Job seekers spend a lot of time and energy applying for positions, but when invited for an interview (often on short notice), many are caught like a deer in the headlights—unprepared and trying to cram for the interview they worked so hard to win.
Don’t be that candidate! If you are job-hunting full time, spend a fraction of each week thinking about and actively getting ready to interview so you aren’t caught ill-equipped when the time comes.
Here are seven things your interviewer wants you to know and action steps to help you successfully navigate the interview process:
1. It is tough to hire a quality employee. It’s ironic that unemployment is so high, but there is a definite war for talent. Your interviewer is likely tired of looking for someone to hire and rooting for you to be the perfect fit.
Focus on how you can be the ideal candidate. Make a list of your qualifications and rehearse answers to, “Why should we hire you?”
2. No one wants to interview a slob. Dress professionally, even if you’re an internal candidate or are interviewing for an entry-level position with no dress code. You don’t need a three-piece suit, but if you look like you’re on the way to a supermarket, it gives the impression you don’t care very much about the opportunity.
Before you get the call for an interview, compile several reasonable outfits. Don’t forget to select shoes, a belt—everything you’ll need to look presentable. Keep these items ready at a moment’s notice.
If you’re uncomfortable making eye contact, practice with a friend or coach. Video tape a mock interview and pay close attention to how you sit and act. Practice sitting up straight, leaning toward your interviewer, and making consistent eye contact.
4. No one wants to listen to long, drawn out replies. Keep your answers brief and to the point. If your interviewer is compiling a mental grocery list while you are speaking, you can bet you’re not going to be the top candidate. Time yourself speaking for one minute. You may be surprised by how much you can say in a short time. Identify common interview questions, such as, “Tell me about yourself.” Don’t mistaken this for an open invitation to share your autobiography. Prepare succinct answers that address details the interviewer needs to know, including the main question at hand: What qualifies you for the job?
5. Directly answering questions is key to successful interviewing. Listen carefully, especially if inquiries have multiple parts. Don’t be afraid to jot down some notes, especially if they’ll help you address each inquiry succinctly.
Prepare several stories to illustrate your successes, describe interpersonal relationships with colleagues and supervisors, and detail one or two negative situations you managed to salvage. If you prepare well, you can probably use these stories to address most interview questions. Be sure your stories clearly outline the problem you faced, the action you took, and the result. Many people omit the all-important result. Don’t.
6. It’s important to demonstrate what you know about the company. A little research goes a long way.
Keep up-to-date with the news about organizations of interest. Set a Google alert for them so you won’t miss anything important. Use all of the resources at your disposal to learn about the places where you want to work.
7. Have questions for the interviewer. If you have nothing to ask, it makes you seem uninterested in the job.
When you prepare, identify some unique questions for your employer. Don’t ask anything you could easily find via research. If you come up with a thought-provoking question—one that isn’t found on lists of questions to ask—it will help you stand out from the competition.
Interviewing isn’t easy, but if you prepare throughout your job hunt to address these inevitable issues, you will not be left struggling to answer, “Why should we hire you?” or running out at the last minute to find an appropriate interview outfit. Being prepared isn’t just a motto—it needs to be a way of life for job seekers who want to succeed.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer and owner of Keppie Careers. She teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success. Connect with her via Twitter @Keppie_Careers.