The job interview process is one of the more nerve-wracking experiences you can go through when searching for a job. Between getting all of your documents and thoughts ready and trying to keep your nerves under control, it can feel more like a punch to the chest when your finished, than a rewarding and insightful experience. Part of the problem is the fear of the unknown. Thoughts like, “Who will be interviewing me?”, “What are they looking for?”, “Do I have what it takes?” only adds to the anxiety. The best way to reduce this stress, is to gain as much knowledge as possible about your prospective employer before the interview. Knowledge gives you more insight and power and will help with the fear of the unknown.
As a manager, I perform interviews and create interview questions on a routine basis. So, I thought I would share my knowledge on the interview process from the manager’s perspective with you. This way, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect and what I’m looking for when I interview candidates.
Here are some tips to help you succeed during the interview process:
Be prompt. Nothing can kill your chances at a job interview more than being late. If you anticipate the possibility of being stuck in traffic, leave hours earlier than the interview appointment and do something else like going to a local restaurant while you wait. In most cases, traffic is not an acceptable excuse. In fact, there really aren’t any excuses that will work with me. Basically, if you’re late, you may not get the job based on that alone, so don’t let it happen. There are probably employers out there who might be more lenient on this, but to me, someone who doesn’t show up for the interview on time, is not going to show up for work on time either.
Come with an understanding of the prospective employer. With all the available internet information, most companies and government entities have website information on their goals, mission, vision and operations. Take advantage of this free information! As an employer, I am looking for someone who took the initiative to learn about their prospective job. You don’t have to know every word that’s on the website, just have a general idea. If you don’t have access to the internet, call the prospective employer and ask them to send company information and a job description to you or see if you can pick it up.
Dress the part. Depending on the type of job you’re looking for, dress accordingly. If I’m looking for a professional person who will be performing public speaking in the business field, I am not going to hire someone who wears shorts and a tank top to the interview. If you are unsure of what to wear, ask the company what their usual dress attire includes and dress a step up from that. Contact other peers in the industry also to get advice.
Know who you are and what you want. Most prospective employees forget that interviewing is a two-way conversation. It’s a chance for us to get to know you and you to get to know us. In other words, you are interviewing us as much as we are interviewing you. I like interviewees who have thought about the type of job they want, what they can offer to the job and what they expect from the job. The best advice I can give on this is to jot down your strengths and skills and how you feel the employer can help you to achieve your goals, and bring them with you to the interview. Don’t be afraid to bring a list to the interview! It shows you had forethought and are organized. Also, your main goal will be to make sure I know all of your skills and accomplishments and referring to this list will help you remember. Because you are prepared, your anxiety over the interview process will be less.
Be engaged. An interview is not the time to be quiet and shy. This is your opportunity to shine and show the skills you bring to the table, so do not be afraid to boast about them. As long as you do not come across as arrogant, discussing your accomplishments and interests can only help you. Tell me about your job experiences, awards, education, and successes. I want to hear about them! And don’t be afraid to show your passion for the job. I want to hire someone who genuinely wants the job and is excited to start. I see so many times where interviewees hide these emotions. Energy breeds more energy. If you’re excited about the prospect of getting the job, I will be too.
Answer beyond the interview questions. The main focus of an interview is, of course, the interview questions. This can be the most intimidating part of the interview, but if you prepare for possible questions beforehand, you will be much more comfortable during the process. Obviously, you will need to make sure you’re ready for questions on the skills needed for the job, but don’t panic if you don’t know the answer. Sometimes I’m looking more for how you react to question than the answer itself. Stay calm and try to answer it the best you can. In addition, try to anticipate the more general questions I may ask and be prepared to answer them. Questions like, “Where do you want to be five or ten years from now?”, “How did you handle a difficult coworker situation?”, “What are your weaknesses?”, and “Why do want this job?” are definite contenders for job interview questions. If you prepare for them beforehand, the answers will come easier. Also, when I ask a prospective employee an interview question, I’m looking for an answer beyond it. I don’t want just a one sentence answer. I want you to think of something beyond the question and add to it. So, when you are answering interview questions, try to answer in at least a few sentences and add an experience related to it, an idea or perhaps information you may have read. Just be honest and genuine about your answers. Anything that shows you are a foreword thinker is a plus. I want someone who can think outside the box!
Bring supporting documentation. Even if you have already sent your resume and cover letter over to the employer, bring copies of them with you. Depending on the complexity of the job, there could be as many as ten people interviewing you, and they may not all have a copy. Be prepared, just in case. If you want to highlight a major accomplishment, bring documentation that proves it. For instance, if you wrote an outstanding report and received written feedback on it, bring it. If you have an example of your work, bring it. If you have an employer recommendation, bring it. Anything that helps showcase your skills is advantageous.
Show you are willing to learn. This can be vital to getting the job. Even if you have already done a task before or have had a similar job in the past, remember that no two jobs are exactly alike. Therefore, describe how your experience parallels the current job, but ask and listen to how the job needs to be done for me. I am not going to hire someone who thinks they already know the job and is not willing to learn new tasks. I will hire, however, someone who is familiar with the job, shows interest in how the job is performed for me and always wants to learn something new. Jobs change all the time, and I want someone who can handle it.
Come with a story or two. When you walk away from the interview, the most important impact will be for me to remember you. Your skills, actions and attitude during the interview will play a role in that, but I mostly remember those who told a good story. Before you come to the interview, think of instances where you handled a difficult situation well, helped a coworker with a new task, excelled at a new skill, acted as a leader, etc., and create a story from beginning to end. Add some humor, and you’ll knock it out of the park.
Ask questions and write down information. At the end of the interview, there is always the question, “Do you have any questions?” Though not essential, depending on conversations during the interview process, try to always ask at least one question at the end. In fact, prepare for this prior to coming to the interview and put them on your list. Inevitably, there will be one remaining question that was not answered during the process. Again, keep in mind, this is your opportunity to interview me. Ask me questions similar to, “What is a typical day like at work?” or “How many hours are in a normal work day?” Also, write down pertinent information on a notepad. Your interest in the job by doing this will also be remembered.
Always end on a high note. Once the interview process is complete, briefly highlight the main points you want me to remember about you, if you decide that this is the job for you too (again this is a two-way street!). And no matter how it goes, always leave by thanking me and shaking my hand — a courteous good-bye will leave me with a positive impression.
Of course, choosing a candidate for a job vacancy varies. Managers have different personalities, objectives and styles. It’s not always about the skills you can provide. Many times, when it comes down to two candidates, I’m going to choose the candidate I feel is a better fit with my team. Keep in mind, though, that even if you don’t get a job offer, you’ve gained valuable experience by going through the interview process and learned more about another employer and those job skills. Take that knowledge and use it to help you the next time. As soon as you are finished with an interview, write down what went right and wrong, so you can refer back to it at another time, if needed. Good luck on your future endeavors!
Article written by: Sandie Will, Rock-Head Sciences (www.rockheadsciences.com)
Sandie Will has been in the management field for over 25 years, and she currently holds a management position. Her thoughts and opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of her employer.