5 Tips to Ace an Interview

5 Tips to Ace an Interview

By Sheila Eason, Human Resources Consultant

You know the scenario. You have applied for several jobs over several months and finally, you receive the call that you have anxiously been waiting for! You are, of course, very excited but you temper that excitement because you know there is much to do to prepare for the interview. Are you prepared?

Even experienced interviewers still need to prepare! “But, I am qualified and, after all, I’ve had many interviews before,” you may say. Or, “No worries, I got this.” As the saying goes, though, you never get a second chance to make a first impression!

With proper preparation, you’ll be able to ace the interview and demonstrate what makes you the best candidate for the job.

Let me share five interview tips that will teach you how to prepare for a job interview and convince the hiring manager that you are the ideal candidate for the job!

  1. Conduct research on the employer.

Researching employers is one of the best ways to differentiate yourself from other candidates. By investigating potential employers, you’ll discover new information about the employer and gain additional insight into the organization. This will better prepare you for any interview.

Here are four things you should find out about an employer:

  • Skills and experience the employer desires
  • News and recent events about the employer
  • The company’s culture, mission, and values
  • Clients, products, and services

View the organization’s website and blog, and do some research on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Glassdoor. If you know a current employee of the organization, they can also be a great resource for providing an insider’s perspective about the company.

  1. Review potential questions and practice your responses.

There are many possible interview questions that you may be asked and it’s helpful to be ready for anything. Many employers use an interviewing technique called “behavioral interviewing” (BI) to learn about your past behavior in certain work situations. Behavioral interview questions require you to be a storyteller, starting with the prompt, “Tell me about a time when…” Think of some success stories and then rehearse them based on the question you’re asked.

Common behavioral interview questions include:

  • Tell me about a challenge or conflict you’ve faced at work, and how you dealt with it.
  • What type of work environment do you prefer?
  • Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks.
  • Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.
  • Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or coworker.

This is just a sample. You can do an online search for a more complete list of behavioral interview questions.

The best way to frame your behavioral answers is to use the S.T.A.R. method. The STAR method is a proven way to effectively answer behavioral interview questions.

The STAR Method breaks down your answer into these 4 elements:

Situation: What was the situation, an event, project, or challenge faced.

Task: Explain the task you had to complete highlighting any specific challenges or limitations (e.g. deadlines, costs, resources).

Action: Describe the actions you took to address the situation with an appropriate amount of detail. What specific steps did you take and what was your contribution?

Result: Describe the outcome of your actions. What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn? Make sure your answer contains multiple positive results.

Remember to practice your responses so you can provide them comfortably and confidently.

  1. Dress for success.

I have conducted many interviews over the course of my 25-year career. I have seen my share of people dressed inappropriately for an interview. Let’s just say slippers and low-cut tops are not the way to make a good first impression!

Dress in a manner that is professionally appropriate to the position for which you are applying. Not every job interview requires a three-piece suit or even your Sunday best. For instance, if you are interviewing for a manufacturing or production position, you may want to wear slacks and a button-down shirt and tie or a polo shirt.

Avoid clothing or accessories that are distracting, such as loud colors, flashy suits, or large earrings. Clothing should be neat, clean, and pressed. Your hair should be neat, clean, and conservatively styled.

  1. Pay attention to your body language.

Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication. He found that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements such as tone of voice, and an overwhelming 55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc).

What is your body language saying? To look interested and engaged, sit up straight and lean back in the chair. Give eye contact. If there is more than one interviewer, be sure to give each of them eye contact. Nod to show agreement and understanding. And, smile! It’s contagious!

  1. Prepare a list of questions to ask the employer.

Have a list of 2-3 of your own questions to ask the employer. You will most certainly be given an opportunity to ask them questions and this gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your interest in the organization and the position. Otherwise, you might come across as disinterested.

This is your chance to ask questions about the company culture. Keep in mind that just as the employer is interviewing you to determine your cultural fit, you are also interviewing the employer to determine whether the culture aligns with your needs. Other questions you may want to ask center around performance expectations, opportunities for development, and the hiring manager’s leadership style.

If you follow these job interview tips before your next interview, you’ll be prepared and positioned for a positive result!

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