What You Should and Shouldn’t do in a Successful Interview

Interviews can be the most stressful aspect of job hunting, but it doesn’t have to be!  Understanding how to make a great first impression and how to find out if the company fits your career goals can go a long way to alleviating much of the stress.

Interviews should be an exciting first look into your potential future and as such should leave you with a firm grasp on whether you want to work there and what that might look like as well as leave the interviewer with a favorable picture of you in their open position.

Make a Great First Impression

Most know to dress for success.  Avoid large amounts of jewelry or makeup and flashy hair.  Don’t go crazy with the perfume either.  It should go without saying, but cleavage is never appropriate in an interview.  Making sure you appear your best takes away a layer of insecurity that can get in the way of interview success.  Having a thoughtfully crafted resume printed on card stock and pens you have ensured write smoothly should set you up for the exciting possibility of what this company might have to offer you as well as providing your prospective employer with a platform for exploring the possibilities of what you can offer them.

First of all, don’t show up too early.  Five minutes is perfect, no more than fifteen minutes early is a good guideline.  You want to reflect good time management skills and showing up too early might send the wrong message.

You’re finally sitting across the desk from the recruiter / interviewer and so far, you like what you’ve seen.  The people you met on your way in are friendly and seem to enjoy working there, the work spaces give off a vibe you identify with and you could definitely see yourself working here.  While your interviewer scans your resume, be careful not to fidget.  Don’t be one of those people who is playing with a pencil or tapping their foot constantly; jiggling a leg or playing with your hair.  Sit quietly, hands in your lap or on the desk in front of you, and wait to be addressed.

As the discussion begins, try not to interject too many “ums” and “likes,” rather learn to pause and think when you need to consider what you’re going to say next.

While making constant eye contact is a recommendation from days gone by, what really should be happening is a rotation.  You basically want to be looking them in the face, not the eye.  Make eye contact for a moment, then look at their nose, then their forehead, and repeat.  Looking someone directly in the eye for an extended period can be disconcerting and should be avoided.  You may appear overly aggressive.

Don’t slouch, just like mother taught you.  Sit up straight and be engaging.  Also, avoid sitting with crossed arms.  Keep your hands in your lap or in front of you on the desk.

Be Prepared

There’s a fine line between passion and aggression and you need to be able to convey one without the other, but not too much of either.  The interviewer will want to gauge if you are interested in working for the company or just looking for a “job.”  It’s crucial that you ask yourself some questions before the interview so you’re prepared to give the right impression.

  • What first attracted you to this company?
  • What about this company resonates with you?
  • How does this position fit into your vision of your professional journey and career aspirations?

You can find out a lot about a company by visiting their web site.  Look for a press page to see what news they’re sharing.  There may be profiles of key leaders in the company.  See if what they’re doing inspires you in some way.  If you know someone that works at the company, reach out; find out why they like working there and get their opinion of the company’s mission statement.

Having a bit of background information on their company will set you apart as someone willing to go the extra mile; that cares about where they’re going and gives careful consideration to new opportunities.

Ask insightful questions during the interview.  Interviewers want to see that you’re interested and sincere.

Here are some questions that will get the ball rolling:

  • What do the day-to-day responsibilities of the position look like?
  • What are the company’s values? What characteristics do you look for in employees in order to represent those values?  This will give you a window into the company’s culture and what’s important to them.
  • What’s your favorite part about working at the company?
  • What does success look like in this position, and how do you measure it? It’s important to understand how success is measured and how often it’s measured.
  • Are there opportunities for professional development? If so, what do those look like?  Opportunities for growth and establishing if there’s a Learning and Development program will clue into the dynamics of the company.  Lack of either can point to stagnation and you don’t want to involve yourself there.
  • Who will I be working most closely with? Jot down names and titles.
  • What do you see as the most challenging aspect of this job? Try to get a feel for the scale of the problems you’ll be dealing with.
  • Is there anything about my background or resume that makes you question whether I’m a good fit for this role? You’ll show you’re highly invested in the job and committed to your candidacy.
  • Be prepared to answer the question: Where do you see yourself in 2/5/10 years? The interviewer will want to know that when they invest time and resources in you that you plan to be there, building your future with them.

What Not to Do

There are some things you shouldn’t do during your interview that will definitely hurt your chances, even if it’s not readily apparent at the interview.

  • Don’t bash your former employer, no matter how justified or applicable the information may seem at the time.
  • Don’t curse, even if the interviewer does. It’s simply not professional.
  • When asked about your greatest weakness, never say “perfectionism.” Consider an honest answer before you attend the interview.  Find a genuine area you could use some improvement in and don’t try to sugar coat it.  It will display maturity and self-awareness to recognize a real flow that you can work on.
  • There are wrong questions to ask during an interview. The interview is not the time to ask about salary, vacation, or what time people check out for the day.
  • Not asking questions. Questions are a sign of engagement and interest.  If you are truly interested in the job and the interviewer asks if you have any questions, the answer is “Yes.”

Have a care not to appear overly aggressive by having too much of a presence during the interview.  Too eager or arrogant will give the impression you are hard to manage.  If you’re hyper-excited or have no-it-all tendencies in your excitement to perform well in your interview, it may lead to a practice of cutting off the interviewer.  Avoid interruptions at all costs.  Take the time to develop well thought-out answers with solid examples.

Be Positive

Probably most important is to have a positive attitude.  Treat everyone you encounter with friendliness and respect.  It won’t go unnoticed.  Always be gracious and appreciative of the interviewer’s time even if you find you’re not the best fit for their culture.  You never know when you might cross paths with these people in the future, even if you don’t get the job.

Send a thank you email after your interview, within 24-48 hours.  It’s an old standard but still holds true.  A handwritten note is good too, but only as a supplement to your email.

When emailing with the company, quick responses and follow-ups are very positive, but ensure you don’t over-do.  Too much emailing will develop into a negative feeling for your recruiter.

Follow these pointers and put your best foot forward.  You’ll soon find your dream job and be glad that you did!