As your job search partner, we’ve put together some tips to help you turn your interview into a great first impression or better yet, a job offer.
Research the organization.
Knowing more about your potential employer can help you feel more confident, answer questions more directly, and stand out from other candidates. As a minimum, read about the fundamentals of what the organization does, when it was established, the size, and what market they serve. Read the company’s Career Page on their website to learn about the attributes they look for, and what they offer. Look up any bios you can find about key personnel and anything you can learn about the person interviewing you. Caution on memorizing the material verbatim, as you may sound scripted. The goal isn’t to ‘showcase’ what you’ve learned, it’s to present it naturally if you’re asked, or incorporate what you know into a reply.
DO be prepared to answer: “Why are your interested in our company?” and “What do your know about our organization?
DON’T roll out a long list of every detail you read, or ask about negative things you may have found online or heard from a friend. Remember that former employees may vent but their career and situation are not your own.
Match your experience to a role.
Reflect on how your skills, experience and interests fit with the job description. This is an area that candidates are often ill prepared for—even though it’s what should be top of mind! Read each line of the job description one by one, and consider what you have done that is the same or similar as the description. If you have no experience in a part of the role, think of what you’ve done that is similar (in your community, volunteering, or at school).
DO have concise examples in mind of how your experience is linked to the job requirements.
DON’T ramble about one specific skill, let the interviewer guide what is important to them.
Prepare answers to the most common questions.
You can guess at the top five questions any interviewer will ask—so be sure you have a strong reply that is clear, brief, positive and memorable.
DO be ready to answer these classic questions:
- Why did you leave the position with (company)? Be prepared with reasons for leaving each role.
- What do you bring to this role / what are your strengths?
- What would your manager say you could improve?
- Where would you like to see yourself in 1, 3 or 5 years?
- Why do you want this role?
DON’T be negative about former employers, your superiors or colleagues. Find a professional way to express issues or problems you’ve experienced.
Dress the part.
We used to say ‘dress for success’ but the truth today is that dress codes are extremely variable. You want to dress slightly better then the role to which you’ve applied, but not significantly higher. You want to be approachable to the interviewer and the team you may join. If it’s a casual environment (jeans and t-shirts), wear dress pants and a collared shirt. For women, business attire is highly variable. Attempt to mimic the work setting to which you are interviewing. Look at the website for clues, and ask us about the environment.
DO select more conservative attire than your weekend wear or expressive self, unless you’re in an artistic environment. For example, choose classic jewelry and stockings, avoiding patterned nylons and eccentric accessories.
DO borrow from a friend if you don’t have what you need in your closet. You may regret buying interview attire that doesn’t work for all environments. If you decide to shop, go for ‘business casual’ attire which you can dress up and dress down.
DON’T wear casual attire because you risk being under dressed. Never wear torn jeans, sloppy or tight fitting clothing, or t-shirts with offensive language.
Sometimes the pressure of the interview takes over, and your mind focuses on your next reply. When you miss the chance to hear a clue, your dialogue with the interviewer may be stunted. Actively listen for tips about the job itself, about what they are looking for, and about the interviewer. To test memory and listening skills, some interviewers may ask you at the end to enumerate what you remember about them or what they told you during the interview.
DO keep your eyes on the interviewer. Their body language or change in tone may be an indication that you need to provide more details, or end your reply shortly.
DON’T interrupt. Let the interviewer finish their sentence before you reply.
Watch your body language, and your tone.
To gain control over your nerves, sit forward and sit straight. Put one hand in the other, or put your hands on your thighs—and don’t move around incessantly. Remember to smile when you can, as smiling creates a positive dialogue. Some interviewers will intentionally put you on the spot to make you feel defensive; this is normally to see how you may react to feedback or instruction. Don’t allow yourself to get defensive. Say “thank you for asking me that,” then collect your thoughts and offer your input.
If you’re put on the spot, avoid becoming defensive. Collect your thoughts and reply with what you have learned and what you intend to do. Say…
“Thank you for asking me that. You’re right, I have moved around quite a bit in my career. This has helped me gain an appreciation for different industries and the role you are staffing. Two of my departures were not under my control as one company moved away, and the other reduced their staff by half. I intend to stay in my next role for many years. I’m seeking that stability.”
EXUDE interest and positivity.
Companies are looking to hire candidates that will positively contribute to their projects and teams. When the interviewer raises an element of the job, say “Yes, I’d be interested in that.” Don’t leave them guessing.
