How to Ace a Job Interview

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In today’s job market, making a good impression in your job interview is more than an online pokies shoot-in-the-dark. Employers seemingly have their pick of an endless supply of well-qualified candidates, which might seem depressing.

At the end of the day, however, the employer has to choose someone to fill the position.  Read some of human resource professionals’ top suggestions of how to ace an interview and become “that” candidate.

Making a Good Impression

Before the questions even start, the interviewer will be looking at the non-verbal cues that you’re giving. Have you dressed appropriately? Did you come on time? Are you friendly? Approachable? Do you seem interested in what the company does? Do you seem confident? Do you chatter on or maintain a quiet composure?

In addition to trying to determine whether or not you are qualified for the job, the interviewer will be trying to determine whether s/he (and his/her co-workers) will want to work alongside you as a future co-worker. You want to make that possibility an inviting one for possible future co-workers.

Do your Research

There’s nothing that makes an interviewer more frustrated than interviewing someone who hasn’t even made an effort to find out some of the basic information about the company.  It’s true if you’re interviewing for a generic position, such as an IT specialist or a secretary, it doesn’t really matter what the company actually does.  But it speaks volumes to the interviewer when the person who is interviewing for the job doesn’t seem to care enough to have researched basic information about the company.

Go online and check out the company’s website. Find out enough so that you can ask a few, intelligent questions about the firm.  Maybe you don’t really care what’s going on in the company but if you demonstrate that disinterest, your chances for landing the job will be nil.

Be Prepared

Bring hard copies of your resume, references, and other relevant job-search materials to the interview.  You probably won’t need it since you’ll probably have already set it to the interviewer through email, but it looks professional to have it ready and walking in with a portfolio makes you look professional.

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Questions

Ask intelligent questions about the company and what it does.  As mentioned previously, you want to make it clear that you know the basics about the company.  But you’re not an expert.  Show interest by asking relevant questions……what are the company’s most popular products? Is the company selling overseas? Does the company work with other companies? The more you make it seem as though what the company does is of interest to you, the higher you’ll move in the interviewer’s estimation of your skills and abilities.

Presenting Yourself

At some point, you’ll have to present yourself by talking about your skills, your abilities, your past achievements and your reasons for wanting to move to a new company. First of all, as you discuss your past achievements, use metrics.  So instead of saying “I was the team leader for a successful project” say “The project for which I lead my team was responsible for a 25% reduction in costs” or “ my project brought us in eight new clients.”

Back up those stats with relative stories that show how your skills benefitted a previous employer.

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Questions

You can’t be sure what questions the interviewer will ask, but you can get a pretty good idea, based on the most common questions that interviewers ask. Prepare for these questions beforehand and form your answers so that you sound coherent and intelligent.

  • “Tell me a little about yourself.”  That’s a simple question but a crucial one.  Prepare a short summary of your professional life.  You don’t want to prattle on, but you do want to share some of the highlights of what you’ve accomplished.  Focus on two or three highlights.  If you don’t have a work history, speak about highlights of your studies or some volunteer experiences.
  • “How did you hear about the position?” You can stand out here by mentioning someone in the industry who told you about the job, indicating that someone who knows the company thinks that you’re a good fit.  Or, even if you saw a posting online, you can say that the listing caught your eye because you’re interested in such-and-such…..it makes you seem like a good fit.
  • “What are your professional strengths?” Be relevant (professional strengths that will shine in this particular position), accurate (what are you REALLY good at – don’t lie because it will come back to haunt you), and specific (if you’re a people person, you might want to indicate that as it relates to the job, for instance, saying that you work well in a team situation).
  • “What are your weaknesses?” That’s a tricky one.  You have to demonstrate that you’re aware of your weaknesses, but you don’t want to ruin your chances of getting the job!  The interviewer basically wants to gauge your honesty and self-awareness.
  • You don’t want to say that you’re disorganized or that you can’t meet deadlines. Think of something real but talk about how you’re working to improve.  Maybe something about your struggles with multi-tasking and how you are dealing with that by learning how to prioritize.  Or your discomfort with public speaking and steps that you’re taking to overcome that weakness.
  • “Why are you leaving your current job?” Prepare well for this question because interviewers use your answer to assess your loyalty to your employer.
  • You want to keep things positive and frame your answer in a way that shows that, while you have a good relationship with your present employer (a VERY important point for any future employer), you want to grow in a new direction. Talk about the opportunities that the new position may offer that the old position doesn’t and focus on how you want to move towards that direction.
  • “What are you looking for?” Here’s where your research about the company can come in handy.  Talk about one or two opportunities that the company offers and then align those with your own aspirations.
  • “Do you have any questions for us?”  Again, use your research to demonstrate your knowledge about the company.  Ask about something pertinent that shows that you know what’s happening in the company but want a little more information about XY or Z.

Thank You  Note

It’s considered acceptable…..even expected….for you to send a short letter after the interview, thanking the interviewer for taking the time to speak to you.  It’s courteous and keeps your name in the interviewer’s mind.

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