How to Successfully Win Your Interview

Interviewing is one of the most nerve wracking moments a job seeker must overcome. The job economy is still recovering, and with that, comes the added pressures for job seekers to win their interviews. We’ve all experienced the initial fear of the unknown and possible self doubt – you may ask yourself, did I prepare enough for the interview? What’s the interview format? What questions will the interviewer ask? And for that matter, what questions am I going to ask? Let’s examine the full interview process and what you need to accomplish from prep work until the thank you note.

Before The Interview

Carefully study the job description. You should have a clear understanding of what skills and attributes the company is looking for in a candidate. If you’re weak in some technical areas, try and brush up on them if you have the time. Highlight the top 3-5 skills that you think they’re most interested in and make sure you can provide examples of your expertise for each.

You’ll also need to research the company and industry trends. This should be a given, but many candidates will overlook this crucial step. Check out their website, social media accounts, and any news stories related to them and their industry. You should also examine their competitors and understand their market positioning and key differentiators.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Rehearse your responses to commonly asked interview questions. You should have your “elevator pitch” perfected to convey a natural delivery when the interviewer asks to talk about yourself. Concentrate on answering questions thoroughly while staying focused on the topic. Typically, the more you rehearse responses out loud, the less likely you’ll get caught off guard.

Some examples of common questions include:

  • Why are you applying for this position?
  • What are your biggest strengths/weaknesses?
  • Can you tell us what you know about our company?
  • Can you give an example of you overcoming a problem?

When answering the last question, a candidate could say, “I migrated SharePoint 2007 to 2010.” Sure, the candidate answered the question, but they didn’t provide any details to create context. Instead, you should think of answering questions as an opportunity to tell a compelling story in a 3 step process:

  1. Identify the problem/challenge you were faced with
  2. Discuss the steps/technologies you used to overcome the issue and why
  3. Talk about the direct results that were created because of your actions

Going back to our initial example, the candidate should’ve said, “In my previous position, X company was having issues with SharePoint user interface and collaboration efforts, so I upgraded and migrated to SharePoint 2010. Since then, X company’s end users have been able to save valuable time performing tasks without having to visit multiple pages and have benefited from the improved search functions.” See the difference?

So you’ve successfully completed all of your prep work and you’re feeling confident for your interview. If you’re conducting a Skype video conferencing or telephone interview, make sure you test your devices to ensure clear communication and signals. Keep a note pad and pen nearby in case you want to have a cheat sheet of talking points or if you have any notes you need to write down during your conversation. In the event you have an accent, make it a point to speak slowly and clearly enunciate to prevent miscommunication.

The Interview

Conducting an in person interview? Remember that first impressions matter! Iron your suit the night before (opt for a conservative gray, navy or black). Print at least 3 copies of your resume on good quality paper and bring a leather folder or briefcase. Ladies, keep your makeup and jewelry minimal and choose conventional shoes that are comfortable. Keep any perfumes/cologne light. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at least 15 minutes prior.

While waiting for your interviewer, take deep breaths and try to relax any nerves. When greeting your interviewer, be sure to offer a firm hand shake when introducing yourself and make good eye contact.

During the interview itself, body language plays a key role into establishing an initial rapport. Exhibit good posture by leaning your shoulders slightly towards the interviewer and sit up straight. Smile often, and avoid nervous fidgeting with your hands or feet that can be distracting.

Following Up

After the interview, be sure to send a handwritten thank you note to each of your interviewers within 24 hours. Highlight the top 3 skills/reasons why you’re the best fit candidate and discuss your interest in joining the company. The thank you note should be viewed as your last opportunity to seal your candidacy, so make sure you put the same level of effort into your letter that you put forth in your prep work. After all, it’s the thoughtful demonstration of attention to detail that separates successful interviewers apart from average job seekers.

What are some tips and tricks that have helped you nail an interview? Comment below and let us know what you think, and if you’re looking for a job, check out our openings.

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