Have you ever left an important interview feeling unsatisfied with your performance? Perhaps your nerves got the better of you, or you didn't emphasize your accomplishments? Maybe you just didn't convey your excitement about the job?
Over the past 10 years I have added countless members to my team, and as I write this, I am due to listen to my 1,000th job applicant. I'd like to share my top 10 tips that will help you secure that dream position.
1. Dig deep: Do you really want this job?
First of all, don't apply to jobs that you don't feel passionate about. Understandably, you might need a salary, or are just desperate to start working somewhere, but this mentality will not get you far. You want to excel at your next job, as your drive and hard work will ultimately earn you that promotion or raise. You will never stand out in a job that doesn't excite or fulfill you, and you won't learn much, either. So keep looking until you read a job description that gives you a fluttering feeling in your chest.
2. Do your homework about the company before you arrive.
This step ought to be a no-brainer, but I am always genuinely surprised by how often it gets disregarded! I've witnessed many applicants show up to an interview without the slightest idea of who we are and what we do — they spent zero hours studying our website, checking out our social media channels, or reading articles written about us.
I vividly remember spending the better part of a week at the university library preparing for my job interview at McKinsey (how I hate the GMAT exam!), and I am sure that without putting in the effort, I wouldn't have gotten the job.
3. Remember basic manners.
Most of us are naturally shy, but unless we're seeking employment in the gaming industry or as a hardcore programmer, we need to overcome our shyness and appeal to our extrovert side during an interview. It'll just be a bad start to a conversation if you can't look your potential employer straight in the eyes — he or she might think you are hiding something.
When introducing yourself, give a firm handshake, but be careful not to overdo it — you don't want the interviewer to associate you with physical pain! In short, you need to be pleasant and easygoing, with a good dose of ambition and energy.
4. Show interest and enthusiasm when you arrive.
Put yourself in the interviewer's shoes: after conducting interview number seven, he's probably just had enough time to scan through your résumé before sending you in. His head is filled with personal data and first-impressions from previous applicants. Help him snap out of it and engage fully in the interview, allowing him to be completely present with you.
The easiest way to achieve this is by showing interest in something that matters to him — try asking, for instance, "This is a very nice office, did you decorate it yourself?" or "I love this location, is it an easy commute for you?"
By asking these questions, you signal that you consider yourself to be your interviewer's equal, you have enough self-respect to do so, and that you also notice the little things.
5. Be alert, go with the flow of the conversation, and (most importantly) be yourself.
At job interviews, candidates are often so nervous, eager or strategic, that it becomes hard to connect with them on a human level. You must prepare for the interview, but avoid sticking to rehearsed answers — let go, immerse yourself and be fully present in the moment.
6. Give short and concise answers whenever possible.
An interviewer often has many questions to ask. As an applicant, you need to be sensitive to the style of questioning at hand: is he trying to tick questions off, or is he trying to get to know you and understand how you think? Particularly with the latter, it's fine to give relatively lengthy answers, but refrain from rambling on too much on your disagreements with a former boss. As a general rule: short and precise answers are always appreciated in an interview. However, you need to avoid letting the conversation dry out. This is where tip #7 comes in:
7. Remember to keep the conversation going. Ask questions!
Aside from familiarizing yourself with company facts, job details, and personnel information, the most important preparation for an interview is this: make a list of 10 questions you'd like to ask. Remember that time is limited, so you probably won't get to ask them all. And that's a good thing — you don't want to be perceived as someone who lingers.
Use these questions as fuel to keep the conversation going, making sure that they are all relevant in order not to get side-tracked. The more you get the interviewer to talk, the better. We all like people who ask interesting questions and then listen intently to our answers.
8. Try to pick up on the interviewer's interests and excitement.
Pay close attention to your interviewer: does she show signs of interest in a particular portion of the interview? Perhaps it's to do with an area she previously worked in, and therefore has strong attachments to.
Personally, my weak spots are the mission, vision and values of my company. If an applicant is clever enough to ask questions like: "Where do you want your company to be in five years?", then I start to talk and dream, probably really liking this person who asked such a nice question and who now listens so attentively to me.
9. Take deep breaths and try to enjoy the process.
When McKinsey invited me in for a job interview, they gave me a valuable piece of advice I have been using ever since. They said: "Try to relax, and enjoy the process." At first I thought it was all nonsense: How could I possibly relax during something as demanding as a job interview?
Gradually, however, I started to understand: if I relaxed my body (for instance by taking deep breaths), became grateful for the opportunity and planted happy thoughts in my mind, then the chances of me delivering a high performance in such as stressful environment were much higher.
10. Remember to follow-up with a short email after your interview.
When your interview is done, wait a few hours before sending a short email along the lines of:
It was such a pleasure to meet you today. I really enjoyed learning more about your company and hearing more about the exciting role of Social Media Manager.
As we previously discussed, there are so many ways to capitalize on what you and your team have already created, as well as many ways to take the results to the next level.
This is just to say that I am incredibly excited about this opportunity, and eager to hear back from you regarding my potential future steps.
Keep the email short and sweet, making sure it's sent within 24 hours of your interview. This simple act is very effective in making you stand out: you might be surprised to hear that less than 10% of the people I interview take the time to execute this simple task.
Good luck landing your dream job! Always remember: you deserve a great job that makes you happy, brings in the money you need, and gives you awesome experiences.
Life is short, so make it count.