Here are a few tips for your next job interview:
1. Be early. Never be late. It sounds simple, but I am always amazed about how many candidates show up late complaining about traffic and how their GPS lied to them. Get there early.
2. Dress the part. I’m sure you’re very stylish, but the job interview is the wrong platform to show off your modern fashion sensibility. Unless you’re interviewing for a position that requires you to dress according to the latest trends, hold off on the skinny jeans and pass on the club clothes. Leave the body jewelry at home. Cover up the tattoos. Most hiring managers will be older than you and dress like your parents. That is just the way it is; get used to it.
3. Be mindful of your body language. Maintain good posture, smile, and make good eye contact. This goes a long way. Video practice may help; have a friend capture the “real you” in a practice session. Beware that this video may scare you a bit.
4. Don’t wing it. Did you ever have to give a presentation or take a public speaking course in school? The ability to think on your toes is a good skill, but as these experiences will tell you, preparation is always better than improvisation. Spend some time doing practice interviews with someone. Most interviewers ask the same old questions. Why are interested in this job? What you are strengths? What are you weaknesses? Where do you want to be in 5 years? Thus, you can prepare your answers for these predictable questions.
5. Do your homework on the company. Prior to meeting with the potential employer, read the mission statement of the company, poke around their website, and thoroughly read the description for the job position. Having done this research will help you understand the company’s needs. This bleeds into the next tip.
6. It is not all about you. You ought to focus on the company’s needs and how your abilities and experiences will help them. Even though your focus is on the company, talk about why these things make you the ideal candidate for the position and share the accomplishments that will validate these claims. Tell them what makes you different from other candidates. Don’t be afraid to articulate why you’re the best fit for their company. Give examples.
7. Listen intently. The employer may give you insights as to what they’re looking for which may prove very valuable in the next level interview. By the way, listening means not talking and staying in the moment; avoid trying to think ahead.
8. Don’t put too much emphasis on your last job. Answer the questions you’re asked, but be mindful of where you are. Talking too much about why you were laid off or chose to leave your last job at an interview is like crying about an “ex” on a first date. By doing this, you risk making yourself appear bitter or hung up on your old job.
9. If you want to work at the company, tell them. Not asking the potential employer for the position can be a mistake. Tell them why you want to work for their company. It may sound silly, but employers want to hire people who want to work for them. Help them help you.
10. Be genuine. Avoid pretending to be someone you are not. Interviews can be nerve-racking, but don’t be afraid to laugh and let your personality shine through. Tell them how you are different than the rest of the thundering herd of applicants. Celebrate your uniqueness. The goal is to be remembered and your differentiation will help them remember you.
11. Always follow up. Personal handwritten note cards are reputed to be the most powerful method. Also, be sure to call the potential employer to thank them for giving you the chance to talk with them; call their land line since and leave a voice mail.
John Bradley Jackson
Director, Center for Entrepreneurship