There are three people left in the interview; you, a person with more experience and a person who has a resume built that would make Martha Stewart proud. How do you handle interview questions that set you apart from your competition, leave a memorable impression and invite you to be their next employee?
#1 – Do Your Research
Nine out of ten times you can know what the interview questions will be (see here for a list of interview questions). Already have your answer for “tell us more about yourself” and “why do you think you would be good for this job?” When answering those questions, make sure to talk about your personal and professional life. Getting a job or a promotion is more than sharing with them what you know, it’s how well you will get along with the team. If you can share with them that you are a personal, approachable and passionate kind of person who has hobbies and interests outside of work, plus knows how to get things done on the job, you will stand apart from your competition. Write down all the questions you think they will ask you and put them down on paper.
#2 – Know Who Will Be in the Room
We live in the 21st Century. There are not too many breathing humans on this planet who don’t have a social media account or you couldn’t type their name into Google. Research the team on their website, if they don’t have a website, call the administrator of the office and simply ask who works there. You will be surprised how much you can find out about a person from their social media accounts. Learn as much as you can about the person or team hiring you because you might find out that the CEO hates purple and her favorite color is green. The VP can’t stand cats but is an avid dog lover. You can rock the interview by connecting with them on a personal level by wearing green and mentioning your interest in puppies (only if you really do like dogs). Stand apart from your competition by doing your research on who will be in the room and what they have accomplished so you can use it to your advantage.
#3 – Take Notes
Your pen speaks! What you write on paper is sharing with the team that you possess the number one skill as a speaker, being a great listener. Use your pen to your advantage, take notes, write down questions that come up but can’t ask right now and can come back to later. You will also use these notes as a refresher when you send out thank you letters (not an email, a real thank you letter made out of paper). You can look at your notes and pick out specifics of what they like, what they are looking for and what their jobs are at the company. If you want to stand out from that Martha Stewart suck-up, you can write a genuine thank you letter after your interview to each person in the room (hold the glitter). In the thank you letter, share with them your gratitude for interviewing you, your interest in being part of the company and how you can help them in their specific role if you get hired.
#4 – Ask Questions During The Interview
A common mistake most people make in interviews is they wait until the end to ask questions. Employers want to know if you are interested and engaged. Don’t hold off on your questions, ask them in the middle of the interview when you are on that specific subject. Make sure to have a question at the end you can ask. One of the “red flags” in the interview world is at the end when they say “any questions” and you respond with a simple “no”. A great question you can end on, if it has not already been brought up is, “what is the office culture like?” or ask the team “why do you like work here?” Make sure you take notes during this part, this is solid content that can be used for your thank you letters later. Remember to look at the interview as a conversation, not an examination!
#5 – Practice with a Friend
Practice, practice, practice. I am going to type these words out again. Practice. Practice. Practice! Go into that interview like you have been asked those questions a million times. Grab a friend, give them sample interview questions they can ask you. When you practice you become prepared and it is hard to feel small when you have an advantage like knowing what the questions will be and who will be asking them. Be ready for the random question. I once was asked “If I could eat any color crayon, what would I eat and why?” Companies are looking for how you handle and react to difficult or off-the cuff situations. Can you handle it, or will you break? If you are aware that most likely a question will come up that sounds confusing, out of the normal or just plain weird, than laugh if it is funny but still answer the question and show them you can handle anything that is thrown your way. If you really want to stand tall when you are in the interview, videotape your practice session so you can see the little quirks you do that might be distracting like chewing on a pen, playing with your hair or tapping your hand on the table. Don’t worry, you don’t need to upload this to YouTube for the world to see, this is for you eyes only.
#6 – Pick Three Stories
Remember, luck favors the prepared mind! Most likely you will be asked about a time you failed, a time you excelled and to list your strengths and weakness pertaining to your professional career. Have three stories you can draw from to use for any question. Have a story when you failed. Have a story when you excelled with limited resources and have a story when you had a conflict with a peer or boss and how you handle the situation. Then you can draw on these stories and use them in your interview answer. Remember to keep it short. One of the worst things you can do is take a simple question and turn it into a complex and drawn out answer.
Now you have the tools to nail your next job interview. You can do this. Do your research, know who will be in the room, take notes, ask questions during the interview, practice with a friend and pick three stories to land your next job!
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