Tips for Interviewing that Really Work

Interviews!! Dreaded, important interviews! How can employers find the perfect fit? How can candidates make a memorable mark? Interview tips for candidates and interview tips for employers are two sides of the same coin. Our tips for interviewing cover both sides and provide key insights you’ll put to good use no matter which side of the desk you’re on.  

Below is a master cheat sheet including questions to ask in a job interview  if you’re the applicant and if you’re the employer, along with other essentials like how to leave your best impression, what makes a memorable thank you note after an interview, and virtual interview tips for employers.  

Ready? Let’s get hired and hiring! 

7 Tips on How to Do Well in an Interview

Before we get to power poses and new hairstyles (keep reading; they’re coming), let’s cover the basics. If you do absolutely nothing else, do these seven things and you can hold your head high coming and going from the hot seat, er, job interview: 

  1. Early Bird Gets the Worm to Relax: Being on time will give you confidence and keep you calm.
  1. Say My Name: More than just a great song (thanks, Destiny’s Child). Know the names of the people you’re talking to—having them written down is fine. And if you’re not sure of pronunciation, ask.
  1. No Worries, I’ve Got Extras: Have a few copies of your resume on hand for broken printers and last-minute interviewers.
  1. Yes, I DO Have a Question: Have a few questions written down (see the section below on questions to ask employers in an interview). You can add to your list based upon what comes up organically. The interview, no matter whether it’s a homerun or a strikeout, poses a great opportunity for you to find out some insider info you can apply elsewhere. Maybe you want to know how this company rates against its competitors, what morale is like, whether the culture is more introvert or extrovert focused, etc. Give some thought to what you’d really like to know.
  1. Mind If I Borrow a Pen: Bring your own supplies, including a pen or two, a watch, and a pad of paper.
  1. Make Their Day: Smile when you greet the interviewer. Follow their lead as far as physical contact—only shake if they do (germs!).
  1. Put a Bow on It: Thank them for their time before you leave. This will help you feel you’ve completed your job as a candidate, and leave your interviewer feeling they’ve done theirs as well.

5 Tips on How to Make a Good Impression at a Job Interview

Making a good impression is a nuanced task. Here are five universal tips that will ensure you leave them respecting you and wanting your energy on the team: 

  1. Read the Room: If the mood in the room is serious and subtle, don’t come in with jokes flying and gum snapping. Conversely, don’t be fooled by a laid-back vibe. Your interviewer can relax during a post-lunch “wish I were napping” 3 pm interview—but your job is to be on your toes no matter what.
  1. Whites of Their Eyes: Eye contact is important but there’s no need to go crazy, here. If you’re not big on staring into stranger’s eyes, don’t make you (and them) self-conscious by starting the practice during your job interview. Just make a point to make eye contact at regular intervals so they know you’re present, committed, and engaged.
  1. Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth: No need to bring up the time the cashier gave you extra fries by accident and you didn’t say a word, but don’t skirt any tough truths, either. If you’ve got a kid and need to leave at 3:00 every day to get them to soccer practice, say it straight.
  1. The Doctor is OUT: Don’t accidentally treat your interview as a therapy session where you vent about your previous job, boss, or coworkers. Your interview is definitely the place to bring up challenges you’ve had working in a particular environment or with a particular personality, but keep things respectful and as general as you can.
  1. Cursing Cursive: You don’t have to send a handwritten thank you note with a wax seal. Your thank you note can be a thank you email. The most important piece is that you send one, send it immediately (hiring decisions get made fast), and mention something specific and genuine in the note. A memorable thank you note after an interview might reference something you and the interviewer have in a common, a laugh you shared, an aspect of the job that especially appeals to you, or a challenge of the job you’re eager to tackle.

3 Tips on How to Be Memorable in an Interview

How to get yourself remembered as a candidate is a mission-critical employment interview tip. Of course, there are a few key things you want to avoid standing out for. These include forgetting to turn your phone off (leave it in the car), halitosis (breath mints—many, many breath mints), or being uniquely unprepared physically or mentally for an interview (no rave parties the night before).  

On the other hand, here are three things you can do to ensure you’re one of the names and faces they remember:   

  1. Power Pose: The jury is still out on whether taking a few moments in the restroom stall to stand like, say Wonder Woman, prior to your interview will engender feelings of inner power and a presentation of confidence. However, it is indeed true that while you’re chatting with your prospective employer, sitting up straight is always far better than slouching. The company called you in because you’re qualified and they want to get to know you. They’re looking at you and you deserve to be observed. Don’t forget to claim your space. Chin up, shoulders back, and smile: You’re ready for your close-up!
  1. What’s My Aura: Let your personality come through. If you’re reserved, push yourself a little if you need to in order to share who you are. If you’re the life of the party, hold back a bit so your interviewers can set the tone and get a word in edgewise. But in general, come bearing your own personality with pride. This is not an audition for an acting gig (unless of course it is), and you want to be hired as yourself. Related note: The time to try on a new hairstyle, shoe size, or personality type, is not interview day (or school picture day, for that matter). Stick with what you know.
  1. If You’re Bored You’re Boring: Listen to what’s being said. Thoughtfully consider questions that are asked. Enjoy the experience of seeing a new environment and meeting new people. This will help you stay focused and engaged, and shows your prospective employer that you bring your “A” game, every time, no matter what. With a stream of candidates coming through the door, your brand of enthusiasm will create a lasting impression.

