You’ve heard the expression “You only have one chance to make a good first impression!” Many jobseekers don’t realize how much preparation is required for that first impression until they’re face-to-face with an interviewer totally unprepared.
Even if you’ve gone through more interviews than you can remember, the process rarely seems to get easier. How can you make the most of those precious 30-60 minutes between you and the person who may be your future boss? A little preparation goes a long way to easing stress; and due diligence in researching the company is key.
So many of our clients, within days of receiving their new resume, call back with a mix of excitement and anxiety because they’ve landed an interview and want any advice we can give. The list below reflects a lot of what we share.
In future posts we’ll dive deeper into these individually. For now, we hope this list helps prepare you for the Big Day as you pursue your next career move!
#1 Deliver a Professional Resume
Your resume (and cover letter and application) MUST be checked and rechecked for accuracy. When you’re done, have a family member read it over with a red pen.
Proofreading is often overlooked and it’s to your detriment:
• 58% of resumes have typos that may lead to automatic disqualification by Applicant Tracking System software
• A hiring manager at a Chicago-based finance company recently told us that his firm rejects 75% of resumes for typos and poor formatting
Also, a one-size-fits-all approach does NOT work with resumes! Tailor each resume to the specific job for which you’re applying. In 2019, CNBC published the results of a blind test in which recruiters chose a professionally written resume 2x more than self-written versions. Hiring managers who were part of that test then deemed the professionally written resumes to be worth an extra 7% in salary.
If you’re concerned about the quality or content of your resume, send it to us for a free analysis.
Finally, always bring a hard copy of your resume for each person in the room.
#2 Practice and Prepare
The internet abounds with lists of common interview questions. We won’t slow you down with them here. Rather, we encourage you to practice your answers repeatedly. Practice out loud. Practice with friends and family. Record yourself. Have your answers to the basic, common questions so well prepared that your mental energy can be saved for replying to questions you might not expect.
The strongest answers are those that are specific but concise, integrating specific examples that showcase your skills and support your resume. Your answers should also emphasize skills that are most relevant to the employer’s requirements—in other words, talk about skills highlighted in the job posting!
Note that even the most well-prepared response will fail if it doesn’t specifically answer the question you are being asked. To combat this, listen carefully to ensure you are providing the interviewer only with information that he or she is looking for.
Bonus tip: click here for advice on answering that dreaded question: “Tell me your biggest weakness.”
#3 Be On Time (this means early!)
One step that can help reduce anxiety when the Big Day arrives is to drive to the interview location ahead of time so the route is familiar and you can gauge the amount of commute time needed.
“On time” for an interview means five to ten minutes early. Arriving more than 10 minutes early can put undue pressure on the hiring manager—don’t do it.
Bonus tip: Have one good interview outfit ready so you can interview on short notice without worrying about what to wear. When you have an interview lined up, lay out your clothing the night before—right down to your shoes. When it’s time to walk out your door, you don’t need a surprise like finding a stain on your shirt or scuff marks on your shoes. Make sure your interview attire is neat, clean and appropriate for the type of company with which you’re interviewing.
#4 Research the Company, and Impress with What You Know
Companies want to hire people who want to work for them. To portray yourself as this kind of person, you must do your homework. Surface-level knowledge about the company and the role is expected, so dig deeper.
• Search for recent news articles about the company
• Look up key players online, especially each person who will interview you
• Research the company’s history, mission and values, culture and recent successes
• If the company has a blog and/or social media presence, look them over
Tie what you learned about the company into your responses. Example: “I noticed that when you opened a west-coast location last year, your customer satisfaction ratings improved dramatically. I have a lot of experience managing projects across multiple offices and time zones.”
In today’s online world, there’s no excuse to not be prepared.
#5 Let Your Practice and Preparation Shine
• Develop a connection with your interviewer – greet him or her with warmth and a confident handshake; learn their name and use it during the interview.
• Be a good listener – throughout the interview be an engaged listener. Maintain a comfortable (i.e., not creepy) amount of eye contact and don’t interrupt.
• Remain calm by avoiding negative thinking – quickly identify and then counter negative thoughts. Example: if you’re telling yourself “I have to get this job or I’ll be unemployed forever” counter it with “No single interview determines my future and I’m getting great practice even if they don’t choose me.”
• Think first, then speak – pausing for a few seconds before each response will make you appear composed and certain. Answer each question fully and in complete sentences.
• Be mindful of your body language – gesture with your hands while speaking. Plant your feet on the ground. Nod your head while listening; and demonstrate interest by leaning slightly forward.
• Stay positive – show enthusiasm for the position you’re discussing. Don’t say anything negative about your former employer or the company you currently work for.
• Ask questions – in almost every interview, you’ll be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer. It’s important to have at least one or two questions prepared to demonstrate your interest in the organization.
#6 Follow-Up After the Interview
Don’t believe the myth that Thank You notes are outdated. They’re not.
Thank the interviewer for his or her time—it’s valuable. That was time they spent away from working on their own tasks. Mention something specific that serves as a “memory jogger” for the interviewer, or state something you wish you had mentioned in the interview.
Want to really make a good impression? Don’t send an email, they’re impersonal and may not be read. Have a blank card with you, and write it in your car immediately following the interview. Take it back to the receptionist to deliver it the same day. Or, bring it back the next day.