How to Ace Your Job Interview

So the time, blood, sweat and tears you’ve invested into building your perfect resume and cover letter has paid off: you get an interview!

Now what?

In fact, the resume and cover letter are only half the battle; acing the interview requires a completely different level of skills and preparation.

One HR recruiter told me, “My biggest frustration in the interview process is when I find a terrific resume and cover letter but the candidate in person is nothing like they appear on paper.  It’s like reading a really good book and then the movie version is nothing like the book at all!”

Let’s face it – you are now in an elite group of applicants who are vying for this one position.  If you make the final interview stage, you will now be going up against a maybe 3-5 other professionals who have also demonstrated that they have the skills, accomplishments, experience and background to be successful at the same job for which you are applying.  In addition to calming the natural anxiety you are probably facing at this point, what are the things that you can do to take control of the interview and show the company that you are most perfect fit for this position?

YOU have the opportunity to turn a run-of-the-mill job interview into a CONVERSATION… a conversation where those interviewing you are not buried in their notebooks, avoiding any eye contact while they madly scribble notes and answers, but where they are engaging you in your answers and are showing intense interest in your answers.  It is at this point where they are actually developing the believable connection between you and the position.

Research and Anticipate
Having reached the interview process, you have probably crafted your resume and cover letter in such a way that connects the relevance of your background and experience to the job you have applied.  On paper, that is great, but now you have to convince the organization in person why you are the best candidate for the job.  So much about acing an interview comes in the preparation for the interview.

In our digital, online world, there are literally dozens of ways to find critical information about the company where you are applying.  From simply typing in the company’s name into Google, to reading their online annual report, to tracking down key executive bios on Linkedin; when you arrive for the interview, you should understand fully the company’s history, their mission, vision and values and the challenges they face.  Who are their competitors?  Do you know the name of their CEO?  How does the job you are applying for fit into the company’s strategy?  All of this information is helpful in being able to describe and discuss how your unique set of talents and experience make you the perfect candidate for the job.

Anticipate and Practice!
By re-reading the job posting, you will be able to understand pretty quickly the core areas that you will be asked about in the interview.

Remember, those interviewing you are trying to imagine you in the job you are applying.  They are asking themselves, “Is there a connection between this person’s skills/background to the job?”  “Is this person a good fit?”  “Is this person’s experience going to add value to our company?”  “Will this person be right for our culture?”

Here are some tips to take control of the interview:

When I worked as a Sr. Level PR executive, I prepared senators, mayors, CEOs and others for hundreds of media interviews.  No matter what the subject matter, I would sit down with each person I was preparing and ask, “What do YOU want to get across in this interview?”

We’d determine the 3-5 points that were important to get across and then work on developing stories, anecdotes and answers to illustrate our position on the issues being asked about, and no matter what, they would always be able to revert back to the main points that were best representative of our position.

I’d then ask the questions I’d anticipate the reporter would ask – both easy and tough questions.  I’d critique the person on their verbal responses, their body language and their believability.  Even the most dicey and nerve-racking questions could be handled this way.

In much the same way,  as you are being interviewed for a job, you must also think about the points you want to get across and ways to illustrate those points.  In your case, your points need to be tied to the relevance of your experience, your accomplishments and your talent to the job you are applying.

Some basic points would be:

  • Why am I the most qualified for this job?
  • What can I offer that others can’t?
  • What specific experiences demonstrate that I can add value to the organization?
  • What are tangible examples of ways I can demonstrate I succeeded in the past?
  • What would my former colleagues/bosses say about me?
  • How would I describe my work ethic and what are things I value of others in the workplace?

If you are still having trouble answering these questions, answer this question:

In your career, what is an example of an accomplishment that you are particularly proud of?  Why?  What skills did it require?  What types of expertise did you display?  How did others respond?  What were the results?

EVERYONE has an example of their best work.  When I ask this question of job seekers, their answers become more animated, there’s a sense of confidence and believability that is ignited and almost every time, I’m drawn into the story of their success!

And of course, you can determine more specific points that would be important based on the criteria identified in the job posting.

You will be asked about your qualifications to do the job.  You will be asked about prior experiences that demonstrate you can do the job.  You will be asked about your previous work history as they try to determine if you are the right ‘fit’ for the job.

Every question you get asked at an interview is an opportunity to put on full display why you are the best fit for the job. Being prepared with stories and anecdotes that demonstrate your talents, experience and quantifiable results that are relevant to the job you are applying will help you confidently navigate any interview and help you feel confidently in control.

Make the Recruiter Your Advocate
The HR recruiter has one job: to identify and hire the best talent for their company.  Most recruiters are ‘generalists’ who work with a variety of departments within the organization to identify talent and use a combination of skills and gut instinct to determine who in their pile of resumes makes sense to interview. They will be shepherding you through the entire interview process.

Be polite, respectful and ‘maintenance free’ to the HR Recruiter.  Always respond to phone calls promptly.  Be patient and respectful of their time; remember, HR recruiters often are recruiting for several positions at one time within their organization.  While we like to think we are their top priority, chanced are, there are dozens of job postings and interviews they are juggling at any one time.

Controlling Nerves
There’s a sweet spot that exists between the two extremes known as desperation and arrogance. That sweet spot is called “ROCK SOLID CONFIDENCE.”

People respond favorably to confidence in an interview.  Confidence is not trying to desperately fit yourself into a job nor is it arrogantly and condescendingly boasting about all your wonderful attributes.  Confidence is a laser-focused belief in yourself that connects your best attributes to the job you are applying.  It’s taking credit for and demonstrating in concrete ways your accomplishments and also taking ownership of your skills, your experience and background.

But here’s the best advice to calm your nerves.  BE YOURSELF.

Smile.  Relax.  Take your time in your responses and don’t answer a question based on what you THINK they want to hear, answer a question that best demonstrates your capabilities.

Engage your audience and turn the one-way interview into a two-way conversation.  Ask questions if you need to have a question clarified and be prepared to ask questions about the job, the company, the work environment, the culture and what would be expected of you.

Yes, it is easy to be anxious and nervous at an interview.  By preparing yourself for the interview, developing the 3-5 things that YOU want to get across in the interview and anticipating your answers to the most likely questions, you will be in a way better position to ace the interview.

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