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Congratulations! You’ve landed an interview with one of the major players in the industry — a company you would die to work for. After your first reaction of triumphantly smiling from ear to ear, anxiety kicks in with force. Have you prepared enough? What if you screw up the interview? How can you set yourself apart from the other candidates?
Obviously, there’s the standard preparation checklist that you find in every article on career advice: Research the company’s homepage and corporate values, bring two copies of your resume, make arrangements to be there five minutes early (but not more), make sure your dress code meets expectations, practice how to best present your strengths and weaknesses, prepare intelligent questions (as opposed to questionable questions) — and the list goes on.
All of this is very important job interview advice, but in the end, there’s just one thing you need to make: a strong and immediate connection with your interviewer. It’s hard to prepare for this, but with our six (unconventional) suggestions, you'll have a head start.
Focus on 4 basic questions
In the first interview, employers usually aim to answer only four basic questions about prospective candidates:
- Can you do the job?
- Will you add value to their skills pool? (If they have reviewed your resume before inviting you, they are thinking you do, so you will only have to fill in the blanks.)
- Will you fit in with and enrich their company culture from a personality standpoint?
- Are you trustworthy, motivated and willing to go the extra mile?
Make a great first impression
Breaking the ice will be essential for the course of the entire conversation. So to get started, concentrate on your breathing while you wait in the reception area, and place your hands on your thighs to make sure they stay warm and dry. Warm smile, firm handshake, confident eye contact, tall posture, calm voice. All of this will factor into your interviewer’s very first, unconscious, impression of you.
If you can, practice the first five minutes with a friend or your partner, and even better, record it with your phone and analyze your body language to determine where to make adjustments. It’s not about being someone you’re not; it’s about being on top of your game and making sure you get rid of any distracting features that will prevent the interviewer from instantly connecting with you.
Research your interview partner thoroughly
Here’s more essential job interview advice: If the invitation does not include any names, make sure to call the company and ask. Once you have that, the interviewers’ LinkedIn pages are a good place to start. Find out about their backgrounds and expertise, but also try to get a sense for them personally. What stories do their profiles tell you? What other organizations besides their employer do they invest time in? Are they board members for any non-profits? What schools did they go to? Do they write for a blog? Do you have a common contact who could tell you a little more about them?
All of this information will not only make you feel more comfortable walking in but will also allow you to have more personalized conversations and give you a chance to show off that you did your homework.
Practice your pitches
Typical interview questions like “Tell me about yourself” or “walk me through your resume” open the door to pitfalls and miscommunication. A good way to start answering either of these is by first asking if the interviewers would like you to follow a certain agenda, or tell them to proactively point out where they would like more detail. A successful presentation of your background will not only depend on saying the right things but on showing your ability to focus on the most important parts (without too much rambling) and how you connect the pieces.
Make a list of the required skills and most important tasks from the job posting, and for all of them, find a skill or experience of yours that mirrors it. Make sure you concentrate on these and talk about real-life examples of how you applied them in your day-to-day activities — including the added value for your last employer. Practice what you plan to say, concentrating on the essentials. Record yourself once you have found your perfect version so you can listen to your pitches and find your rhythm with it.
Take some time to get reacquainted with the most important person — you
In the race for a job, we tend to forget that we’re not in it for a short-term win, but for a long-term match. That means you’ll need to assess the job just as much as your potential next employer will be assessing you. Take a long walk or exercise the night before. Ask yourself what you are truly looking for in this next step, and where your long-term journey is headed. Recall professional situations that you felt great in.
Not only will this help you come across as calm, confident and professional, but it will also sharpen your radar in the interview to make the right assessment in regards to your own ability to succeed and remain happy in that role. On the day of the interview, make sure you do everything to feel positive and strong — put on your favorite song, smile even when you’re alone, and keep moving throughout the day. Believe me, it makes a difference!
Include a summary of your findings and afterthoughts in your thank-you note
Finally, heed this job interview advice: As an interview follow-up, a thank-you email is a given, but many candidates concentrate too much on appearing “thankful” for the meeting instead of branding themselves in the right way. Remember, it is not only about the gesture, but also another chance to prove that you’re focused and considerate, and that you listened to your interviewer. On top of the “thank you,”reflect on and add some more perspective to an interesting question that was asked during the interview (don’t go on too long though!), pointing out a key moment or realization that was a true take-away for you. You might even include a favourite quote or the link to an article that sums up one of the points the interviewer was making.
The value of interviewing well can’t be overestimated. It’s about making a solid connection instead of simply repeating the content of your resume and answering questions. Your resume has opened the door, and now it’s your personality that needs to walk through it. Make it as easy as possible for them to look beyond the surface and see your value and true self shine through! And don’t forget: It’s not only the company that interviews you, it’s also you who assesses a potential employer. Good luck!