TopResume's career advice expert tackles how to ace your next interview.
A big THANK YOU to everyone who participated in our latest edition of #OfficeHours, presented by TopResume! You asked some great questions about acing the job interview, and it was a pleasure to share my job-search advice and career tips.
Below is a link to the video from our Live Chat, along with a summary of my tips on how to prepare for your next interview and my responses to your questions. For more career advice and information about upcoming events, please like us on Facebook and sign up for our free weekly newsletter.
Want more interview help? Visit our sister brand, TopInterview, to see how one of our interview coaches can help you ace your next interview.
#OfficeHours Live Chat: How to Ace the Interview
How to ace your next interview
When you think about it, the interview process can be broken down into three distinct phases: your research and practice in the days leading up to the actual interview, your performance the day of the interview, and your follow-up afterward to gauge your success. How you prepare for the interview and what you do afterward is just as important as your performance when you're sitting in the interview room. Below is a summary of the main things to do before, during, and after your job interview to increase your chances of landing the job.
How to prepare for your job interview
Research the company
Use resources like Yahoo Finance!, D&B Hoovers, Google News, and the company's website to learn more about its business model, the competition in its marketplace, industry news, and other key pieces of information that will help you determine if the company is financially stable.
In addition, reach out to anyone you know who currently works or previously worked for the company; use sites like Glassdoor, Firsthand, and CareerBliss; and check out the company's social media accounts — especially if they use social media to recruit — to research the company culture.
Then, think about the places you've worked in the past where you thrived and consider how the company operated, what the work environment was like, and what core values the company stood for. This will help you determine if a prospective employer is a right fit for you — not just if you are the right type of employee for them. Remember, you can have the perfect skill set for the job, but if you're not a good cultural fit, you won't be successful. Click on the following link for more tips on how to research a prospective employer's company culture for the right fit.
Consider the position's requirements
Take a second look at the job description to get a better understanding of what qualifications the hiring manager cares most about when filling the position. In other words, identify what about your work experience, skills, and accomplishments you should work into your conversation with the interviewer. If you have a contact who works for the company, this would be a good time to reach out and ask for that person's insights into the company's hiring process and the group of people with whom you'll interview.
Look into the market rate
These days, it's nearly impossible to get past a phone interview without being asked about your salary requirements. While it's illegal in Massachusetts, Philadelphia, and New York City to ask about your previous salary, there's no law in place in the U.S. to prevent an employer from asking about your salary requirements. Before you jump on a call or schedule an in-person interview for a role, use sites like Paysa, Salary.com, PayScale, and Glassdoor to find out the pay range for your target role, taking the company's location, size, and industry into account. Click on the following link for more information on handling salary questions during a job interview.
Practice your interview answers
Make a list of the interview questions that make you nervous so you can practice your responses, such as “Tell me about yourself.” Don't memorize your answer, as you won't win any brownie points with your interviewer if your responses come off as too rehearsed. However, it's important to have a few bullet points prepared that remind you of the main points you want to cover in your response. Below is a list of a few common interview questions and the best approaches to answering them. Click on the following link to learn how to answer some of the most common and challenging interview questions.
Whether they realize it or not, some interviewers may ask questions that are inappropriate or even illegal. Read the following article so you're prepared to dodge these off-limits interview questions.
Prepare questions to ask during the interview
An interview is a two-way street. Don't get so caught up in answering your interviewer's questions that you forget to ask questions of your own. Ask questions during the interview to make sure this job opportunity is right for you, given your current job goals, ideal working environment, company culture, and other factors that are important to you. Click on the following link for a list of questions to ask the hiring manager during the interview process. In addition, create a few questions that digger deeper into the company based on the research you've done. This will show the interviewer that you're truly interested in the role and have done your homework.
What to do the day of your interview
Calm your nerves
Figure out the best way for you to release some of that pre-interview nervous energy and work it into your routine before your scheduled appointment. Whether it's a morning run, a little meditation, or journaling, find what works for you and do it.
Cut your caffeine intake in half and eat something with natural beta blockers, such as a banana or a handful of almonds, to help keep you calm.
If you feel yourself fiddling with your tie or hair during the interview, make a conscious effort to place your hands on the table or on your knees. Don't let your body language betray you during your interview.
Plot out your commute and leave yourself plenty of time to compensate for any unforeseen traffic jams. But you also don't want to arrive too early, as this will make you appear a little desperate and may put a kink in your interviewer's schedule. If you arrive more than 15 minutes before your interview, hang out at a nearby coffee shop. This will give you an opportunity to collect your thoughts before entering the building and allow you to observe some of your potential future colleagues.
Get in the right mindset
Assume your interview starts the moment you wake up and treat everyone you meet — from your fellow commuters to the receptionist at the building — as though they were part of the interview process.
During the interview, act like a politician and a consultant. Stick to the talking points you developed ahead of time that demonstrate how you are qualified for the position and find ways to weave that information into your interview responses. Ask the interviewer questions that will help you get a better understanding of the company's needs and challenges so you can better position yourself as the right candidate for the job opportunity.
