Interview Success Tips

Interview Success Tips

Ensure you are prepared, and leading with your best foot forward with these 9 tips that are geared to help you achieve interview success.

1: The purpose of an interview.

First, congratulations on making it to the interview phase; your resume and skill sets are at least a 70 - 80% fit for the position! Now, the purpose of this interview is to offer insight into your personality and abilities. The interview is extremely important for both you and the interview/ hiring authority to ensure culture/ personality, attributes and desired career expectations/ goals are aligned.

2: Be prepared to interview.

Prior to an interview, know your resume inside and out and compile a list of your strengths and weaknesses, as well as a list of answers to typical interview questions (strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, failures, leadership style, why this company, why this position). In addition, plan on being prepared for a conversation about your background and skills.

3: Eliminate distractions.

Before a phone interview, eliminate all potential distractions. A distracted tone sends the message that the candidate is easily flustered and may not be able to focus on critical tasks. Find a private location such as a bedroom, basement, attic, home office or a closet, and close the door. If the home is too noisy and distracting, the garage, back porch, or even the family car will suffice. NEVER put an interviewer on hold.

4: Get off the couch.

While talking to friends and family, it’s normal to sit on the couch or in a cozy recliner and chat away. But while conversing with potential employers, it’s the last thing a candidate should do. Sitting back and relaxing results in a slower, more relaxed voice which signals to the employer that the person may be lazy, ineffectual, unprofessional and slow. For a phone interview, it is best to stand – your voice will come across very confident and engaged. For an in-person interview, sit on the last three inches of your chair. Also, smile and be a real person, while translating interest and enthusiasm to the interviewer!

5: How to answer interview questions.

During the interview, the candidate should directly answer all questions with clarity, focus and confidence. Answer "yes" or "no" without hesitation and without long-winded explanations. The tendency is to go off into directions that may be irrelevant, or that may even harm the person’s chances for an in-person face-to-face. Remember to speak confidently. Say the words, “I can” often (e.g., “Absolutely – as an experienced technical writer, I can quickly develop clear and concise end user manuals for telecommunications systems”). At the end of the interview, be sure to confirm the interviewer’s email address for the thank you letter and status updates on the position.

6: Listen and answer carefully.

One of the major complaints from employers and recruiters about candidates is that too often the candidate doesn't answer the question being asked. Listen carefully to the question being asked and answer that question only. Don't ramble or try to anticipate the next question, or you may talk your way out of the next step -- a possible on-site interview.

7: Flatter.

It pays to do some research on any company you apply to. After all, the question, "Why are you interested in us?" is going to come up. Therefore, it makes good sense to have your ducks in line before the call and to be ready to mention why this company impresses you. Don't be bashful. Mention the product line, their superior management, their unique marketing approach, etc. Make sure you have something positive to say about them. Also, remember and use the interview’s name periodically – people like hearing their name!

8: Close.

Ask questions at the end of the interview – have two or three in mind to show you put thought into the interview, the job and are interested in knowing a bit more. At the end of the phone interview, if you would like to proceed and talk further with this company, take the initiative and ask what a good time might be for scheduling a face-to-face interview. If you feel uncomfortable asking that, then ask this simple question: "What can I do to ensure I’m a competitive candidate moving forward?" This should eliminate any confusion, bring to light anything missed (either on your resume or throughout the course of the interview) and set the stage for your follow-up date.

9: Send a thank you letter.

It is important to send the employer a follow-up thank you letter. This can be done in the form of an email summarizing the conversation and highlighting job skills, accomplishments and fit for the position. For the employer, the goal of the interview is to screen potential candidates. For the job seeker, the goal is to garner a face-to-face with the company in order to wow hiring managers with an effective presentation of job skills, abilities, and accomplishments.

Common Pitfalls

1: Low energy.

A lack of enthusiasm or being too relaxed says, “I’m not that interested in this position or what you have to say.” Many candidates were not selected for a follow up due to low energy even though the position and location were exactly what the candidate was looking for and the resume was a great match.

2: Rambles.

When answering a question or explaining a past experience, be sure to give pertinent details and communicate the result in a timely fashion. Very rarely should your answer take longer than only a few minutes. While normal to be a little nervous and want to keep talking so you’re not missing important details, if you think you’re rambling, you’re probably right.

3: Poor body language.

The interviewer will form an immediate impression of you based on this non-verbal form of communication. Maintain good eye contact, have a firm handshake, and if sitting down, lean forward slightly and rest your forearms on your thighs or armrest. Also, give all interviews the same amount of attention.

4: Not asking questions.

Even if the interviewer covered every aspect of the position, if asked “Do you have any questions?” be prepared with something. Concluding the interview without a question can be interpreted as a lack of interest.
A fallback question can be “Can you tell me about your career progression and what motivates you about working for this company?”

5: Excessive military jargon.

Be wary of using too many acronyms. A way of demonstrating that you can seamlessly transition to the civilian world is by explaining your military experiences in a language that everyone can understand. • Instead of “I was TDY”, say “I was on a temporary assignment.” • Or, “As the S1, then the S4”, try “As the unit’s personnel officer, then supply/logistics officer…”

6: Being too cocky/brazen.

Even for someone without a military background, coming across too strong or overbearing is a negative for any interview. Be sure to project your competence and confidence in a way that does not turn off the interviewer.

7: Being ill-prepared.

While you will not be expected to know every single detail of a company for a first interview, you will need to know the basics (what the company does, requirements and location of the position, etc.). Going into an interview without the basic ‘who, what, where’ of the opportunity demonstrates a lack of preparation and disinterest.

8: Indicated desire for other positions/location.

During an initial interview, focus on the opportunity at hand and ‘win’ the next step in the process. Don’t expect positive feedback if when interviewing for a Project Manager position in Chicago you express a strong desire to go into sales or explain how you really want to live in California and go to graduate school.


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