Great resume. Check.
You passed the phone interview. Check.
Now it’s time for the in-person interview. You obviously want to nail it and land the job. Did you know there are a few simple ways that you hurt your interview?
But, good news! With a little insight and awareness, you can overcome all these easily. Interviews are stressful enough without having to worry about sabotaging yourself before you get started.
Here is how you make that happen:
1. Have a Succinct Opening Line
“So, tell me about yourself.”
This is not your invitation to tell your life story. Don’t talk about where you have lived or where you went to high school. People have short attention spans and the more you talk, the more you risk your interviewer tuning out. Nervous talkers also speak about things that are not relevant to the interview. Practice having a succinct opening. When you answer questions, provide enough detail without over-talking. Over-talkers get in trouble because they open cans of worms that are best left closed.
Try this as an opener: Start with what you do now, give a bit of history, and then tie it to the future relating why you are excited about interviewing for this opportunity.
“I’m currently a sales account executive at Jones Corporation. I am the sales lead for our four major international clients. Before that, I worked at an agency where I was chosen to handle our top revenue-producing client. And while I love sales and have generated more than a million in sales this past quarter, I want to help others succeed as much as I have which is why I’d love the chance to be your international sales trainer.”
2. Give the Receptionist as Much Respect as the CEO
Years ago, I conducted large-scale in-house corporate job fairs. Those days were long and arduous because my staff would interview and hire more than a hundred people in a given day. I would frequently sit at the reception desk to help handle the masses of people that were arriving. I first started doing this out of necessity and the need for additional front desk support and then I realized that I garnered great insight into perspective employees. While most people made a favorable first impression, many did not. When people thought I was the receptionist, it changed the way they interacted with me. They were less than respectful. When I finally introduced myself and they understood I oversaw hiring, their entire demeanor changed. That wasn’t what I was seeking in a new employee. I wanted people who treated the receptionist with the same respect as the hiring manager. From the receptionist to the CEO, everyone deserves respect.
Tip: It’s common for interviewers to ask the reception about initial impressions. So respect rules for everyone.
3. Ask Appropriate Questions
“Do you have any questions for us?”
No is not the right answer. Of course you have questions. Asking well-informed questions demonstrates you are interested in the opportunity and leaves the hiring manager with a favorable lasting impression.
Tip: You owe it to yourself to ask questions. You own part of this decision. You have to decide if this is the right move for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that provide you with insight about what it would be like to work there. Asking questions is critical for your assessment of the organization.
4. Your Guard Stays Up
Just be yourself. That’s common advice but be the best version of yourself. Don’t be fooled by an interviewer trying to be sly. You are under scrutiny at all times, even if they play it off as a casual conversation. Don’t let your guard down and always mind your manners. What may appear to be an off-the-cuff remark or question, may be a game-ender for you if you get too comfortable and lose sight of the fact it is an interview. If you appear too relaxed, you may inadvertently create the impression you don’t care whether you get the job.
5. Send a Thank You Message
Hiring managers still like to see thank you notes after you interview. They want to know if you are interested and not sending one conveys the opposite message. Send the note within 24 hours because decisions are often made in a short amount of time. Tailor it to your specific interview conversation and sum up the value that you would bring. You can also use this to overcome any shortcomings you may have had in the interview. And, don’t forget to spell names correctly!
Tip: If it’s convenient, ask for business cards to make sure you have the correct email, title and spelling.
6. Turn Off Your Phone
I’ve lost count of the number of interviews I’ve conducted and sadly, this is still a common mistake I see on a regular basis.
A ringing phone in the midst of an interview is unacceptable. It gives the impression that your phone is more important that what’s happening in the interview. Putting the phone on vibrate doesn’t work if you still hear the phone buzzing.
You correct this by turning off your phone – totally – before you enter the office for the interview. Unless you have a serious emergency that may arise during the interview, the phone should be turned off. Don’t turn it back on or start reading your messages until after you’ve left the office.
7. Show Interest with the Right Things
While interviewees are always encouraged to ask questions at the end of an interview, the wrong questions will work against you. If your focus is on where you will sit or how much time you will have off, the impression that is left is that the work you will do is secondary. There will be time to ask those questions later so for now, keep the questioned focused on the role itself.
8. Energy and Preparedness
Some people are naturally more reserved than others. There is nothing wrong with that but if you act timid, have poor posture, lack eye contact and show a general lack of enthusiasm for the company or role, it will work against you.
Additionally, if you couple this with being unprepared and not able to demonstrate at minimum a basic knowledge of the role, you will not be hired. Come prepared to provide clear examples of your past performance. This helps them understand the value you would bring.
Tip: Use the S.T.A.R. method to answer questions that require more detail.
You’ll likely be asked to expand upon your experience and achievements. A good rule of thumb is to follow the S.T.A.R. method: Situation, Task, Action and Result.
First, present a specific situation you faced. Secondly, explain the task you had to accomplish and what action you took to address the issue. Finally, describe the results (achievements) of your efforts. This last step is wrapping it up by explaining what you learned from the experience and how you will bring those lessons to the work that you will be doing for the organization.
These items may not in itself be a deal-breaker, but little things add up. If you have two candidates who are equal in skills, these things may overshadow your value.
Bring your A-Game every time.