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How To Give a Killer Interview

It all starts with that crucial first impression. 

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla

Giving a great interview can be the difference between staying in your mediocre job, and pursuing your dream career. Colin Powell, an American statesman, has said, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” There are also no secrets to being successful in an interview. If you prepare yourself, your answers, and show you are the right worker for the company, then you will be able to rock your interview and get the job.

1. Prepare Yourself

Photo by Ben Rosett

Job Description and Resume:

The first step to giving a great interview is preparation. There are two main areas to concentrate on: the company and yourself. Start your preparation as soon as you can. Look at the job description and note any keywords that they provide. These words are going to be your template for knowing what type of person they are going to hire for this position.

Remember to print at least two copies of your resume, one for your interviewer and one for yourself. This way you are able to detail those similarities between yourself and the job description. Study your resume. Are your skills and strengths similar to the ones the company is looking for? Be sure to highlight those while you are answering questions. Remember this interview is to sell yourself and your skills. Bring samples of your work to showcase these skills.

Interview outfit:

While scheduling the interview, ask about dress code expectations. This way you are able to come to the interview looking like you are the person for the job. If you are not used to wearing the required clothing, try it out at home. Learn how to move in your clothes before sitting awkwardly in front of your potential employer. Find something that makes you look professional, but that will also be easy for you to spend the day in. In the best case scenario you may have multiple interviews with different people in the company. Once the perfect outfit is chosen make sure it is wrinkle-free and laid out for the big day. That way the morning of the interview will go off without a hitch.

Practice greeting:

The next opportunity for a good start to the interview is your handshake and smile. Grab some friends and practice! Make sure your shake is not too soft as this implies weakness. However, do not be too rough; doing this makes you come across as aggressive instead of self-assured. Your shake should be firm and last from two to five seconds. Avoid making your smile look forced. A small smile is fine accompanied by a polite greeting.  

2. Research the Company

Photo by Ilya Pavlov

The Interview:

Research is key to showing an employer you are prepared and excited for a job. Ask what type of interview they will be conducting. There are many types of interviews varying from the traditional one-on-one to group interviews, and they may ask you different questions in each. Many employers will tell you if there will be more than one interviewer. In the case you will be meeting with multiple people at once, bring enough copies of your resume for everyone.

Before you can get to the interview you must plan out the logistics. As elementary as it sounds, you must first make it to the building - so find the address and (if appropriate) corresponding parking lot. Look up the directions and visit the building before your interview. Get the floor of the interview and the specifications of what to do when you arrive. If possible, walk through the building to make yourself familiar with the layout. Figure out who you are going to speak with to check in on the day of the interview. Getting lost on the day of the interview can cost you a potentially amazing job before you even have a chance to meet.

Company Knowledge:

Look into the company itself. Read any articles you can find about the company’s history and familiarize yourself with recent news and any hardships they are currently going through. Being able to refer to accomplishments or projects they are currently working on will show that you have the initiative, drive and interest to work for the company. Find out the company's primary goal and who they serve. Most companies have an about-us page on their website. Familiarize yourself with the faces and titles of the leaders. Their website or social media page also provides information on the culture of the company. Know what their goals are and sell yourself as the person to help them reach those.  

Research Yourself and What to Talk About

Photo by Olu Eletu

To be successful in an interview you are going to need to answer questions about yourself. If you have already thought through your answers they are going to come out crisp and clean. Think of any achievements that you have, as well as any crises or obstacles you have been able to overcome. Consider the times you have worked with others to solve a problem, or if you have successfully taught someone in a professional setting. Consider what you think are your best strengths and think about what weaknesses you have. Try to avoid the cliché, “I just work too hard.” Many employers will not find this answer honest. Keep in mind the traits they are looking for in this position and emphasize those.

When answering situational questions remember to talk about how you would fit into the company with those skills. Think of the information you learned from research and use it to your advantage. Answers to questions do not need to be longer if they have enough information to answer fully. If you feel like you are starting to ramble and repeat yourself slow down and take a few seconds to think. At the end of the interview make sure you ask questions! Think of something the interviewer has not covered. If you cannot find any questions you can ask, “Is there anything in my resume or in my answers that gives you any reason for concern?” If they do have concerns you may be able to further explain your situation and hopefully change their opinion.

3. The Big Day 

The most important part is the start of your day. Eat around an hour before you leave. You want to be content and focused when you arrive. Remember to check your breath or chew a piece of gum on the car ride over. Just do not forget to throw it out! If possible, make it to the building around 30 minutes before the interview and spend some time relaxing beforehand. Find your resumes, a pen and paper, and any other paperwork they asked you to bring. Walk into the building looking composed and confident, instead of rushed and worried. You should be at least 10-15 minutes early to work on any paperwork they have.  

4. What Not To Do

Photo by Capitol Standard

There are some key items to remember when sitting in front of your interviewer. Avoid fidgeting as this will show you are nervous; instead keep your hands in your lap or hold any paperwork you have. Focus on your body language, sit up straight and do not cross your arms. Never answer questions about past employers negatively. Your potential employer will be worried you might badmouth their company in the future. Give honest answers, but do not be too personal. Avoid the topic of money or perks unless asked about them directly. Always remember to leave your phone in the car or turn it off for the duration of your interview.

5. Quick Tips and Tricks

Photo by Tim Gouw

Here are five tips and tricks to remember on your big day.

  1. Avoid sugary snacks, coffee, and energy drinks. You want to have energy, not be wired.
  2. Be nice and polite to everyone you come across.
  3. Your interviewer is just a person and they are probably dreading this as much as you.
  4. The best conversationalists are great listeners.
  5. Take a few seconds to think before you answer, you will be more composed and your thoughts will come across as more collected.

The most important aspect of an interview is the preparation. If you prepare yourself, your answers, and research the company there should be no questions that could potentially catch you off guard. You will be able to give your answers with confidence and your potential employer will feel comfortable in choosing you to hire. With these five strategies you have all of the necessary tools to give a great interview.

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