Interviews are scary. There’s no getting around it. Even after you’ve gotten some interview experience under your belt, you’re still going to feel some nerves. And that’s a good thing. Nerves mean you care about the opportunity and want to make a good impression.
Knowing how to present yourself in the best light possible will help keep your nerves in check. After you dress to impress and work on your solid handshake, follow these DO’s and DON’Ts – provided to us from people who interview and hire for a living – so you can feel confident, look confident, and ace the interview!
DO prepare your elevator pitch
You probably know the importance of having an elevator pitch for your company. But do you have one for yourself? When you walk into an interview, what you’re selling is YOU. So the same sales rules apply. Make sure you’re able to highlight in 1-2 minutes your background, experience, and how it’s prepared you for the role.
An elevator pitch will come in handy, especially if you have back-to-back interviews with different people throughout the day. When someone says, Tell me about yourself, you’ll be ready – in the interview and in the elevator.
DO make the connection between what you’ve done before and what you want to do now
If your background doesn’t fit the traditional mold, you’re not alone! Most career paths twist and turn and veer off the course, rather than following a straight and predictable line – just listen to some of the stories of now-successful business leaders on the Talent Playbook Podcast!
So, shake off the feeling that changing directions or starting fresh will hold you back. Then, make it crystal clear to the interviewer how these experiences make you the perfect candidate. Your job is to translate your past experiences into relevant skills sets for the job you want today.
For example, if you’re applying to be a Java developer but you’re currently working as a forklift driver, highlight your work ethic, reliability, and your ability to work effectively with others. Think about these connections ahead of time, and let your passion for the new adventure ahead shine through!
DO come with questions
Interviews aren’t meant to be one-sided. This is a time for you to you to interview them as much as they’re interviewing you. More than your resume or basic qualifications, the interviewer wants to know what makes you a good fit for THIS job at THIS company. And you want to know if this company is a place where you’ll find your people and your a home away from home.
So, coming prepared with questions is a surefire way to impress. Ask interviewers how long they’ve worked at the company and what they like best about it. Ask what a day in the life looks like for the job. You can even ask tough questions, like What’s your turnover rate?
Here are some of the best questions we’ve heard in interviews:
What’s your favorite office tradition? This shows you care about the culture and want to see how you would fit in it.
What does it take for someone to be successful here? This show you don’t just want the job, you want to kick-ass in the job, and potentially move up in the company.
What will be the biggest challenge your company faces in the next year? This shows you’re thinking beyond the role and connecting yourself to the broader business.
Is there anything about my background or qualifications that concerns you? This allows interviewers to be honest with you, and shows you’re open to feedback. And, it can give you one more chance to sell yourself.
DO your research
Your time to shine is limited, and you want to spend as much of it as possible connecting your experience to the job and asking thoughtful questions. The more you know about the company walking in, the less time you’ll spend on the basics, like the company’s history, mission, values, brand, or business model.
If you’ve done your research, you’ll know those things already, and you’ll be ready to wow the panel with something like, I see your company went through a merger last year. Can you tell me how that changed your culture?
DO give details. But DON’T overdo it
When you add detail in your answers and examples, your experiences become real. Details help interviewers picture the scene you’re describing and stay checked in, rather than thinking about what’s next in their day. Details also reinforce the fact that you know what you’re talking about.
But, don’t give so many details that you lose the point of the story, or more importantly, the attention of your audience. Think of details as the spices in your dish. Sprinkle them in to add richness and flavor, but not so much that the meal become unpalatable.
DON’T always give the expected answer
When you’re answering questions, remember this: THERE IS NO RIGHT ANSWER. Other interview advice may have led you astray, filling your head with stock answers and buzz words like teamwork and collaboration and innovation. Not only do these things sound scripted and robotic, but they’re not memorable, either.
If collaborative environments aren’t your thing, that’s perfectly fine! A preference for work independence is not a bad thing, and will actually serve you well in certain jobs. You just have to find the right one.
So, don’t waste your energy trying to be what you think they want you to be. Just be honest and be you. Some interviewers may not like your style, and that’s ok because they’re not your tribe. But, there is a team out there looking for someone exactly like you. And that’s where you want to be.
DON’T freeze up if you don’t have an answer
In the interview, you may be asked something like, Tell me about a time when you dealt with a disgruntled customer, or Give me an example of an important business relationship you’ve developed.
Well, maybe you haven’t had a customer-facing job, and if you’re just starting out, maybe you haven’t developed business relationships yet. That’s ok. Be honest about the fact that you haven’t been in those situations before, and tell the interviewer what you would do instead.
Also, there’s no rule against giving an example from your personal life or an unrelated job. Actually, this shows that you can make connections and have transferable skills. So, if you have an answer, give it! The interviewer wants to know how you approach and work through problems, and they’ll get a better sense of this through a real-life example over a hypothetical.
DON’T say you’d do anything, or you’d be happy in any scenario
If you’re asked What type of leadership style do you prefer? you might be tempted to say I’m fine with any style. You want the job and you want to be adaptable, right? So you play it safe. But actually, this can come across as desperation, or even a lack of self awareness.
Most people won’t vibe with EVERY leadership style. The interviewer genuinely wants to know what you prefer, so they can know if you’ll mesh well with your potential manager, and the overall leadership structure of the company. Be confident and prepared (which is the running theme here) to discuss what you prefer and what you want out of the job.
DON’T be afraid to say something didn’t work out
No one knows exactly what they want to do out the of gate. Much like dating, you have to try things out before you really know what you want. In the process of trying things out, you probably worked a job you didn’t love. No sweat! Almost everyone has been in those shoes, and it might mark an important turning point in your journey.
Without bad mouthing your former employer, explain what you learned about yourself or the job or the type of team you like to work with. Maybe you got burnt out at your last job, but came to discover a new passion that lights a fire in you. Tell that story! Bouncing back from conflict is also a great way to showcase your grit and resilience.
There you go! 10 tips to help you ace the interview. You got this – now take a deep breath and knock ’em dead!