If you are reading this, chances are you’d already read through Part 1 – landing the interview, and you’re ready for Part 2! This time around, I will be outlining my interviewing tips, and with these tricks up your sleeve you will definitely get a leg up on your competition! Without further adieu, here is Part 2!
Part 2 – acing the interview
Step 1: Pre-scout the location
The first thing that I do when it comes to interviews, is pre-scout the location. I check on the map where it is, and occasionally I will go there a day in advance to check it out and make sure I can easily find the building, as well as test out the transport route so that I can avoid any issues on the day of the interview. Leaving it up to chance is never something that I would want to do. If you are unable to check out the location in person, I would use Google Maps Street View and be sure you know what the building looks like!
Step 2: Research the company, and take notes
When you find out the name of the company that you are going to be interviewing with, research the history of the company, as well as their social media, and take notes about it. Try to memorize a few key details such as their mission statement, the year they started up, recent changes to the company, or big projects that were publicized. This will show that you’ve taken initiative and/or have a keen interest in the workings of their company, which will give you additional “brownie points” with your interviewer. Being able to name specific things is important, as sometimes the interviewer will test you on what you know about the company, and what part of the company would interest you. I tend to keep notes on these things, and read over them as I am waiting to be interviewed to keep them fresh in my mind.
Step 3: Dress the part
When interviewing, dress for success. A classic button-down shirt, a blazer, and dress pants would be the ideal combination for interview attire. Of course, you can alter this depending on the business you are in, however this tried and true combination never fails to go over well when worn to an interview. When it comes to other appearance related things, a simple hairstyle and a more natural makeup look is typically the best bet. This of course, can depend; if you are interviewing at Sephora, then certainly go above and beyond with makeup, but for most positions it’s best to play it safe, and go from there afterwards. Aside from a small bag if you require one, and a coat if the weather is quite cold, do not bring any other bags or clothing with you, as you will likely be carrying your things around with you when you move into the room that you will be interviewed in, and this can be seen as inconvenient for potential employers. If you are unable to limit yourself to one small bag and are carrying around other things from earlier in the day, request at the reception desk if you can leave your things beside/behind the desk while you interview or check for a coat room upon arrival.
Step 4: Have a snack, and bring some water
Another thing that I ensure I do before I go to an interview, is have a snack. Some interviews can take upwards of an hour, and others can decide they’d like you to do a second interview immediately following your first interview. It can be really embarrassing to have your stomach growl mid-interview, and it’s best to have a satisfied stomach to keep you fed and happy until you have completed your interview. Water is also important to bring with you. While some companies may ask you if you would like a glass of water or coffee (always say yes to the water), some companies may not. The importance of having water comes from the speed, nervousness, and longevity of your speaking during the interview. Due to one or all of these things, you may cough, get a dry throat, or a sore throat. Water will aid you in combatting all of those things, ensuring that your voice remains clear.
Step 5: Arrive early, but not too early
When arriving to your interview, I always recommend that you arrive 30-40 minutes early to the building, to be sure you allocate enough time for minor transportation disruptions. However, do not arrive to the interview itself more than 15 minutes early. Any longer than 15 minutes and they will not be ready for you, and any less than 5 minutes, and they will be impatient and assume you are not a prompt person. The sweet spot for interview arrival time would be anywhere from 10-15 minutes early, and that is the timing to aim for. If you arrive to the building much earlier (as you should), use that time to grab a snack as mentioned above, and check out the buildings nearby to see what amenities are present.
Step 6: Turn off your phone, and put it away
Upon entering the building for the interview, immediately put your phone on silent mode, and put it away in your pocket or bag. Your phone should not be taken out again until you leave the building again after the interview, unless you require it for information to fill forms out with – which ideally you should either have memorized, or written down on a piece of paper that is kept in your bag prior to the meeting so that you will not need to use your phone. It does not matter if others in the office seem relaxed and on their phones, you should not touch your phone from the moment you enter into the building until the moment you exit. It is a matter of focus, presence, and awareness that you avoid touching your phone. While awaiting your interview, it is always best to look patient, and not distracted with other things. Your focus and intention should be quite clear from the get-go.
Step 7: Smile smile smile
Whether it is the building security, receptionist, or the interviewer themselves, smiling is incredibly important. You want to come across as friendly and polite, and smiling a generally not too big and not too small smile goes a long way. You certainly do not want to look fake when smiling, and so there is no need to plaster the largest grin you’ve got onto your face, but a nice simple smile will really increase your likability. If you are prone to RBF then prior to the interview, remind yourself to be consciously and actively thinking about whether or not you are smiling.
Step 8: Use good posture
If you are slouching, leaning, or slumping over in your seat while waiting for your interview, or while IN your interview, you are going to be viewed more negatively. The fact of the matter is, good posture shows a good attitude and control. Sit up straight, cross your ankles, not your legs, and hold your hands one on top of the other atop your lap or on a table. When your posture looks sloppy, you look sloppy. It’s as simple as that.