Don't forget to show your passion
Many job seekers get so nervous that they forget to express their interest in the position during the interview. When you and another candidate have comparable qualifications, the only thing that will set you apart is your passion and genuine interest in the job opportunity.
How to follow up after an interview
Say thank you
A recent survey conducted by TopResume confirmed that a thank-you note (or lack thereof) impacts your chances of landing the job. Don't overlook this important part of the interview process. Send an interview thank-you note that not only follows up on your candidacy but also sets you apart from the competition and takes you one step closer to receiving the job offer. Click on the following link for tips on how to send a proper thank-you message after every interview.
Related: How to Make a Great First Impression During a Phone Interview
Q1: What are some tips for a phone interview?
“I have a phone interview tomorrow with a large company. Do you have any tips or do's and don'ts for a phone interview?” - LaQuita L.
Many of the ways you can succeed in a phone interview happen before you even get on the call. For one thing, it's important that you find a quiet place with good service to make sure that you won't be disrupted or distracted. Also, remember that even though this is a phone interview, you still have to exude confidence and enthusiasm. It may sound silly, but jump up and down or wave your arms in the air — do whatever you need to do to get your energy up. This will help you get into the right headspace to show the positive attitude interviewers are looking for.
One of the greatest things about a phone interview is that you can have your notes! So go ahead and create a list of the key points you want to mention, as well as the questions you plan to ask the interviewer.
A phone interview is very high-level kind of screening, used mostly to confirm certain parts of your experience and that you have the right skill set. Because of that, it's pretty likely that you are going to be asked for the salary you're looking to make. Make sure you're prepared for this question by doing your research: There are great resources like Glassdoor that can help you find the going rate for the role and an idea of the salaries at that company. I always recommend going for a number a little lower in the average range because you're just trying to get your foot in the door — you can continue the conversation further down the line when you get to the face-to-face interview and you know they are interested in you.
In a phone interview, it can be more difficult than usual to read the interviewer and get an idea of what he or she may be thinking. Because of that, take a moment every now and then to check in and make sure you are on the same page. A simple “Does that answer your question?” or “Does that make sense?” can go a long way.
Finally, remember that a phone interview is just like any other interview. You should always come prepared with questions to ask, and don't forget to send a thank-you note once it's all over.
Q2: For my post-interview thank-you note, should I send a handwritten note or an email?
“Are handwritten thank-you notes a thing of the past?” - Kate T.
As a general rule, always send an email. Whether or not you also send a handwritten thank-you note will depend on the company and the company culture. For example, if you're interviewing for a job position with a tech startup, chances are that they want immediacy and an email will suffice. If a company seems old school or values tradition, they will probably appreciate a handwritten note as well. It will help you stand out, plus the delay in receipt — it's called snail mail, after all — will help keep your candidacy top of mind for the recruiter or hiring manager.
If you do decide to send both an email and a handwritten thank you, make sure you change what you write in each so you are not sending the same message more than once. Keep it short and sweet though — you aren't writing a novel. State your thanks, reiterate your interest in the role, remind the interviewer that you are qualified for the position, and send it along. An email is a better spot to be more comprehensive — you can address some objections that may have come up in the interview and add a touch of color, but it is still not the time to be overly verbose.
TopResume has a series of articles on how to tackle the post-interview thank-you note, so be sure to give those a look before you write yours.
Related: How to Send a Job-Winning Thank-You Note
Q3: What is the appropriate timeline for sending an interview thank-you note?
“What timeline do you suggest for sending along a thank-you note? Immediately? The next morning? When you know they are going to interview additional candidates so you stay on their radar?” - Kathleen A.
If you are mailing a handwritten note, go ahead and send it right away. It will take a few days for it to actually get to the interviewer. But if you are sending an email, you will want to wait a bit. Think of it this way: You want to show the hiring manager that you are interested and eager, but you definitely don't want to come across as needy or desperate. So take a few hours before you send your thank-you note. If your interview was in the morning, send it that evening. In general, you want to do it within 24 hours of the interview. Keep in mind that that doesn't mean one business day, so if your interview was on a Friday afternoon, don't wait until Monday to send out your thanks.
Q4: Is it alright to bring notes with me to an interview?
“Is it acceptable to have notes at an interview?” - John S.
Yes, if your notes are a list of questions that you have come up with in advance to ask the interviewer. It shows that you are both interested and prepared for your interview. But you shouldn't have notes for what you want to say or how you want to answer certain questions.
If you want to have a reference for later though, you can ask at the beginning of the interview if it is okay if you take notes.
Q5: Are there any advantages to having an executive lead a panel interview?
“What are the advantages or disadvantages if an executive is leading the interview with a panel?” - Paul V.
If an executive is conducting the interview, it probably means it is for a pretty senior role, or that the company is small or a startup and the senior executives want a hand in selecting everyone who joins. Having the ears of the higher-ups is awesome!
Make sure you do your research on these executives. They will likely have more information available, like a more comprehensive LinkedIn, that you can use to your advantage. See what you can find out about their interview style or what they care about — it can help you position your answers a certain way or ask certain questions that you know they will respond to positively.
Need some more interview practice? Visit our sister brand, TopInterview, to see how one of our interview coaches can help you ace your next interview.