3 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview

Any list of interview tips for employees that’s worth its weight in gold (or in our case, in hourly wages and annualized salary and benefits) must include questions to ask. We’ve all been there. The time comes in every interview, when the inevitable happens. “Do you have any questions for us?” asks your potential employer with a smile. You, hands feeling clammy and brain feeling empty, can all at once think of absolutely nothing–nada, zilch, zip, not a thing—that you’d like to know. First off, why does this happen? A big reason is because anxiety can prevent our thoughts from flowing freely. Second, how can we avoid it? Two ways: Come prepared with questions and also jot down additional questions that pop up during the interview. Questions you can prepare ahead include in areas like: 

  • What’s It Like Around Here: When you ask about culture you can get great information about what the company is “really” looking for that they might not have said outright. Things like “work hard, play hard,” “work/life balance,” “progressive,” “family environment,” and “bureaucratic” will tell you a lot about company values and what will be expected of you.
  • Why the Hire: What is the reason for the opening? Is the position available due to growth, attrition, a new initiative? (Growth can mean upward mobility, attrition can mean job security, new initiatives can get killed.)
  • Winning Traits: Ask about characteristics that work well or don’t work well for this job or on this team: This is a good way to allow your employer to give your covert insight about why the previous person didn’t work out, e.g., gossipy, negative, disorganized, not a team player, etc.

Tip: The pressure to ask a question may lead you to inquire about something you could find out with a 10-second online search, such as the size of the company, the number of locations, the primary product lines. Instead, use facts like that as a lead-in to a more meaningful question such as if the company plans to expand its product line in the future, whether its primary goal is more customers vs increased order value, challenges with customer satisfaction and how they’re being addressed. These types of questions allow your interviewer to engage in meaningful discussion with you and sometimes spark secondary discussions related to your previous experiences.   

3 Questions For Employers to Ask in an Interview

In preparing to conduct your interview, you’ve reviewed the candidate’s resume and have an idea of their experience and qualifications. The in-person or virtual interview is a great time to get to know their personality. Focus on making your candidate feel comfortable so you can have a free-flowing discussion the reveals personality traits like leadership, teamwork, a positive attitude or a toxic vibe. A few questions that get to the core without putting your candidate on the spot: 

  1. Ink Blot Anyone: You don’t have to do a full personality test to get important info about whether your candidate will be a good fit. As what type or types of personality they enjoy working with the most? The least? This gives your candidate an opportunity to talk about “problem people” without feeling like they’re dissing their previous employer or colleagues. You’ll glean great insight about your candidate’s work style as well.
  1. Getting to Yes (or Getting to Maybe): Ask how your candidate reacts when things don’t go their way. For example, ask about a situation where they felt there was a right way and a wrong way, and the company chose the wrong way. This will give you insight about your candidate’s level of involvement, commitment, passion, and their ability to deal with disappointment. There’s no one size fits all with respect to an ideal answer here. For some positions, you’re looking for tenacity, while for others you might want a peacemaker.
  1. Slow and Steady or Rock Til You Drop: As your candidate if there’s a particular culture in which they thrive—or one in which they don’t. If they’re all about entrepreneurship and the race to be first to market, a corporate culture that thinks of itself as “a ship that’s slow to turn but everyone’s on board” won’t be a good fit.

3 Virtual Interview Tips for Employers

Most of us know our way around a Zoom call, and many of us are familiar with other video platforms as well. Make things easy for your candidates and comfortable for you by following these three tips: 

  1. Technology: Email your candidate with video links and instructions beforehand.
  1. Pajamas on the Bottom But Still Professional: Your upper-body focused video camera may allow for business on top and athleisure on the bottom, but ensure the visual experience is a clean representation of your employer brand. Use a video background template (corporate if you have one) and position your camera so candidates aren’t looking at your bed, laundry hamper, sleeping cats, or similar.
  1. Hard Stops Make Life Easier: Let your candidate know how much time you have and stick to it. This will make each interview more organized and allow you time between interviews to take notes and take a break. Sticking to a firm start and stop time also helps your candidate feel more confident. They may have scheduled the interview to coincide with their baby taking a nap, their kid being at school, or their husband taking the forever-barking dog for a long walk.

Employers: Give Candidates a Parting Gift

Your candidates have dealt with nerves, anxiety, research, fielding questions on the fly, and quite possibly shopping for interview suits on a tight budget. As they leave the interview, don’t leave them empty-handed. Hand them a promotional pen, personalized tote, or custom tumbler with your company logo front and center and whether they get the job or not, they’re a brand ambassador going forward.  

Best Tip for Interviewing: Find the Fun

Whether you’re the employer or the candidate, feeling prepared allows you to look forward to a discussion that will be edifying for both sides. Like any social situation, when you ask good questions and give thoughtful answers, a good exchange follows. Look forward to the experience. And don’t try a new hairstyle!  

Karleen Wise Andersen

From marketing tips to product recommendations, I’m here to help small businesses be their best.

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