Congratulations! You did it! You landed an interview for a sought-after position at a top-notch company. You’ve heard that the competition will be fierce. There could be as many as 10 people competing for that coveted slot. Do any of them have insider knowledge of the company? Is one of them the manager’s nephew? Although your headhunter has assured you that your interviewer is keen to meet you, doesn’t that also mean she’s excited to meet all of the candidates? It’s more important than ever to rise above your competitors through diligent preparation, in-person brilliance, and a gorgeously executed post-interview communications campaign designed to win you the job.
With the economy in rebound mode, there is a burst of new hiring. There are more jobs available, but there are also numerous qualified people to fill them. It may require extra effort to stand out from your competitors on the big day. How do you position yourself as the ideal candidate for the job?
In a field of star applicants, here are nine ways to ace your job interview.
1. Scope the terrain
If you know someone who works at the company–or even know someone who knows someone–reach out and pick that person’s brain for the inside story. Discover everything you can about the company. Is the management new or entrenched? Have there been any new initiatives lately? How is the morale after the recent spate of layoffs? If you don’t know anyone at the company, scour your network for someone in a competitive or similar business. Having a deep knowledge of both the industry and the actual company where you are interviewing will help separate you from those with only a superficial understanding. You’ll ask smarter questions, and be more memorable as a result.
2. Put on your reporter’s cap
Imagine that you are a journalist whose assignment is to write a profile piece on the person who’s interviewing you. Find out everything you can about him in advance. Check Google, Facebook, and his Twitter feed. Investigate his LinkedIn profile too (but realize that your name will show up under LinkedIn’s “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” feature so only do it once, and take notes). Has he been quoted widely in any articles? Where did he work before he started at this company? Gathering background information like this leads to smoother in-person conversations.
3. Interview early
Ninety-nine percent of interviewees would rather be anywhere else on the planet than at an actual interview. Hence, there is a real tendency to want to “get the interview over with” as soon as possible. Often this is a mistake. Instead, recognize that timing is critical. If you are given a choice, choose a morning timeslot for your interview. Studies show that people who interview in the morning are offered the job more often than those who take afternoon interviews. (A side benefit: you will get the interview over with earlier in the day, too!)
4. Become a member of the Tuesday-to-Thursday club
Mid-week days are more productive interview days than either Mondays or Fridays. On Monday, everyone on staff has too many meetings to give your appointment the attention it deserves. On Friday, most interviewers are ready to leave the work week far behind. Fridays also have the additional “hump” of the weekend built in. Momentum slows to a dead halt over the Saturday-Sunday respite. Warning: Interview on a Friday, and there’s a chance that your interviewer will be onto more pressing issues by Monday.
5. Don’t skip the dress rehearsal
As the old adage says, “Practice makes perfect.” Prepare your responses to any typical and outlier questions you can imagine. Don’t forget to include the questions that are hard to answer. Were you fired? Or was it really more of a layoff? Did you take time off, and why? Be sure to rehearse in front of a mirror, a family member, or a job-hunting buddy. Learn your answers so thoroughly that they almost seem spontaneous. (However, in any follow-up interview, be sure to change your answers a bit so they won’t seem canned.)
6. Debrief with yourself afterwards
Be honest. If you were grading your interview, would it merit an A or was it really more of a B-? Sometimes by sitting down and writing a sincere appraisal of your experience, you can make micro corrections as you move forward. Maybe your first interview was only a B, but as you meet with the other interviewers at the company, your performance may well improve. After your initial meeting, the sooner you can assess your performance, the more likely it is that you will remember the small tweaks that you need to improve during the next round of the interviewing game.
7. Dress for the job you want
Even if you’re vying for a job as a low-level assistant, dress for the job you can see yourself being promoted to–eventually. Depending on the corporate culture of the company, you may also want to attire yourself more conservatively than if you already worked there. That doesn’t mean you have to look like a robot! Choose one item, perhaps a tie or belt, that captures your personality. Perhaps it’s in an unusual color. Be sure that your clothing is clean, pressed, and reflective of current styles. You needn’t be a fashionista, just someone whom the company will feel comfortable sending to meet with clients and new business prospects.
8. Curiosity has its rewards
Never show up for an interview without preparing a list of well-thought-out questions of your own. Most often, once the interviewer exhausts her questions, she’ll ask if you have any. This provides another opportunity for you to impress her with the homework you’ve done. Present insightful industry observations or offer kudos for recent company successes as lead-ins. You can also lob questions that will help determine if the company will be a good fit for you, such as: “What type of employees tend to succeed here?” However, steer clear of asking questions pertaining to any perks until an offer is made.
9. Plan your job-snagging campaign
Most interviewees believe the in-person meeting with the hiring manager is the last step. Unfortunately, it’s only the first step. After a great meeting, begin your campaign for the job. Contact your headhunter immediately and, just as important, write that thank-you email the same day. Plan out a communication strategy for when you will reach out to the interviewer again. Remember: You are on a campaign for a job until you land the job.
About the Guest Post Author:
Vicky Oliver is a leading career development expert and the multi-best-selling author of five books, including 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions and Live Like A Millionaire (Without Having to Be One). She is a sought-after speaker and seminar presenter and a popular media target, having made over 700 appearances in broadcast, print, and online outlets. For more information, visit vickyoliver.com.