Step 9: Use active listening techniques
When you are in your interview and being spoken to, it is important to use active listening techniques. Some examples of this are making eye contact (but not staring them down), nodding every 15-20 seconds, tilting your head just slightly to one side as though you are processing what they are saying, say “mm”, “mhm”, “okay”, “yes”, or something of that nature in a quieter tone midway through them speaking, to acknowledge that you are hearing them and agreeing with them, and do not look around the room – always be sure your eyes are looking within their vicinity, ideally making gentle eye contact. Interviewers will be more positive if they feel as though you are listening to them, and receptive of what they are saying.
Step 10: When in doubt, mirror it out
My go-to saying that I repeat to myself when I am interviewing, is “when in doubt, mirror it out”. By this I am referring to body language and dialogue. If you are unsure about what they are saying or doing, mirror (but alter slightly so it does not look as though you are mimicking them like a mime) their body language, so as to convey without words that you are understanding them. If they have a bit of a laugh about something they’ve said, then you should also chuckle lightly, as though you too, have understood what they have said and found it funny. If the wording they have used confuses you or you did not understand completely, talk in a circle and repeat what they have said in a slightly different way – even if it is just confirming to them the question. For example, the interviewer could say something like, “And we all know how those reports tend to go, *laughs* wouldn’t you say so? If you were doing them?” You could respond with, “*laughs lightly* that is typically the case with those isn’t it. Would that be the case if I were to do them? Well, I would be sure to …” Repeating things back to the interviewer lets them know that you understand, you are listening, even if you do not fully understand what they are referring to. Outlining that you would do the best job possible, you would ensure you do not leave work unfinished, and that you are a hard worker, are always good answers to questions you may not understand – simply modify them to fit the question.
Step 11: Be honest, but not blunt
When answering questions, do not lie. Do not put yourself in a position where you have told your potential employer that you have experience in something that you do not, as that can go badly for both parties involved in the future. Do not be blunt about what you do not know how to do however, as there is always the potential for learning in any area. For example, if your interviewer asks you if you have led project groups for an approval board, and you have not, it is best to reply with something you HAVE done that is similar or related, such as, “I have not led project groups to that capacity, however I have led a multitude of projects within a small team, and have been given the opportunity to present my personal reports to some of my fellow employees at my previous position. I am sure that given the opportunity to present at this capacity, I would be more than capable to do so.” This shows that you did not have the opportunity to do the task they have asked, but have the capability to do the task. This benefits you significantly, as instead of a tick on their paper saying that you have not done that before, they will write a note saying that you have done something similar and are capable of doing something else. If you have no related experience, use a similar response, such as, “I have not yet had the opportunity to present to a board, however I am sure that with my communication skills and researching aptitude, I would be more than capable of presenting at this level.” It is always a good idea to end your sentences with a confident “I can” or “I will” type of sentence, as it shows that you are confident in yourself and your work and that you will put in what is required to get it done.
Step 12: Speak clearly and to the point, do not ramble
Similar to the above point, speak clearly and to the point. Talking in long bouts about a story related to something that is related to something else is going to make the interviewers check out and not pay attention, or they will think that you have missed the point since you are not getting to it. They ask simple and concise questions, and they expect the same type of response. Unless they are specifically asking you for a story, it is best not to tell one unless you feel like it is ESSENTIAL to the narrative. Even so, keep it concise. For example, if they ask, “What was a situation at your previous job when you struggled with an overload of work?” You should respond with their question (mirroring – as mentioned before) and then keep the response concise, such as, “At my previous job, I struggled with an overload when I ….. However I was able to persist, and finished the job that needed to be done.” With this response, you are not only being concise, but you are affirming that regardless of the overload, you completed the task – this is an important addition, and another “I can” type of sentence ending.
Step 13: Prepare one or two interesting questions for the employer
During step 2, you will have researched your potential employer, and now you should use that information to prepare one or two questions based on that information and the information they’ve given you during the interview and create one or two great questions to ask. This will show the employer that you are interested in their company, in their staff, and in becoming a part of both.
Step 14: Prepare a salary expectation
These days, most employers will ask you for a salary expectation. The best number to give would be based on your experience, salary at your previous job, expectations of the role you are applying for, and salaries of roles similar to the one you are applying for. Gather all of these numbers and create a range. For example, if your past role was $30,000 per annum, the job posting said a salary range of $26,000 – $42,000, and similar roles to the one you are applying for range from $22,000 – $47,000, then you can find a range that you believe to be the most fair, and go with that, which for these numbers I would choose something like $30,000 – $40,000, as you would not want to decrease from your former role’s salary, but with your experience it would likely warrant up to $40,000 to start with, and you can always go up from there. Providing a range is useful for the employer as they can then gauge where they’d like to put you, and will not feel as though you are being greedy looking for the absolute most amount of money possible. These numbers can be adjusted to your preference, however I do recommend a 5,000 – 10,000 range – no less, and no more. Any less than 5,000 and you may come across as very demanding, and any more than 10,000 you may seem as though you do not know your worth.
Step 15: Shake hands at the beginning and the end
Well, now that you’ve gone through your entire interview, it’s time to shake on it! I find it works best to greet and shake hands at the beginning, and also at the end. It’s quite common courtesy, however some people may not think of it. I always be sure to shake hands and make eye contact while doing so, at the beginning and end of every interview. Start well, end well.
A few final notes:
Do not speak ill of former employers, as the potential employer could see you as someone who may do so about them in the future. Be sure to thank them for their time. It never hurts to make them laugh!
Good luck out there!!!