Ace the Interview
Congratulations on your upcoming interview! We have compiled what we feel is a very comprehensive “study guide” to help you put your best foot forward and lock down that job offer!
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 will give your interview more substance and could make the difference between you getting the job or not. Before the interview, be sure to do the following at a bare minimum:
- Spend at least 30 minutes on your prospective employer’s website prior to meeting them.
- If you ask any questions to your interviewer that could be answered by reading the website, it could be very hard to recover.
- This is an amazing networking tool! USE IT! If you don’t have it, download it – it’s free.
- Know the full name of the person you are interviewing with so you can do a search, knowing their background will only make you better prepared.
- You may even have some connections in that organization you didn’t know about, if so – ask them to put in a good word on your behalf!
Practice Makes Perfect
Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse. Prepare and memorize answers to commonly asked interview questions. Practice saying your answers aloud so you know how you sound; clarity and tone are just as important as content.
Behavioural interviewing has become 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 (which you also need to prepare for), you will need to be prepared to provide detailed responses including specific examples of your work experiences.
A proper answer to a behavioural interview question has 3 parts:
Example Question: Tell me about a time when you had to deal with tight deadlines.
- Linking the question to a specific Company and Job Title.
- I had to deal with tight deadlines quite a bit at Company XYZ where I was a Financial Analyst.
- Listing enough information so your example has weight.
- Our month end close was 4 days and I was responsible for consolidating 3 company’s financial statements.
- Listing how you accomplished/overcame your goal or challenge.
- In order to consistently meet deadlines I had to work very closely with many different department heads so I had the information I needed in sufficient time to be effective in my work. Once our entire team was on the same page with hitting all the deadlines leading up to month end, I was able to eliminate scrambling at the last moment.
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.
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.
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.
- If you have to ask yourself, am I dressed too casual/sloppy/provocative? You are.
- Wear clean and sensible shoes.
- Make sure your hair is clean, well-groomed and neat.
- Better safe than sorry: many workplaces do not allow fragrances due to allergies, so skip the perfume, cologne, aftershave 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.
- Bring a notepad and pen with questions prepared for the interview.
- Know what kind of dress attire the respective organization adheres to and dress accordingly. If you have to err on one side, err on dressing more conservatively than less.
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? (Make sure you follow the 80/20 rule whenever you are asked a vague question like this – 80% work related, 20% personal.)
- 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 learn 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? (See Do’s and Don’ts on not speaking negatively about past employers!)
- 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 you admire most about that person.
- Tell me why you have jumped around from job to job every year or so.
- Why did you leave/or do you want to leave your current employer?
Do’s and Don’ts
- DO arrive 10 minutes ahead of the scheduled interview time.
- DO remember to smile and present yourself in an energetic and professional manner at all times.
- DO speak kindly of current and past employers.
- DO maintain eye contact with your interviewers. But not in a weird way–think friendly and interested!
- DO Ask questions that are pertinent to the position and company, but not if you can easily find them on the website.
- DO point out areas that are a match between your skills and the requirements of the position.
- DO be prepared to discuss ways in which you have excelled or situations where you have demonstrated your initiative and ability to be proactive.
- DO bring a hard copy of your resume, notebook and pen.
- DO always answer with a complete sentence. Not “yes” or “no” answers.
- DON’T be late. But also don’t arrive 30 minutes ahead of the scheduled interview time, it shows poor time management.
- DON’T interrupt or cut-off your interviewer, it is almost always interpreted as rudeness, not as excitement.
- DON’T speak negatively about past employers or peers. It will always reflect negatively on you, never on them.
- DON’T cross the line between confidence and arrogance.
- DON’T ask questions about vacation days, sick days, or salary. Let them bring it up at the appropriate time.
- DON’T smoke right before an interview or chew gum during an interview.
- DON’T lie about skills or experience. Honesty goes a long way in an interview!
Follow Up – The Thank You Note
A follow up card or email is a thoughtful and classy touch, but it has to be done correctly. A thank you note simply thanks your interviewer for taking the time to meet you with. Here are ways that a thank you note can hurt you:
- Spelling or grammatical errors.
- Misspelling your interviewer’s name.
- Sending a note that pleads for the job rather than thanks the interviewer for their time.