The key to a successful job interview is preparation.
“The days of winging an interview are gone,” says Genevieve Belben, lead consultant at DBM, the global outplacement, coaching, and career-management firm.
When you send off your resumé, sit down and research the company until you know it inside and out. While you should get ample notice for the interview, you might not, and you don’t want to end up cramming.
When you’re offered an interview, find out what kind it will be. You don’t want to be expecting a one-on-one and find yourself before a firing squad of 12.
Going for a new job is like starting a relationship, and you can’t let your enthusiasm for the position overwhelm your cool-headed judgment about the company.
“We think, ‘Oh we’re adaptable, we can change things when we get in there,’” explains Belben. “It’s not going to happen. Every new job is exciting. You’re learning new things, you’re being challenged, but it becomes very old very quickly if you’re not fitting in.”
“Tell me about yourself” is a common first question and you should have a two-minute blurb prepared. Don’t just run through your resumé — they already have that.
“You’re being repetitive and it becomes boring,” says Belben. “Use the ‘Tell me about yourself’ to align what they’re looking for with your own background and accomplishments. You want the interviewer sitting on the edge of their chairs saying, ‘Really, tell me more about that.’”
And then there is the dreaded strengths-and-weaknesses question.
“Be honest. We all have weaknesses,” Belben says. “Talk about a weakness you have that can be positive for that role. If you say you don’t really have any weaknesses, that’s your first one.”
Don’t table salary yourself, and try to avoid naming a figure. If pressed, give a range of five or ten thousand dollars, depending on the job level.
Now, turn the tables; it’s your turn to interview the company.
Belben says a good question to ask the interviewer is: “What are you looking for in an ideal candidate?” They might bring up things not mentioned in the job description and you can tap into that.
When the interview is over, restate your desire for the job. You can boldly ask “When do I start?” or go for a humbler “I hope you seriously consider me for the position.”
Then, follow your mother’s advice, say thank you. E-mail is easily deleted, so mail a personalized card. It might just end up on their desk, a daily reminder of your application.