One of the best parts of my job: Advising college and professional clients on the finer points of job interviews and sharing interview secrets. I love to send notes that say, “Congratulations on your new position!” or share my clients’ success on LinkedIn. Recently, I wrote a congrats note to a college client who secured an internship with a Fortune 500 financial services company in Texas.
When I work with high school, college, and professional clients, they all want to know the hidden secrets of getting the job.
While it is important to focus on the fundamental concepts of interviewing, such as researching a company, understanding the interviewer’s background, professional attire, thank you notes, etc., candidates who are also prepared for a conversational interview end up more successful.
Many candidates naturally think it is their job to answer questions during an interview and take a reactive approach to responding to questions. Not so.
Check out my top interview secrets to landing the job using a non-reactive approach.
Interview Secret 1: Take a proactive approach.
Proactivity starts before you arrive at the interview (by the way, don’t forget to arrive at least 10 minutes early for an in-person interview or five minutes for a video interview!). You want to be able to facilitate conversation, so prepare two to three talking points in key areas. Practicing a few talking points in advance keeps things simple and manageable. It also alleviates your stress level because you’ve thought out your talking points ahead of time and you won’t find yourself preoccupied about the type of questions that the interviewer will ask.
Interview Secret 2: Plan to express your unique abilities as an applicant.
Of course your potential employer wants to know why they should hire you out of a pool of dozens of applicants. Spend some time thinking about this question before the interview. What really sets you apart from other candidates? Maybe you increased your current company’s sales 112% since 2012. Maybe you successfully managed a sales staff.
How can you add value — really great value — and prove it during your conversation?
Even better, use examples and stories that paint a thorough picture, like this: “In my current admission counselor role, I planned a major event for 100 extra Chicago-area students to visit campus. I invited them to an overnighter and even arranged transportation so they could get to campus for the weekend. Ninety-two of those students ended up enrolling at the university. This enabled me to hit 36 percent of my enrollment goal.”
A story shows (doesn’t tell) and gives your potential boss insight into your personality.
Interview Secret 3: Research the company, then practice expressing how you’ve done your homework.
There’s nothing more impressive than an applicant showing up to a job interview and saying, “Mr. Vallozzi, I’m really impressed by how you’ve built your company, your client testimonials, and how you assisted clients throughout the country. That’s amazing, and I want to be a part of it. Here’s why I believe I can be an asset to your company and contribute specifically to your social media objectives, which I saw in the job description.”
Wow! An applicant for a social media posting I had really did say this — and I was blown away by his preparation. Know these facts ahead of time about the company:
- The skills and experience the company values
- News and recent events about the employer
- Its culture, mission and values
- Its clients, products or services
- The person interviewing you
Reach out to professional associations you belong to if you still have questions about a specific company before you attend your interview.
Interview Secret 4: Think of how you’ll talk about key activities or accomplishments using the STAR approach.
STAR stands for “situation,” “task,” “approach,” and “result” and goes something like this:
First, describe an issue or situation that your company or team experienced.
Example: “We noticed that our editorial team was having trouble keeping up with deadlines.”
What role did you play to solve this situation? Describe how you were instrumental in solving this problem and certain skills you brought to the table to solve this situation.
Example: “We determined that the editors were spending so much time creating content orders that they couldn’t get them out fast enough to the writers. I thought my experience in management at a previous position might be of use.”
Next, talk about the ways you made an impact or solved the problem. Apply this directly to the job description you’ve applied for.
Example: “I proposed a more organized content order process that allowed two SEO professionals to create content orders on a weekly basis so we no longer had to rely on the editors to create the SEO-driven content orders from scratch. My boss loved the idea, and we implemented the new ideas the next week.”
What were the positive results? Provide exact results with numbers if possible for maximum impact.
Example: “After two months of using the new process, we ramped up our content production by 45%, allowing the editors to focus on what they do best — editing.”
Interview Secret 5: Practice talking up experiences in a way that relates to the job description.
Emphasize the experience and qualifications that will help you achieve success in the role.
For example, let’s say you’re interviewing for a full-time editorial position.
