Job interviews are stressful! Not only do you not know what a potential employer might ask you, but you have to be prepared to answer questions about your past employment history and why you are passionate about this job in particular.
The secret to successfully passing a job interview and getting the position is to have a plan going in and to be 100% present in the moment when you are getting interviewed.
Being thoroughly prepared ahead of time will give you the confidence to be genuine while you’re talking with one or several staff members at the company. Besides, it will give you time to focus on other crucial elements, like having vibrant energy, making eye contact, smiling, and having an authoritative tone of voice.
These tips will help you get through any challenging interview. If you get a job after reading this article, feel free to leave a comment below so we can celebrate with you!
1. Pinpoint the type of employee the company is searching for.
Rather than starting with your skills, your strengths, your weaknesses, and the type of job you want, put yourself in the mindset of your target potential employer. What kind of employee would be their “perfect fit” based on the job description, their company’s values/products/services, and the communication that you’ve had thus far.
You could even be so bold as to ask what problems or issues they’ve had with previous employees so that you know not to mention any of those items in the interview. Remember, you might want a job, a great salary, and vacation days, but the company is more concerned about what they want rather than what you want. The best way to fill a position is to first figure out what they want by any means you can and then to sell yourself as being that perfect person or individual.
For example, if the company wants an employee that is good at customer relations over the telephone and their website emphasizes how it’s a “family” business and that the company cares about its employees, then you would stress your competency in the given skill set, demonstrate your interpersonal skills to the employer directly, and then make an effort to get to know a few of the staff members. They aren’t just searching for someone to fill a void, they are looking for someone that’s also going to enhance the workplace environment.
2. Outline your genuine strengths (not just your skills).
When people think about strengths, they tend to default to hard skills, like “I know how to use Microsoft Excel,” “I’m a good writer,” or “I’m a good public speaker.”
However, it’s also important to emphasize your soft skills to a potential employer. What do you bring to the table besides being “good on the phone” and how can you back up that claim with a story or anecdote?
For example, most employers care about interpersonal skills and some (not all) like managers that take the initiative. Let’s say you’re applying for a manager position and would like to explain why you’d be a good manager.
Well, most good managers are good listeners. You could tell a story about how you listened to a customer or a co-worker about something that needed to change in the company and then communicated that information in a compelling way to a higher-up, which leads to positive change in the company.
As another example, you could say that you are a fast learner and back that up with how you learned a completely new body of knowledge from scratch (like programming) or how you actively attended night classes to get a certification in some discipline.
The story must be true, but thinking about stories that you can tell ahead of time to back up your abilities, whether they are “hard” or “soft” skills is a great way to prepare for your interview. Past success is a good indicator of future success.
3. Fit your answers to their questions.
Have you ever noticed how, no matter what question a politician is asked, they almost always have some kind of answer, and usually it appears off the cuff?
This is because most politicians and even pop stars, who engage in frequent media interviews will think about the answers to common questions first and then if they encounter a new question, fit their answer to that question. They might also quickly answer the question and then transition to their rehearsed bit of dialogue.
Most people don’t remember whether or not you gave a complete answer that fitted their question. They are just interested in learning more about you and how you conduct yourself, which is why politicians frequently get away with this technique.
If you are ever questioned or told that you “didn’t answer the question,” just say something like “oh sorry, I got carried away there” and smile. The time you spent on your rehearsed dialogue will have allowed you to think of an answer on your feet. Or, you can just answer their question with a few words and say, that’s my answer, and then throw a question back about the company or the individual interviewing you to make the transition to another subject. It’s likely, they won’t even remember you were stumped.
4. Anticipate the difficult questions before they ask them.
There were two ways to take a test in high school. You could have studied a bunch, crammed all the material you could into your brain, and been prepared for any question that your teacher was going to throw at you, no matter how obscure.
The second approach, which has a bit of a risk element, but is more effective in terms of time management, would have been to anticipate the kinds of questions that your teacher would ask, know the answers to those questions inside and out, or at least know enough that you could draw knowledge for an essay question.
The latter approach is the best way to approach a job interview. Anticipate both the standard and difficult questions that the interviewer may ask you and prepare your answers in advance.
Put yourself in the mind of the company that is considering you as a potential employer. What questions would they have after looking at your resume, cover letter, and talking to one of your previous employers (or looking you up on social media)?
When a question that you’ve prepared for comes up in the interview, don’t just rattle off your answer the second it comes out of the interviewer’s mouth. Pause for a few seconds, process what they said, and then answer. This will give the appearance that you gave some thought to the answer and that it was genuine or impromptu. It underscores that you can think on your feet, even if it was rehearsed.
5. Remember everyone’s name or one fact.
The bestselling author, speaker, and motivational coach Dale Carnegie said it best: “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
When someone hears their name come out of your mouth, it makes them feel like you’re taking the time to get to know them and that you are aware of their existence.
By remembering the interviewer’s name or the names of the potential coworkers that they’ve introduced you to at the company, it shows them that you care about the company, that you’re invested in the interview process, and that you’re the kind of coworker they could seem themselves being friends with.
