Everyone has something that they are particularly good at. Some people excel academically and others in sports or cooking. You get a rush of excitement and confidence when you are doing something that you know you are great at. For me, my “talent” is interviewing.
I know I know, most people despise job interviews and I don’t blame them. I experience the same waves of emotions before, during, and after a job interview as most people do. But I love every second of it. That does not mean that it always goes perfectly, do you always win the game and does your soufflé always come out pristine? No, probably not, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t still love playing that sport or putting those ingredients together.
Along the way, I have learned what really works in an interview and also what can cause it to go up in flames. All interviews are different but I have found that some variation of the four stages below can be the key to a successful interview.
The Preparation Stage
Adequately prepping for an interview sometimes goes overlooked, but this is actually one of the most important stages. The more prepared you are the more confident you will be in the interview.
Start by researching the company. Look them up on Glassdoor and read everything you can on their website. Learn their products and their mission statements. Study their leadership team, if you happen to be interviewing with the CEO (unlikely, but you never know) you want to be sure that he/she knows that you aren’t completely clueless. If you do happen to have the knowledge of who you are going to be interviewing with, check out their LinkedIn profile. You might have something in common with them such as college major or past experience that you can bring up during the interview.
The Day of Stage
I’m going to skip the dress professionally speech because you already know that, right?
This is where a lot can go wrong. What if there is traffic? What if you can’t find parking? What if your GPS takes you to the wrong location? Fight the what if worries by giving yourself ample time to get to your interview. Personally, I like to be there and parked 30-40 minutes before my interview time. This gives me a buffer just in case any of the above what ifs were to occur – and believe me they do.
Once parked, take a deep breath and let your nerves settle. Pull your phone out and do some more perusing on their website. Jot down any questions that come to mind. Remember that you are interviewing them as well. It needs to be a good fit for both the company and for you if you want to be successful. Ask about their turnover rate and if you are filling a position because your predecessor left or if this is a new position due to growth in the company.
When it is fifteen minutes until the start of the interview, get out of the car, take another deep breath and walk in. Remember, if you are right on time for the interview, you’re late. Always be ten to fifteen minutes early.
The Interview Stage
I bet you thought this was the only stage worth thinking about – wrong. This is by far the most critical stage, but the previous two stages have the ability to either negatively or positively impact the interview greatly.
Remember first impressions are everything. Wear a natural smile and make sure they know that you are excited about the opportunity. I have seen a lot of people come in for interviews with a deer in the headlights look or even looking like they are miserable. Don’t let your nerves control your demeanor. Confidence speaks louder through your body language, show that you deserve to be there, but avoid looking arrogant.
Listen carefully and answer all of the questions with details and examples from your past experiences. Be truthful of course, but there is nothing wrong with exaggerating certain accomplishments a smidge. Don’t forget to breathe and keep eye contact. Show your true personality but in a professional manner. Companies don’t want a robot; they want to know who you are and if you will fit into their culture. You don’t want to misguide them and then be miserable in a culture that you can’t be productive in.
I can’t promise what questions they will or will not ask you, but if you can manage to highlight your achievements while being honest about areas that you need to grow in professionally, and of course smile, then you will leave the interview feeling like you nailed it.
The Post Interview Stage
This stage can be brutal. Even though I’m usually coming off a high from the interview – yes that’s how much I love it, this stage can be particularly difficult for me. I start to question every single thing I said and if I was able to positively convey my knowledge and experience. The best advice I can give for this stage is to not replay the interview in your mind over and over. What’s done is done. You did the best you could and now the ball is in their court.
The final thing that I recommend you absolutely must do post interview is send a “Thank You” email to everyone who you interviewed with. I’ve made it a habit to ask for business cards after I’m done being interviewed with each person. In the email, be sure to thank them for their time and let them know that after meeting with them you see yourself as a great fit for the opportunity, that is if you still do. If you have changed your mind, respectfully let them know.
That’s it! The four stages of an interview outlined by an interview junkie!