Over the years I have offered lots of advice about interview strategies. There are tons of books, articles, etc on the topic. Many of them are good and worthwhile reading, but over time I’ve come to recognize some basic things that consistently seem to help people when they go into an interview. These are not listed in priority order.
Read and reread the job posting, job description or advertisement to make sure you know what key skills and experiences they are seeking. Develop a description of your matching skill and add at least one real example of how you have demonstrated that skill. Saying you have a skill is not nearly as good as giving an example of how you have used that skill to an employer’s benefit.
- If the job is in an industry/topical area you are not versed in, read about that topic. Semantics and jargon are very important. If you speak my language and/or know the acronyms of my industry, I assume you are a quick learner or at least are studying my industry and I will think more favorably of you even if you have not worked in my field. Employers do understand about transferable skills but they like to know that you have some familiarity with their business/service niche. This is so simple a concept, yet most people changing industries fail to do it over and over. Language counts.
- The parallel issue to #2 is to know about the company at which you are applying. Read their website, read about them online, and read about their competition if you can find it. It is flattering to people to have you know about what they do and how they stack up in their industry niche. We, as employers, want to hire people who want to work in the niche we work in and to have some passion or at least interest in my field before we hire them. Show some real interest in the profession or company and they will think you are a serious candidate.
- Don’t talk about money unless they ask in a first interview. If they insist, tell them facts, but the key message to convey is that you are looking for the right fit, personal growth opportunities, and a place where you will want to come to work—which is exactly what they want in hiring you!
Selling your skills and experience is obviously good, but the most basic idea is to connect with the interviewer(s). They are consciously or unconsciously trying to determine who you are and whether they want to work with you on their team. The research in my field says that mostly, particularly in smaller companies, people are hiring people they want to work with or would like to see on Monday mornings—people they can connect to. That is the key set of factors. I know it is subjective, but it is a well-researched fact.
- Align your career goals with the job you are interviewing for. The most basic question you get asked when you are seeking a job is what do you want to do in your next job or in your career. You need an answer to that. You need to align your goals with the company and job you are applying for. You should focus those comments/thoughts on the immediate job in such as way as to make the employer know and believe that this is the job you want next in your career. It is fine to have long range career goals but first focus on where you are at now and then if you talk about long term those comments must align with the company and the current job you are applying for.
Remember, above all else, people hire people, not a resume or even a set of experiences and skills. Hiring is a very personal, obtuse, and confusing process. Things like recognizing their interesting office decor or having a good handshake and good eye contact, are very important and often much more impactful than your skills and experience. Think about it. If you had five people to choose from who all had the required skills and experience at basically the same level, how do you select the one to hire? It quickly comes down to personal preference vs. an analytical skill assessment. Even in bigger companies, it becomes a subjective and/or personal preference process if we have comparably skilled candidates.
Have you had an interviewer you clicked with so well that you knew you’d get the job? Did you get it? Tell me about it in the comments!