8 keys to interview success

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Congratulations! You’ve just been called by a recruiter to interview for your dream job. You are very excited about this opportunity and eager to make a great impression. Here are 8 tips to help you succeed in your interview.

1. Dress for success

Recruiters, like everyone else, make snap judgments based on personal appearance so make sure that you are appropriately dressed for an interview. Poor grooming and unprofessional clothing speak volumes and may cost you a job opportunity. Even if you are interviewing with a laid-back company that has a casual dress code, remember that you are not yet a member of the team. Always err on the side of formality and wear business attire to an interview. Select neutral colors for interviews like gray, black, navy, and brown.  Accessories, including ties, scarves and jewelry, should be understated. Women should tone down makeup.

Make sure that you are clean, neat and odor-free. Because some employees suffer from allergies, many companies have policies prohibiting the wearing of cologne and perfumed lotions in the workplace. It is also well-documented that the sense of smell can trigger powerful human emotions and memories. Those evoked by your cologne may not be positive for the interviewer. For these reasons, it is best to avoid wearing fragrances when interviewing.

Remember, a well-groomed professional appearance says that you mean business and allows interviewers to focus solely on your qualifications for the job.

2. Be prepared for the interview

Employers are looking for people who can solve problems and save money for their organization.  Prepare for the interview by carefully reading the company website and reviewing the job description to gain insight into how your skills and experience will benefit the employer. Then think about ways you can communicate your value during the interview.

Bring hard copies of your resume, references, writing samples, and transcripts to the interview. These additional documents may not be needed but having them available makes you look professional and thorough.

3. Be polite and professional

Remember that your interview begins the minute you set foot in the employer’s offices. Arrive a few minutes early and give yourself some time to relax before the meeting.

How you behave in the interview gives a prospective employer a clue as to how you will interact with co-workers and supervisors if you are hired. Be polite, professional and courteous to everyone you encounter, starting with the receptionist. Since it is best not to eat or drink in an interview, decline offers of food, coffee or other beverages.

4. Turn off your cell phone

Recruiters often comment that an interview has been interrupted by the ringing of a candidate’s cell phone and, worse, that candidates have actually answered their cell phones during an interview! Take a moment to ensure that all electronic devices are turned off to avoid interruptions and the possible loss of an opportunity.

5. Focus on qualifications and requirements

Remember that this is a job interview, not a reality TV show. Keep your conversation with the interviewer focused on your skills and abilities and the requirements of the job. Don’t get side-tracked into discussions about your personal life, political leanings or religious affiliations.  If you are meeting in someone’s office, please refrain from commenting about family photos on the interviewer’s desk.

Let the interviewer direct the conversation and be careful not to interrupt. Listen carefully to the interviewer’s questions and be thoughtful in your responses. If you don’t understand a question, ask for clarification.

Respect the interviewer’s time. Answer questions thoroughly, but get to the point and avoid rambling, off-topic responses.

Everything you say in an interview is potentially verifiable so it is important to be truthful. All candidates have strengths and weaknesses and interviewers know that.  Being honest about your shortcomings with an added comment about your willingness to learn goes a long way in an interview.

Be prepared to explain employment gaps and be honest about reasons for leaving past employment. Interviewers know that even good candidates can end up in a less-than-ideal employment situation and need to move on.  If you have been terminated from a position, avoid placing blame on others. Explain the circumstances honestly, accept responsibility for your part in the termination and let the interviewer know what you learned from the experience.

6. Ask questions

Even if you have done your homework about the company and have a pretty good understanding of the job requirements, it is important to ask questions. Ideally, you will be weaving questions into the interview as it progresses and those questions should focus on the employer’s expectations and how your success on the job will be measured. It is perfectly acceptable to bring a list of prepared questions to the interview and to reference it before the meeting concludes to make sure that you have all of the information you need.

7. Wrap up

If you are truly interested in the job, let the interviewer know that and then ask about the next steps in the process. If you have not been provided with a business card, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for one.  You will need that contact information for your follow up correspondence.

Thank the interviewer for their time and be sure to thank the receptionist on your way out the door.

8. Follow up

This is the electronic age and many candidates prefer to send an email or even a text message to thank the employer for their time.  While that is certainly acceptable, there is no substitute for the personal touch that an old-fashioned handwritten note on nice cardstock provides. It might be just the thing that sets you apart from other equally qualified candidates.