’ve never done something doesn’t mean you can’t do it. And it surely doesn’t mean you can’t excel at it. If you’re asked a question about prior experience regarding something you’ve never done, the best way to answer isn’t to say “No, I’ve never done that.” Or, “No, I don’t have experience in that area.” The best way to handle the question is to say something along these lines: “While I have not had any direct experience in XYZ, I am a fast learner, and I am confident that I could (do, manage, direct, handle, etc.) XYZ successfully and exceed your expectations.”
And an effective way to enhance your previous confident response would be to share with the hiring manager about a time when you did do something very similar—or something that could in some way relate to the experience they are asking you about. However, no matter how you approach the question, be sure to emphasize that you’re confident you can do whatever it is they’re asking you about.
Even after the interview is over, you need to go the extra mile to impress the employer. Here are some post-interview tips:
1. Follow up with a thank-you note.
Send notes to all the individuals with which you had a conversation. Do not send one note to just the hiring manager. You will miss out on all the other contacts that you made.
Even a note to the receptionist / office manager is appropriate and helpful but only if you had more of a conversation not just a “hello.”
Make the notes unique to each individual based on the conversation you had with them. Remind them of the conversation you had.
In each thank-you note, remind the contact why you bring value to the company / team / position and show your enthusiasm.
As the hiring process progresses or slows, stay in touch with your contacts, as appropriate. If the process has slowed begin to follow up about every two business weeks. Too soon and it will be considered over-kill. Much later that two weeks and you’ll be forgotten.
2. Use the three-paragraph rule.
Your follow-up e-mail should be short, sweet and personalized. Generally, a good rule of thumb for the length is three paragraphs, with no more than two to three sentences in each paragraph.
First Paragraph: Briefly thank them for their time and reiterate your interest in the position.
Second Paragraph: Discuss a couple of your strengths and how the company would benefit if you were hired. Consider using bullet points to break up your text.
Third Paragraph: Include any points of clarifications you might have. Include answers to questions that you weren’t able to answer during the interview, or add new info about yourself that was left out of the interview. But, remember, keep it brief.
Vicky Oliver, author of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions, suggests indicating your next point of contact by saying something along the lines of “Look forward to hearing from you within the next two weeks.” If no date was set at the interview, either ask for one or specify you will loop back to them for a decision in two weeks.