Have an interview coming up? Prime yourself for success with these five steps to leave a great impression:
1. Be positive and professional.
Interviews, much like cover letters and résumés, are a snapshot of who you are and what you bring to the table. Prepare to be "on" during your interview and express positivity and enthusiasm for the opportunity at hand.
You might be interviewing for a new job because of issues with a current work environment. While it may be tempting to expound on these problems during an interview, try to keep your tone professional and polite. Pre-think how you can address the question of why you’re leaving, and avoid trash talking a current or former employer.
Example: “I’ve had a great experience at my current workplace, and I’m interested in working for a larger firm where I can expand my responsibilities.”
2. Be memorable.
It's very unlikely that you're the only person interviewing for a position. After a while, candidates start to blend together. To stand out from the crowd, you need to know yourself and your strengths. What could you do, that fits with your personality, to leave a more vivid impression?
If one of your super-powers is your ability to stay organized, you could bring in an illustration of that capability, like your day planner, or a timeline and supporting materials for a volunteer project you managed. If you have a talent for networking and easily build new relationships, then showcase that talent by connecting with the office staff and then name-dropping your knowledge in your interview.
Example: “As a sales representative, I believe it’s important to leave something in the customer’s hand.” (As you give the interviewer a mock-up of a card from their firm with your name on it.)
3. Postpone the salary conversation.
It’s a good idea to postpone the discussion of salary until you’re further along in the interview process. You want to wait until the employer knows what a catch you are and wants to hire you. Even at that point it’s best to wait for them to make the offer. (This isn’t always possible, but it’s something to aim for.)
The reasoning behind the common advice to not be the first one to talk about salary is a phenomenon called anchoring. The number that's said first anchors the conversation. If you, as the employee, state your desired salary first, you’ve just set a ceiling. It’s unlikely for the employer to offer you more than what you’ve asked for. In contrast, if the employer says a number first, they’ve set a floor. You now know you will earn at least that much and can press for more.
Example: “I’m open to fair and reasonable compensation, and I’m sure we can work something out. Right now, I want to focus on better understanding what you’re looking for. What are some of the characteristics of someone who would be stellar in this role?”
4. Tell targeted stories.
Throughout the interview, listen to the needs and desires of the company and interviewer. Are they looking for innovation or consistency in the role? Is the company in a growth phase or maintenance mode? What issues are they running into? What do they most want?
As you ascertain the things that are most important to the company and interviewer, you’ll want to specifically address how you'll be able to help them achieve their goals. It’s a good idea to pre-think (and talk through) your career achievements to date, so that you can know ahead of time which stories best illustrate your point.
Example: “One instance when I handled a discipline problem at my old school was when one student kept behaving disruptively during a quiet assignment. To address the issue I verbally told the student to be quiet. When that didn’t work I removed the student from the classroom and spoke with him before having him return. Throughout this incident I remained calm and patient.”
5. Keep the conversation going.
Many people believe that not getting an offer is the end of the relationship, but it doesn’t have to be. You’ve just expanded your network. Capitalize on these new relationships by finding other ways to be of service. This is most applicable when you feel a strong connection to the people you interviewed with.
One client I worked with was rejected for a job with a consulting company he really wanted to work for. Instead of dropping the ball there, he reached out to have lunch with the partners who interviewed him. Soon after, he was offered a different job with the same company.
Example: “I so enjoyed our conversation last month and would love to keep in touch. I’m a member of [insert professional organization], and I saw you are too. Are you going to this month’s meeting? If so, would you have a few minutes to catch up beforehand?”
Interviews are often tiring experiences. Do your best to maintain a good attitude throughout the process. Don’t get too concerned if one question doesn’t go exactly how you’d like. Keep your head up, and keep going.
For more tips on how to get the job, start here: