So, you just landed an interview for a potentially amazing job. Congratulations! Now what? The interview is your opportunity to make an unforgettable impression so you can lock down an offer. Here are some tips and strategies for effective interviewing, from preparation through follow up. Best of luck! You’ve got this.

Company Research

Research should always be your first step. Gathering background information about employers is crucial for successful interview prep. Be prepared to answer questions like “What do you know about our company?” and “Why do you want to work here?” Knowing as much as possible about the company’s past performance and future plans can make your interview more interactive and could be just the leg up you need in a competitive job market. Before the interview, review the company’s website and search the web to gather as much knowledge about the company for your interview arsenal as possible. It is also a great idea to know the full name of your interviewer(s) and prepare questions that are specific to the role and the company you are interested in.

Practice Makes Perfect

Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse. Practice with a friend and record or videotape your responses so you can replay the interview and see how well you did. Prepare and memorize answers to commonly asked interview questions. Doing so will help you analyze your background and qualifications for the position.

Behavioural Interviews

Behavioural interviewing is becoming more common, and is based on the premise that a candidate’s past performance is the best predictor of future performance. Rather than the typical interview questions on your background and experience, you will you need to be prepared to provide detailed responses including specific examples of your work experiences.

The best way to prepare is to think of examples where you have successfully used skills you’ve acquired. Take the time to compile a list of responses to both types of questions and to itemize your skills, values and interests, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. Emphasize the practical: how will your demonstrated skills benefit the company? Also prepare a list of questions you want to ask the interviewer. Remember, you aren’t simply trying to get the job – you are also interviewing the employer to assess whether this company and the position are a good fit for you.

Plan Ahead

It is very important to be on time for the interview and when it comes to interviews, “on time” means ten minutes early. Do a test drive: practice your commute to the office ahead of time so you know exactly where you are going, how long it will take, and where you can park – if you are driving. Don’t forget to bring an extra copy of your resume, a notepad, and a pen!

Confidence is Key

This is your opportunity to shine. When greeting the interviewer make eye contact, smile, extend a firm handshake, and clearly articulate your answers. And remember, the best way to feel confident is to be completely prepared. As long as you know your stuff, you will shine.

Remember to Breathe

Most interviewers understand the inevitable nerves that rear up when you are on the spot. Take comfort in the fact that nearly everyone has been in your position before and try to stay calm. Ask for clarification if you’re not sure what’s been asked and remember that it is perfectly acceptable to take a moment or two to frame your responses so you can be sure to fully answer the question.

End the interview with a thank you to the interviewer and reiterate your interest in the position. Follow-up with a personal “Thank You” note or email restating your interest.

Dress For Success

First impressions count, and looking as professional as possible ensures your interviewer knows you mean business. Here are a few tips to ensure your appearance communicates how employable you are:

  • Wear a solid color conservative suit with a coordinated shirt or blouse.
  • Wear clean and sensible shoes. Teetering around on 4 inch heels is bound to make everyone nervous!
  • Make sure your hair is well groomed and neat. (We won’t condescend to say clean, because you know that already, right?)
  • Better safe than sorry: many workplaces do not allow fragrances due to allergies, so skip the perfume, cologne, after shave or any fragranced body product.
  • Limit your jewellery and make-up. In the professional world, less is definitely more.
  • Pre-game fashion show time! Make sure to try on your outfit before the day of the interview and don’t wear anything out of your comfort zone.

Common Interview Questions

It helps to know what you are heading into. Here are some of the most common interview questions that you should prepare to answer:

  • How would your friends or co-workers describe you?
  • When I ask candidates what causes them to stand out among their peers, most people use terms such as “hard-working,” “good people skills,” etc. I consider those attributes to be a given, so beyond the usual, what makes you better than the rest?
  • Tell me about your accomplishments and achievements at work?
  • What mistakes did you make in your last job? (wrong answer: “I don’t make mistakes.” Any good employee will make mistakes and learning from them! Have an anecdote ready where you did just that!)
  • What would your references say you could improve upon?
  • What could your last boss have improved upon himself/herself?
  • Where do you NOT want to be in five years?
  • Pick your top five skills, and then rank them for me.
  • Which skills do you think are most important for this position and explain how you would use them.
  • Tell me about a mentor of yours outside of work and what do you admire most about that person?

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Arrive 10 minutes ahead of the scheduled interview time.
  • Remember to smile and present yourself in an energetic and professional manner at all times.
  • Never speak negatively about past employers or peers.
  • Always maintain eye contact with your interviewers. But not in a weird way–think friendly and interested!
  • Ask questions that are pertinent to the position and company.
  • Point out areas that are a match between your skills and the requirements of the position.
  • Be prepared to discuss ways in which you have excelled or situations where you have demonstrated your initiative and ability to be proactive.
  • Be enthusiastic and positive.
  • Bring a hard copy of your resume.
  • Always answer with a complete sentence. No “yes” or “no” answers.
  • Do not ask questions about vacation days, sick days, or salary. Let them bring it up at the appropriate time.
  • Do not smoke right before an interview or chew gum during an interview.