If you can’t remember the name of a particular individual, remembering some key facts about them can have the same effect of making them feel like you’re taking the time to get to know them and care about the interaction. For example, you could make a tasteful joke about some aspect of your shared experience, like having lived in the same city, or you could say “I’ll have to learn more about ____ tonight” if they are a big fan of some kind of topic you aren’t familiar with, like yoga.
6. Be curious about the interviewer and the company.
Don’t forget that during a job interview, the potential employer is not only evaluating your skills and whether or not they fit the vacancy. They are also getting a sense of who you are, what you’re passionate about, what your goals are, and if those values and that ambition would be a good fit for long-term hire.
Good employers want employees that want to work at their company. It makes for better coworkers, teammates, and will reinforce the culture at the company. Aside from smiling, bringing positive energy, and being competent, the best way to interest an employer is to be interested in the company. It is a tangible display of your commitment and interest in the job.
Yes, it’s important to ask technical questions about the job, the processes within the company, and the day-to-day work experience. However, what’s even more important is to ask questions about the values of the company, what the overarching management goals are, how the company has changed over time, and why the company has chosen to serve this particular group of customers.
It might seem strange to ask questions about the company’s values, the customers, or the history of the company, especially if you are applying for a non-sales job or non-executive job, but asking these kinds of questions will show the employer that you understand you are part of an organization larger than yourself and that you are contributing to the company’s mission.
If an employer ever asks you why you’re asking questions about the company’s organization or management, just say that you realize you’re part of a larger team and want to understand it. If they ever say “you don’t need to understand it,” take that as a signal to run for the hills. It doesn’t be a good company to work for, trust me.
Finally, taking a polite interest in the interviewer is a great way to express interest in the job, to stand out from the crowd, and ultimately, to make the interviewer like you. Remember that everyone wants to feel liked, appreciated, and understood. Taking even a few minutes to get to know the interviewer, and what they want, why they joined the company, and how they’ve progressed over time will show that you’ll make a good future coworker! No one wants to work with robots.
If the interviewer is ever a little freaked out that you are asking questions about them, just say that you like to get to know your coworkers and that you think understanding other people’s values, skills, and ambition helps you be more effective in a team environment.
7. Fit yourself into the company culture.
Every company has a culture. Some companies prize a hard work ethic, positive active energy, and a competitive disposition. It does not mean that you should know how to dress like a businessman or something like that. Others care less about your competitive or ambitious attitude and care more about having relaxed energy, and your ability to communicate well and empathize with other coworkers and customers.
By asking questions and being observant, you can get a quick idea of the company culture. Once you get a strong sense, take action to integrate yourself into that culture.
For example, if it’s a competitive financial company, bring up stories from the past which demonstrate how you’re a driven, bold, and fearless individual. If it’s a media company that has a tight-knit coworking environment, talk about how you set up a softball team at your previous company and was wondering if you could organize something like that here.
The best way to be seen as a “good fit” in the eyes of your employer is to demonstrate why you already match the culture that they have at the company and are a square peg in a square hole.
8. Don’t care about money.
Money might be at the forefront of your mind, but don’t communicate that to the hiring manager! From an employer’s perspective, if you have employees that only care about money, they are far more likely to move from your company to another in the long run. One that simply offers better benefits or a higher salary.
Good talent is always worth good money. Rather than spending your time asking about vacation days, salary, and benefits (which can always be negotiated down the road), they take time in the interview to learn about the company, the hiring manager, and what your role will be. Use the time to sell or convince that manager of how amazing of an employee you will be and how much value you will bring to the company.
In general, companies prize a loyal, passionate, and energetic employee over one that might have good credentials, but sees the opportunity as a “job” and not a “career.” Also, an employee that is eager to learn and grow and one that can demonstrate how they’ve learned quickly in the past will always capture the attention of a hiring manager.
9. Communicate your emotions.
Too often, potential hires underscore why they are a good fit for the job from a technical standpoint. They might even use stories or anecdotes to underscore their abilities. However, a good company doesn’t just want an employee that has the technical ability to do the job required. They also want an employee that will fit in with the culture at the company and who will be a pleasure to work with.
You might be excited about a job, but your employer will only know that if you smile, act enthusiastic, and show it with the tone of your voice. You might find something that a potential coworker tells you to be heartfelt or meaningful, but unless you communicate that with your body language and vocal tone, they won’t know you feel that way!
Communicating your emotions is a big part of developing rapport with the interviewer, co-workers at the company, and making the team feel good about bringing you into the company.
10. Emphasize what you can already do and how you can grow.
Finally, going back to point #9, companies don’t want to have to keep hiring new employees for a position and they don’t want to experience a rapid turnover rate. The best way that you can set their mind at ease is to show that you view the opportunity as a career step and not simply a job.
By emphasizing the skills you have, how you’ve learned them over time, and how this opportunity will help you grow as a professional, it demonstrates a few key aspects of a good hire:
– You care about the quality of your work and want to improve.
– You can learn new things and you’ve already learned a lot.
– You could be a long-term employee at the company and bring a lot of value to the employer.
– You want to grow as a person. This will make you more valuable as an employee over time and it makes you more appealing to be around from a coworker standpoint.
Not everyone has the ambition to grow, be more, and improve the quality of their work or skills. Showing that you do will give you a big leg up on the other hires, especially if you can demonstrate why this job opportunity is a perfect role for you to grow as an expert or professional in your field.
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