Let’s face it: interviews are tough. Even seasoned professionals get sweaty palms at the thought of being evaluated on every word that comes out of their mouths. But, like it or not, interviews are an unavoidable part of the hiring process.
So what can you do to up your interviewing game? Here are 4 things to work on:
Take company research to the next level
There was a time when looking up a company’s website and memorizing their mission statement would’ve been called deep research. Not anymore. Before your interview read all of the company’s social media platforms. Check in on its stock performance. Set up alerts for any news about the company and its upper management.
Some hiring managers will test how much research you’ve done by asking questions like, “What did you think of our last social media campaign?” You don’t want to have to answer with, “I haven’t seen it.”
Here’s why: you want your interviewer to know that you want this job, not just any job. By researching the company and its approach to business, you can position yourself as a good fit for the position. This shows your interviewer that you’re sincerely interested in being part of the team.
Be honest about your weaknesses—and then follow up with a plan
When an interviewer asks you, “What’s your greatest weakness?” your tendency might be to couch your answer as a veiled strength: “Sometimes I take my job too seriously” or “People tell me I work too hard.” That’s a mistake because seasoned managers and recruiters can see right through that ploy.
A better answer is an honest one followed by how you’re already addressing that weakness.
Here are some examples:
“I sometimes get caught up in the details of a project and have trouble seeing the big picture. I’m working on that by setting intermediate goals so I can make sure my work is on track.”
“I get nervous in public speaking situations. I’m trying to improve my skills by working with a mentor who’s really good at it. I’ve started speaking up in small group meetings, and I make sure I’m always well-prepared in case the opportunity to speak arises.”
One weakness that doesn’t go over well with hiring managers is tardiness. Don’t bother saying “I’m always late” and following up with how you have a new alarm that requires you to jump up and down to make your phone stop chirping. Work on that weakness, but discuss a different one in the interview.
Be prepared for tricky questions
People tend to prep for interviews by looking up “interview questions” and then practicing their answers in front of the mirror and with friends. They walk into the interview confident that they’re ready for any “tell me about a time” questions the interviewer throws at them.
That’s a good practice, but to take your interviewing skills to the next level you should expect the unexpected. The only way to prep for a question you don’t know is coming is to be very comfortable verbalizing your resume and your accomplishments. Know your story by heart. Get comfortable talking about challenges you faced and how you overcame them.
Before the interview read over the job posting again. Make sure you really understand the job you’re applying for and be prepared to explain—convincingly—how your particular experience and achievements make you the best candidate for the position. Time spent studying what the interviewer is looking for (at least according to the job posting) will prepare you for any oddball questions that might come up.
And watch out for “Why do you want this job?” Answering with “the commute is shorter” or “I liked your website” is a red flag that signals you want a job but maybe not this particular job.
Ask relevant questions
Most interviews wrap up with this: “So do you have any questions for me?” The worst possible answer is, “No, I think you covered it all.”
The second worst answer is, “So how many days of vacation do I get and when can I start taking them?” Not that those are invalid questions—just don’t ask them in the first interview.
The best questions are questions that answer what you need to know to know to be successful: How will my performance be measured? Is there a typical career path that someone in this position might follow? Would there be the possibility of relocating in the future? How often would I be working on a team and how often alone?
And don’t ask questions that you could’ve googled before the interview. The answers to “Where are your headquarters located?” or “How many employees do you have at this location?” can be found online and don’t sound as though you put much thought into them.
It’s OK to be nervous in an interview. But the more you prepare, the better you’ll be able to be yourself. Your goal should be to come across as confident (but not cocky), relaxed (but not indifferent) and personable (but not insincere).
Oh, and keep a tissue handy for those sweaty palms.