Seven Keys to Acing a Job Interview

Experience, skills, and a killer resume are great to have, but if you can’t get past the job interview you won’t land the job. Some of us are naturally great at the interview process, but many of us need to do some preparation in order to do well.

When you’re called in for an interview, remember to think in their terms. They have a position that needs filling, and they think you might be the one to fill it. They’re bringing you in to confirm or deny that belief. On the other hand, you need to make sure the job is something you want. So, it’s a chance for both parties to find out about each other, and everything you do and say should help you both make the decision that is best for all.

Here are some keys to make your next job interview go better than ever:

  • Be prepared: Have copies of your resume, references, and any other required documents in case they need them. Check out the company’s website and find out what who they are/what they do. Research into any current events that may impact the company’s day-to-day activities. Review the original job posting before the interview and work the appropriate skills and topics into the conversation. Be ready to talk intelligently with the interviewer and you’ll score big points.

    Also, try to think of questions the interviewer might ask you, and have answers prepared for them. (One popular question is to identify your biggest weakness; I like to spin this as a positive by saying something like “I tend to be a workaholic.”) Thinking on your feet is great, but if you know they’ll ask you about that last job you might as well have an answer ready beforehand.

  • Make a good first impression: Dress professionally and appropriately to the job. (Leave the nose ring at home, unless you’re applying to a biker bar.) Also, be early — everybody has to deal with traffic, so don’t let that be an excuse. Get directions ahead of time, and if possible do a drive-by before your interview day so you know where it is. Be sure to get there early just in case — the interviewer will appreciate it.
  • Be honest: This might seem obvious, but embellishing on your accomplishments can be dangerous and counter-productive. It’s a small world, and you never know who your interviewer may have talked to beforehand. Put it this way, would you hire someone and trust them to do a job if they lied to you during your very first chat? Neither would I.
  • Be conversational: Answer questions directly without rambling, but don’t be too curt. The interview is meant to be a conversation, not an interrogation. Ask questions, and then be quiet and listen to their replies. Don’t forget to smile, and look them in the eyes. (A thank-you note afterwards will help perpetuate this friendly impression.) Being engaging and eloquent in your discourse will make points with the interviewer.
  • Be specific: OK, the rest of these keys have been sort of cosmetic — this is where the action is. Again, the interviewer thinks you might be the one to help them solve their problems, so tell them in specific terms what you know, what you’ve done, and what you can do for them. Tell them about past successes, and about how you’ve learned from failures or other difficult situations. Specific accomplishments will help them identify whether or not you’d be a good fit for their needs.
  • Be proactive: Many of us have things in our work history we’d rather not discuss — jobs gone bad, gaps in employment, etc. Be realistic about these, and recognize that the interviewer will ask you about them. Be positive, and tell them why you left prior positions or have gaps. (Don’t go into great details unless asked, and remember this is an interview not a gossip session.) Again, be honest, and try focusing on the positives like what you’ve learned from those situations and how you’ll do things differently in the future.
  • Ask questions: At the end of a typical interview, you’ll be asked if you have any questions. Asking questions will show the interviewer that you’ve made an effort, and that you’re interested in the company. If your questions are good, they’ll further demonstrate your intelligence.

    Remember that the interview goes both ways — take the opportunity to find out whether you want to work there. What is the dress code, or the company philosophy, or their views on treating their customers? Now is your chance to find out.

Remember, interviewing is a skill that takes practice to perfect. With luck, you’ll never get enough practice to get that good!

Be the ball,

Professor Cram