A successful job search has many components: an effective search strategy, a compelling resume and cover letter, and sharp job interview skills. If you’re getting a lot of phone screens and first interviews but no job offers, it might be time to examine the last part of the equation: your interviewing techniques.
Get insight into the process and set yourself up for a successful job interview.
How to Make the Best Interview Impression
To impress your interviewers, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate that your qualifications and experience make you the best candidate for the job. This means knowing what they’re looking for, understanding what you have to offer, and being able to quantify your successes. It also means coming across as a likable person who will fit in well with the team and help the company achieve its goals.
Needless to say, communicating all these things during a relatively short conversation can be challenging.
What to Do Before the Interview
Research the Company. Gathering background information on a prospective employer is crucial to successfully preparing for an interview.
Your first step is to review the employer's website, especially the About Us section. Take a look at the company's social media presence, too. This will give you insight into how the company wants the public to perceive it. Research the company's history, its position in the market, and new developments, particularly recent or planned changes that could affect your role. Don't be afraid to request additional details about the position at hand, too.
When you demonstrate your knowledge about the organization during an interview, it shows genuine interest, which is what interviewers want to see.
The insights discovered in your research can also help you calibrate your responses to questions.
Practice Answering (and Asking!) Interview Questions. Prepare answers to commonly asked interview questions. Doing so will help you analyze your background and qualifications for the position. Plus, thinking through your responses will help you sound confident during the interview, and avoid rambling or incoherent responses.
You should also be ready for behavioral interview questions, which many of today's recruiters have adopted as a preferred method of screening candidates. Learn how to prepare for this common interviewing approach by reviewing this guide to behavioral based interviewing.
Very commonly, interviewers will ask if you have any questions for them so plan ahead, and have a list of questions ready to ask. Get even more tips to ace the interview, so you're sure you've covered all the basics.
Envision Yourself in the Role. If you can’t imagine yourself in the job, chances are that it will be hard for the hiring manager to picture it, either. So, once you’ve determined that your qualifications and the job requirements are the perfect match, devote some time to envisioning yourself in this job.
In addition to helping you gain confidence, this strategy will help you prepare for a crucial part of the job interview: explaining what you can accomplish in your first 60 or 90 days on the job. Just remember to avoid sounding as if you have a plan to change everything about the company. Typically, hiring managers are invested in their organization, and may resent any suggestion that the company needs a top-to-bottom makeover.
Hold a Dress Rehearsal. Ask a close friend or mentor to conduct a mock interview with you—someone with insight about recruiting and hiring processes is ideal. Record the mock interview and review it to see how well you answer questions.
As well as paying attention to your responses during this practice run, take a look at your posture and eye contact. Your body language during an interview – from the initial handshake through the farewell at the end – can make a difference in how interviewers perceive you.
Don’t Forget the Details. Try on your interview attire. Make sure it fits and that you feel comfortable. Assemble your interview materials, e.g. copies of your resume and a list of references, and have your portfolio, briefcase, or bag packed and ready to go.
Don't wait until the last minute to get directions to the interview location and estimate your travel time. Give yourself enough time to arrive several minutes early so you have time to decompress and relax before your meeting.
How to Handle the Interview
Listen. The best job interviews often feel like a conversation (albeit one where both parties are trying to impress one another). To achieve this, remember to focus on listening, not just waiting for your chance to speak. Not only will you be able to respond more effectively to their questions, you’ll also demonstrate a valuable soft skill.
Handle Questions About Salary the Right Way. Dreading the salary negotiation portion of the interview process? You’re not alone. Less than half of respondents to a CareerBuilder survey said that they negotiated salary after receiving a job offer. And 51% of those non-negotiators said that they resisted because they were uncomfortable asking for more.
There are few things to keep in mind during the salary negotiation process. The first is that it’s often best to let the employer raise the topic of salary first.
When they do, keep in mind that it’s likely a good sign: employers typically don’t broach the subject of salary requirements unless they're contemplating you coming aboard. (This differs from questions about salary requirements and salary history earlier in the process, which are intended to weed out applicants whose demands are outside the budget.)
Need help navigating the money conversation? This guide will show you how to negotiate the highest possible salary without alienating the hiring manager.
Remember that salary is only one part of your compensation. It’s also important to evaluate benefits packages when you’re deciding whether or not to take a job.
Avoid Typical Interview Blunders. Mistakes happen. Sometimes, a question will stump you. Or an unexpected situation will make you late. Many of the most common interview mistakes can be avoided with a bit of planning – and some awareness of interviewer pet peeves.
Before you go into the interview, make sure your phone is turned off or is on silent. The last thing you need is your phone going off in the middle of a job interview!
What to Do After the Interview
Send a Thank-You Note. One of the most important parts of the job interview happens after you leave the building: sending a thank-you note. How important is it? According to an Accountemps survey, 80% of hiring managers say that they consider thank-you notes when deciding which candidates to hire. The same survey found that only 24% of candidates actually sent a post-interview note, though, so if you take the time to say thanks, you’ll stand out from the competition.
Follow Up the Right Way. What if you send your thank-you note and don’t hear anything back? If a week or more has gone by—or you’ve waited the amount of time specified by the hiring manager—it’s a good idea to send a follow-up email to check in and reiterate your interest in the job. After that, let it go.
Too much follow-up can look like the wrong kind of persistence.
Don’t Pause Your Job Search. Don’t wait to hear from the hiring manager, even if things look good. Keep your job search rolling and you won’t have to restart it again if the job offer fails to materialize. Plus, you never know what kinds of opportunities are waiting for you if you keep looking.