You might say, “I noticed in the job description that part of this role involves hiring writers. In my last job, I managed a team of 10 writers, who reported directly to me on daily editorial tasks. We kept the same team for three years and all of them said they would be willing to freelance for me wherever I go!”
Interview Secret 6: Envision working your company research into thoughtful questions about the company.
You did a lot of research about the company, so don’t forget to take the time to research questions you want to ask based on that research. Check out the company’s website and don’t forget to check out its social media accounts! Many companies post successes and accomplishments on their social media accounts. You may find out key information for the position or department to demonstrate your level of company research.
Remember, you’re also trying to figure out if the company is the right fit for you as much as the company is trying to decide whether you’re the right fit for them. Employer review websites such as Glassdoor may provide you a perspective of the company culture.
Shore up every question you ask with evidence that you’ve done your research. Here’s an example:
“I’ve followed Pfizer’s announcements and recent news about cutting the amount of time it’ll take to produce the COVID-19 vaccine. How does this impact Pfizer’s marketing team?”
Interview Secret 7: Learn as much as you can about the interviewer and hiring manager before you go.
The hiring official on the other side of the table may be just as nervous about interviewing as you. In some cases, the company official who conducts the interview may be new to the interviewing process, never properly trained to interview or is simply not suitable for interviewing candidates.
Prepare for this! You never know how your interviewer will perform and whether that person’s interviewing skills are up to par.
Do as much as you can to find out more about your interviewer. Check out LinkedIn for a plethora of information about your interviewer. You may learn vital information such as how long your interviewer has been in their current position, previous positions in the company, other companies worked for, and even the college attended. All of this information can make a huge conversation difference during your interview.
Also, does your neighbor work at the company and know your potential boss? Does a former professor have a connection? Find out as much as you can about your interviewer using as many resources available to you.
Interview Secret 8: Tell yourself you’ll ace the interview.
Positivity can change your entire outlook. When you think confidently, it’s likely you’ll exude confidence and dazzle your interviewer as well. Attitude determines so much in life — and that includes during job interviews.
One way to gain more confidence about acing the interview is understanding the classic interview questions and best responses. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) provides tremendous insights into these questions from a hiring and human resources perspective. SHRM is one of the largest human resource professional associations with over 300,000 members throughout the world, so they know interviewing well.
Other Interview Tips to Consider
What are two often-overlooked parts of the interview process? That’s right: the beginning and the end. Follow my last two success tips for the first and final impression.
Interview Secret 9: Make a positive first impression.
The first few minutes might not seem like a huge deal after you’ve shaken hands, but remember, the interviewer is watching you like a hawk as you get settled into the interview space. Make every second count as you get settled. Don’t forget about good posture, excellent eye contact and infuse everything you do with a warm demeanor.
React appropriately to everything. The interviewer usually takes the first several minutes of the interview to tell you about the organization, and you want to make sure you appear as interested as possible.
Note: You might interview for a job remotely now, which might change the process a bit, according to the Harvard Business Review. However, even sans handshake, the basics still remain the same.
Interview Secret 10: Conclude the interview on a high note.
Make sure you ask all your questions before you get up, not while you’re escorted to the door. As you leave, state your interest in the position with enthusiasm and make sure to thank your interviewer sincerely for the meeting. Don’t forget to add in another firm handshake and maintain eye contact.
Also, write a post-interview thank you note to your interviewers, the individuals who set the interview up and anyone you might have had contact with on the phone prior to your interview.
Prepare in Advance and Interview Success Will Come Your Way
I’ve spent an extensive amount of time as a college admissions interviewer and as an executive recruiter for some of the best companies in the country. In my experience, time flies by when a conversational interview successfully occurs because both parties stay engaged and enthusiastic throughout the interview.
A fully prepared, conversational interview creates a more relaxed setting for a candidate and the person conducting the interview. When you recognize that it is your responsibility to make the meeting conversational, you stand a much better opportunity of making yourself stand out and advancing in the interview process.
Ready to connect with me to ensure your job interviewing success? Visit Campus to Career Crossroads and I’ll help you succeed in your upcoming job interview! Fill out the contact form, hit “submit,” and I’ll send you an email to get connected.