If you’re wondering what are the steps for a truly good job interview, you’ve come to the right place. I’ll guide you through the entire interview process – from all-important preparation, to the actual day of the interview, all the way to the last step … the post-interview waiting game!
But first a little secret about interviewers
Before we get to the actual steps to a good interview, here’s a little secret that may help you relax: most job interviewers, even the tough ones, would love for your interview to go well.
Surprised? It’s not easy finding the right candidate. You’ll make their day if you turn out to be the one they want for the job.
So, as part of your preparation, instead of seeing your interviewer as someone who is out to trip you up (not that some don’t try), it helps to think of them as someone who is actually rooting for you to do well.
So what steps go into making a job interview great?
Here are some tips I hope will help you get that successful interview both you and the employer want so much:
PREPARING FOR YOUR JOB INTERVIEW
Remember … success starts way before you walk in the door!
♦ Research the company, if you haven’t already done this as part of your job search. There is nothing less impressive than sitting there chatting away with zero knowledge about the company. If possible, also look for info about the person or people interviewing you – but use this sparingly or it can feel a little creepy.
Use search engines and LinkedIn to help your research. GlassDoor.com may also provide some useful insights.
♦ Carefully review the job description, looking up anything you don’t understand. This will help you match your answers to their needs.
♦ Make notes for yourself using your resume and the job description, and then think of work-related stories … or ones from elsewhere if you think they will help you make your point.
Use these to show how you’ve risen above and beyond to solve a problem or brought about a successful outcome or helped during a crisis or overcame a weakness or created new methods, etc. You may or may not use every story, but smart to have them ready in case.
♦ Know your own resume. You’d be amazed at how many people I’ve interviewed who hemmed and hawed when I asked about some of their experiences listed right on the resume I had in front of me.
♦ Take time to practice answering some of the most popular questions, with the help of your mirror or a recording device. You may also ask friends or family to do some mock interviews with you.
Get comfortable talking about yourself and all the good things you have to offer, without sounding too full of yourself – or conversely, too aw shucks and self-conscious. Just be yourself and think “conversation” rather than the far scarier word “interview”.
♦ Dress professionally. It helps to think about the kind of company and try to match that (check them out online or in person if possible), but even if they wear jeans and tees, you probably shouldn’t. A jacket and nice slacks (or skirt) is a good choice if you think a formal suit is too much.
Best not to be too much – too sexy (tone it way down), too elegant, too casual, too avant-garde or haute couture (unless that’s the kind of job you’re applying for; but even then don’t try to wow them). Less is more here.
♦ Turn your cell phone off. Easy to forget. Not necessarily a deal-breaker (although for some it is), but definitely annoying. So just remember.
♦ If you feel nervous before you leave for the interview, some exercise may help. Or singing. Or jumping jacks. Nerves are actually ok (and very normal) since nerves can be channeled into energy.
Yoga or meditation also can be useful. But solid preparation – and believing in yourself – is often the best medicine of all.
♦ Bring extra copies of your resume, just in case.
♦ Remember that the receptionist can be a great ally, or at least not do you in. You may wonder why I mention this, but it’s to remind you of something important: words are only part of it, overall impressions make a huge difference in your interview.
The interview doesn’t just start the second the interviewer walks into the room and shakes your hand, nor end when you leave the interview room. People – anyone – at any step of the process share information about the candidates. Be nice to all!
♦ While in the designated waiting area, no parents (really – this happens), no gum, no cell phone, no tablet, no humming to yourself, no putting on make-up, no slumping or feet up on a chair while slurping your coffee (this holds for the interview too).
Be prepared to wait patiently – no matter how long it takes. Look as pleasant and energized as possible. Use the time to think about your stories and all the ways you and your experience fit the company. Also use the time to observe whatever you can, since you’re deciding if you want them, too.
♦ Stay positive while waiting. I know a job seeker who spent the pre-interview waiting time building up anger. Why? First, they didn’t like her parents being there, and she argued about it with the receptionist. Yes … really. And then, as happens, they dared to keep her waiting.
And after all that, she was upset the interviewer didn’t greet her with a smile. (She must have thought her attitude was invisible.) And then she was upset that they didn’t want her!
DURING THE JOB INTERVIEW
♦ Meet the interviewer’s eyes and smile warmly as you walk in. Shake hands firmly (no death grip match), and say something pleasant.
♦ Be natural. Be real. And don’t use canned answers. When you’re in the actual interview, trust that you’ve done all you can up to that moment. Answer in your own words, making sure you heard exactly what they asked you. Job seekers sometimes prepare so much that they try to fit a canned answer into a question that wasn’t even asked.
Not a good idea. Shows you don’t listen. So feel free to turn to your success stories, but also be conversational. Memorized words will lose you the human connection you want to build.
♦ Be honest if you don’t know an answer. But also, if applicable, express your interest in learning or tell how you’ve already begun looking into it (if you have) or even add a good question related to what they just asked. No good employer expects you to know absolutely everything.
♦ Use your real-life stories. You’ve researched the company. You’ve read the job description. Match your stories and experiences to what they are looking for. How you solved problems. How you overcame obstacles. How you improved processes.
But once again, make sure you’re listening to them and answering their real questions, and not just trying to run the interview yourself.
♦ Still feeling nervous? It’s ok to mention nerves a little if you think it would help to diffuse your discomfort. Nerves are expected. You can add a few words about how excited you are about this opportunity. But keep it brief, and then move on to answering the question that was asked.
♦ If there is more than one interviewer in the room, direct your answer mostly to the person who asked the question. But make sure to have eye contact with each person at some point.
♦ Speak clearly, at a normal conversational pace. And remember to breathe – both in and out.
♦ Avoid jokes. They can fall flat. A little humor can be fine if it feels right; and if the interviewer is being funny on purpose, feel free to laugh along. Just not one of those weird sitcom laughs – he he HEEEE he he.
♦ Maintain eye contact and energy – and listen. If you feel yourself starting to think ahead about an answer or what else you might want to bring up later, stop yourself. You will lose more than you gain by trying to jump ahead. Just be in the moment and trust yourself. Again, the connection and a feeling that you would be a great person to have on their team is key.
♦ Have some questions prepared should they ask you if you have any. They usually do. BUT … also feel free to take brief notes and use things you learned during the interview to come up with questions. A big plus.
As your last question, if it feels right, let them know you’re very interested and ask when you might expect to hear from them.
♦ Remember to shake hands and smile warmly as you thank each interviewer for the interview.
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
♦ The thank you note – Some say it’s not important. And in many cases, it might not make one lick of difference to your chances. Having been an interviewer for many years, and knowing how hard it is to find a good fit for any position, I can tell you that the note never changed my mind one way or the other.
Well, there was that one time when it was so truly weird we decided to pass. But that said, send one. Short and pleasant. It leaves a nice impression. Snail mail is a nice plus, but email is fine.
♦ Following up after an interview – The time after an interview can test the patience of even the strongest, most confident person. It can take as little as a day (or less) or as much as months to hear back, even if you’re the top candidate. (I’ve had that happen to me.) And sometimes, even with the best intentions, it drags on beyond what they told you it would take.
This is a time to keep looking and find things to keep you occupied (and sane). If after a couple of weeks (less for jobs such as sales clerk or waitperson) you haven’t heard anything, it’s ok to inquire about your status, letting them know you’re still interested. You can also ask if there’s anything else you can provide to help them decide.
But just know, we don’t forget. Even if you never thanked or followed up, if you are the best candidate, we’ll find you. Really.
Help before, during & after your interview:
Articles that can help you prepare:
When they ask for references: