The interview is the most critical aspect of landing a new job. If you’ve gotten to this stage, your foot is in the door. (For the purposes of this post, we will assume that this is a real job interview, not an informational one.)
Interviews are organic experiences. They involve real people, with different personalities, in different settings, and with different energies. Every interview is different.
That said, most interviews follow a similar trajectory, so the same rules and strategies apply. The key is to prepare yourself. Do not think you can wing it. You can’t. Take it seriously, and prepare yourself as if it’s the first interview you’ve ever had.
So, prepare, prepare, prepare. Here are 10 tips to ace the interview:
- Do some research on the company and the industry.Don’t just look at the company homepage. Look at the company in the framework of the industry. Google them and the industry. How are they positioned in the industry? What are they doing that is new or innovative? What are their challenges and the challenges industry-wide? What are their competitors up to?
- Look at your resume and skill set.How do your qualities match what the company needs? Try to find ways to match your skills and experience with what the company needs now and in the future, and be ready to talk about it.
- Think about the impression you want to leave.What are the three qualities or characteristics that you want the interviewer to remember about you? What are the things they are looking for in an employee, and how will you convey to them that you have those qualities? Think specifically about how you are going to do that.
- Practice basic interview questions.There are six to 10 basic interview questions that almost every interviewer asks, ranging from your weaknesses to why they should hire you. Here are two good articles to read:
CNN: The Top Six Interview Questions
Monster.com: The Top 10 Interview Questions
I highly recommend that you practice your answers, out loud, several times. If you can, get a friend to role-play and help you with your answers.
- Ask good questions.When the interviewer asks you, “Do you have any questions?” Do not say, “Nope, I think I’ve got it.” Worse, don’t say, “Yea, what’s the starting salary?”
You need to have good, specific, intelligent questions about the company and the industry. Ask things like, what are some new trends in the industry that we may be working on? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in the past year? What are some of the challenges that people in this position have faced? Asking questions shows you are engaged, thoughtful, intelligent, and interested.
But do not ask about salary. Wait until they fall in love with you; that’s when you have the most leverage. And don’t ask about vacation, either.
- Go in with a positive attitude.Fake it if you have to. Be upbeat. No one wants to hire a downer. Do some exercises to feel confident and powerful. Watch this great video from social psychologist Amy Cuddy about how to do it.
- Be confident, but not arrogant.There is a huge difference between arrogance and confidence. Don’t brag or boast. Simply discuss your successes and talk about how your team made achievements. Say “we” not “me.” Confident, capable people share credit; arrogant ones take it.
- Listen as much as you talk.Arrogant people talk about themselves incessantly. Yes, you want to sell yourself, but you have to listen, too. Plus that will help you ask questions later.
- Dress for success.First impressions are critical, so dress appropriately. If your dress is too casual it will leave a negative impression. Dress for the job you want, and dress appropriately for the industry.
If it’s a casual industry, say a start-up where the employees and bosses wear shorts and flip-flops to the office, you don’t want to show up in a three-piece suit, but you also don’t want to show up in jeans and a t-shirt. Strike a professional balance without going overboard. How does the most senior person dress? Copy that. Match the industry standards.
- Watch your body language.Your demeanor needs to be professional, too. Never be too familiar or chummy. And your body language should be confident and open. So don’t cross your arms or legs, maintain good eye contact, and try not to frown. And be sure to give a good, firm handshake – no limp fish hands!
Acing the interview is easy if you prepare yourself. Take it seriously, be ready, and be confident. Good luck!