Job interviews are a royal pain in the ass. You have to wear a blazer. You have to navigate an unfamiliar parking ramp and find the elevator. And you have to maintain perfect posture for an hour or more. So keep the interviews to a minimum by scoring that job.
Lucky for you, only a handful of candidates for your dream job will arrive at their interview prepared and ready to impress. Whether you’re in the running for a fry cook job at Burger King or a programmer gig at Google, there are a few interviewing tricks you can employ to best your competition.
Don’t be clueless
If you take away any nugget of wisdom from this list, please let this be it. Chances are, the bulk of your fellow interviewees won’t so much as glance at the company’s website prior to the interview. Get an advantage and study up. A job interview is your one and only opportunity to prove how put together, prepared, and capable you are. Doing your homework on an employer is the best possible way to embody that.
So before you press your interview suit, skim the company’s “about us” page and study the following areas:
- Mission statement: memorize any recurring adjectives and try to work them in when describing your winning traits.
- News: jot down any major changes, milestones, or announcements the company has recently announced, and structure your questions around them at the interview. For example, if the co just hired a new CEO, ask what potential challenges/opportunities that transition could present for the team.
- Annual report: This important document will reveal what the company thinks it does well, and where it’s headed. The annual report will come in handy on the occasional “gotcha” interview question, such as, “if hired, what would your goals for your first 90 days be?” Employers ask this. Have an answer ready.
Don’t harass anyone
Never contact an employer before you’ve landed an interview. I have yet to encounter a hiring manager who favors candidates who call or email to be sure their resume was noticed. Don’t rely on a phone call to make yourself stand out from the pile.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t follow up. You should always contact an employer to thank them the day after your interview. An email or handwritten note will suffice. Use this touch point to remind the employer why you’re perfect for the job, and be sure it’s pristine — NO TYPOS!
Don’t skirt the question
When an interviewer asks why you want the job, don’t tell her about your skills. If she asks you to describe an accomplishment you’re proud of, don’t list all the Adobe programs you’re proficient in. If she asks your favorite ice cream flavor, don’t respond that you love pizza.
The interviewer isn’t just evaluating your competence, she’s studying how well you communicate. Demonstrate you’re listening, comprehending, and responding to the questions being asked, by, well, answering the damn question.
Don’t bury the lead
Instead of rambling on about your qualifications, tell a story.
Look up the top ten most common interview questions. Notice how they all require the interviewee to tell a story about themselves? That’s because we as humans understand the world in terms of archetypes, which we convey through storytelling So spin a story. Describe the who, what, where, when and why, and cast yourself as the hero.
Look closer at those top interview questions, think of a story for each, and practice telling them out loud.
Don’t ask dumb questions
The old adage about stupid questions doesn’t apply here. I hate to break it to you, but “what exactly will I be doing at this job?” is a dumb question. Often, flustered and unprepared, candidates blurt it out when offered the opportunity to ask questions. Don’t waste time inquiring about aspects of the job that have been clearly laid out in the job description. Instead, use the Q&A portion of the interview to show you did your homework. Refer back to the research you did and craft questions accordingly. Below are some my favorites.
- “How might (recent news about company) affect your team’s strategy?”
- “How would you describe your team’s culture?”
- “What are the most important traits you’re looking for from this position?”
- “If hired, what should be my top priorities in the first three months on the job?”
- “What do you love most about your job?”
Don’t be forgettable
Always be professional in an interview, but don’t get too bogged down in formalities either. The best way to seem genuine is to be yourself. Let your excitement about your work shine through. If you relax, you’ll be less likely to obsess over whether you’re gesticulating too much, and more likely to deliver solid responses.
The interviewer is looking for cultural fit: if she meets the boring, buttoned-up version of you, and offers you the job, it’s because you’re bound to fit in with the team. The boring, buttoned-up team. Cultural fit is important, so hold out for like-minded employers.
Don’t recite your resume
Your interviewer has your resume in front of them, so there’s no need to describe every item in detail. Hit the highlights.
You got the interview because your experience proved you could do the job. Now it’s time to show the potential employer that you want to do it, and to demonstrate how you would do it.
Do you have any signature tricks or helpful tips that landed you a job? Share them in the comments!