DO say you want the job “I’m very interested in the role, and will accept it if it’s offered to me.” Everyone likes to be wanted, so go ahead and say it.
DON’T speak unwell of others, or say “you hate doing X duty”. Perhaps that duty is a small part of the role, and everyone does some amount of grunt work (even executives).
LEAVE salary, vacation and benefits to us.
Be prepared to discuss compensation, but don’t be the one to raise it. Leave it to our firm to negotiate the best offer we can. If the interviewer raises salary, refrain from saying “I’ll take anything” but also avoid suddenly shooting up your salary expectations. If you must state a salary, offer a range that makes sense based on the labour market and what we’ve told you about the client’s suggested salary. You could say “I’m currently earning $XX,000. Based on my experience, I’d like to earn $XX,000 (more). However, I’m keenly interested in this organization, and I’d accept a reasonable offer.” Let them make an offer and then you can decide.
What not to say about salary.
Avoid saying “I don’t know.” Everyone knows what salary range is acceptable to them. Refrain from saying that you need to make a target amount due to your expenses. The client wants to hire the best candidate, with the right skills and experience—expenses shouldn’t affect the offer.
Never say… “Based on my personal expenses, the cost of daycare, and the car I just bought, I want at least $XX,000 to do the job. I wouldn’t accept less.”
DO offer a salary range.
DON’T suddenly increase your salary expectations. If we told the client you are looking for a specific dollar range, and you boost it up by $5,000, that makes us both look bad.
DON’T ask for a big office, immediate vacation, a parking spot, or overtime pay in your interview. Ask us about what perks may —or may not—be available.
Prepare a few questions to ask during the interview.
You may be asked if you have any questions. This is a polite invitation by the interviewer to give you a chance to clear up any concerns you may have. This is not the time to take out a list of 15 questions you prepared and deluge the interviewer with them all.
Three Great Questions:
“Should I be the successful candidate, what do you foresee as the first project I’ll be working on?”
“Based on our conversation, do you believed I have the appropriate skill-set for this role? Is there anything further I can add?”
“While in this role, how could I contribute to the company’s goals?”
DO prepare a few good questions to ask at the appropriate time, or when the floor is opened to you. Ask one question at a time, and allow the interviewer to answer before you go on to the next.
DON’T say you have no questions at all. This could make you seem unprepared or disinterested.
QUICK TIPS FOR INTERVIEW SUCCESS
Tip #1 – Don’t be late, chew gum or smoke immediately before your interview.
Tip #2 – Don’t tote a coffee cup or leave your cup in reception.
Tip #3 – Start and finish the interview with a firm hand shake, and thank the interviewer for meeting with you.
Tip #4 – Remember to turn your cell phone to silent, or off.
Tip #5 – Maintain eye contact throughout the interview.
Tip #6 – Listen attentively, nod and smile—avoid leaning on the desk. Show that you’re engaged.
Tip #7 – Refrain from saying bad things about anyone.
Tip #8 – Sit forward and straight, avoid slouching in the chair.
Tip #9 – Say you are interested in the role if you are.
Tip #10 – Avoid asking about promotions. You can express an interest in future growth, but the emphasis here is on the “future.” Stating that you want to advance puts pressure on the interviewer to determine at the interview stage whether you are capable of growth.
Tip #11 – Know your dates of employment. It’s surprising to the interviewer when a candidate has to read their own resume to answer questions.
Tip #12 – Refrain from requesting vacation time before you’ve been offered the role. Leave vacation matters to the offer stage. For example, if you are attending a wedding and need a day off in the third month of employment, state this at the offer stage, not during your interview.
Tip #13 – If appropriate, ask to see the work environment.
Tip #14 – Send a thank you note by email or mail after the interview—be sure there are no spelling mistakes including the spelling of the interviewer’s name.
Tip #15 – If you’re asked “Tell me about yourself.” Don’t respond by saying “What do you want to know?” or “Personally or professionally?” or “Read my resume. It’s all there.” The interviewer may use this as an opening line to understand who you are overall, and wants to hear your story in your words. Prepare for this question. Use this as an opportunity to promote yourself.
“I was raised in Perth. I have an older brother and younger sister. I’ve been in (City) for 3 years and I love it. I’ve gained 4 years experience in (area / industry). I truly enjoy (field) because it’s fast-paced and diverse. Personally, I like running and reading.”
Keep it short and positive. Share a bit about yourself but not too much! After all, it is an interview. Remember to pause if the interviewer has questions—let this response become a dialogue.