Five Great Interview Tips
So you've finally got the interview set up. Your moment of truth has arrived. Now what? Successful interviewing begins with preparation. Follow these five tips to help you get prepared for an interview.
Tip number one: know yourself. It's amazing to me how many people go into an interview not knowing themselves through and through, and sometimes not even knowing the details of their own resume. I've asked candidates to elaborate on information straight off their resume where sometimes they weren't able to answer the question. One candidate even asked me to see his own resume.
You need to know yourself, and not just know yourself, but also know the questions that will be coming up: know in advance some of the potential answers, some of the stories that you can be giving. Here is our list of the 30 most common interview questions.
As you read through these questions, it's not enough just to read the question and say “Yep, I know the answer to that one!” You need to practice. How? By going through a mock interview. If you haven't done a mock interview yet, now's the time to do it. Ideally, it's best to do it in front of a camera so that you can watch the mock interview afterward. It doesn't have to be a high quality video, just get one person to hold the video camera and another person to ask the questions. Or setup the camera on a tripod. Or even on a table. Just make sure it's aiming at you, not at the person asking the questions.
It can be a rather humiliating experience to see what you actually look like on camera, but it's a good experience because you would rather commit those initial mistakes on camera than in the minds of the interviewers that you'll be meeting with. Know yourself before going in for your interview.
Tip number two: know the company. Do the research. If you know someone working at the company, ask them for their insights. If the company has a Web site, read all you can about them at their site—their products, their services, how they differentiate themselves in the marketplace. And read their investor information, especially the letter from the CEO in the annual report, if it's located online. Go to Hoovers.com and research the company from an outside perspective, including their competitors. Know all you can before you step foot into the interview.
Tip number three: dress the part. It's not enough to just grab your best outfit out of your closet. Have a conservative outfit ready to go on a moment's notice. Clean and pressed and conservative. The type of interview outfit you will need will vary based on the type of position you are interviewing. But when in doubt, err on the side of conservatism. Few employers will fault you for overdressing for the interview. It simply means that you are taking the interview seriously and wanting to put forth the best possible image.
Tip number four: understand body language. Everyone uses body language during the interview (whether they realize it or not), but very few think about in advance and modify their body language to produce the most positive effect. Body language is merely the smaller, less prominent nonverbal cues that we give others while communicating. Following are some typical interpretations of body language cues:
- Openness and Warmth: open-lipped smiling, open hands with palms visible, unbuttoning coat upon being seated.
- Confidence: leaning forward in chair, chin up, putting tips of fingers of one hand against the tips of fingers of other hand in “praying” or “steepling” position, hands joined behind back when standing.
- Nervousness: smoking (or even having the scent of smoke on your clothes), whistling, pinching skin, fidgeting, jiggling pocket contents, running tongue along front of teeth, clearing throat, hands touching the face or covering part of the face, pulling at skin or ear, running fingers through hair, wringing hands, biting on pens or other objects, twiddling thumbs, biting fingernails (action itself or evidence of), tongue clicking.
- Untrustworthy/Defensive: frowning, squinting eyes, tight-lipped grin, arms crossed in front of chest, pulling away, chin down, touching nose or face, darting eyes, looking down when speaking, clenched hands, gestures with fist, pointing with fingers, chopping one hand into the open palm of the other, rubbing back of neck, clasping hands behind head while leaning back in the chair.
As you can see, there are far more negatives than positives--possibly more than we are consciously aware of. This list is given not so that you can artificially adopt the positive body language techniques, but more to help you recognize and avoid the negatives. If you have a habit of doing any of the above negatives, remove that action from your pattern of behavior before it sends the wrong signal. Concentrate on removing it now so you will not have to think about it during the interview.
And finally, tip number five: prepare with a positive attitude. If you go into the interview with a positive attitude and a real passion for wanting to do the job, that will come across in the interview, and that will set you apart from other candidates. You need to look and act the part so that the interviewer can comfortably visualize you in the role.