Ace the Interview with these Tips from the Experts
So you put together a stellar resume, wrote a winning cover letter and landed an interview for your dream job. The hard work’s done, right? Wrong. Don’t think you can just rely on your dazzling personality to win over your interviewer. There’s no substitute for being prepared, and with some expert tips, you’ll ace the interview and be one step closer to a job offer.
“Research, research and research. The more you research the more prepared you are,” says Ricardo Estevez, career services director at The Art Institute of Washington, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta. Having a firm understanding of the job description and job duties allows you to practice answers associating job duties with positions you’ve had in the past.
“This helps make sure your answers are succinct and helps connects the dots for the employer,” says Kristin Frank, career services director at The Art Institute of Phoenix.
Estevez adds that research can help you take charge of an unstructured interview and bring it back to home state. It also enables you to have questions to ask at the end of the interview. He says: “Without research, it’s hard to realign the interview and get out of uncomfortable spots.”
Along with getting a better understanding of the job, your preparation should also include getting a better grasp on your own skill set. “Be confident with your accomplishments, and be prepared to share them with multiple people who could be interviewing you,” says Frank. “I always say practice with your best friend. They are your biggest cheerleader. They will help you come up with some of your big statements about what you did.” Also having an outline of key points and clean, concise messages is going to benefit the entire process.
“Tell me a little about yourself” is usually the first point of discussion in an interview and is often one that can easily trip up the interviewee. “Usually, at the beginning of an interview, you really should keep it about the job, about your past experiences in relation to the job you’re applying for,” says Estevez. “Keep it hyper-focused on the position you’re interviewing for.” He adds to listen to how the question is asked. If the interviewer says “tell me more about you,” he or she usually wants to know more about you personally. People shouldn’t shy away from this but also not get too personal.
Another question that can be tricky to navigate is why you are leaving your current position. Both Estevez and Frank agree that the key here is keeping it 100 percent positive. For most people, the answer should be about opportunity, challenge and growth. “Having this answer planned out ahead of time is really going to be key,” says Frank.
If you are changing careers, Estevez recommends talking about how you are passionate about the new field you are entering. He also cautions about mentioning how a current employer doesn’t offer a flexible schedule. Make sure to keep things positive and career or passion focused.
If there is a gap in your resume, it will most certainly come up during the interview, and the HR representative or recruiter will always be a bit sensitive to this. “Be genuine,” says Frank. “It is up to the candidate to articulate in a way that’s genuine and not implying that something negative happened. Be really positive and be sure you are focusing on what you can bring to the table.” The same goes for any unfinished education.
While you are doing your research on the company, your interviewer is also doing research on you. “Many employers Google people before they come in for an interview or research them before they even become a candidate,” says Frank. She stresses you need to protect your image on social media and be aware of what is on the internet and ensure the information reflects your goals and experience.
“If salary comes up and they really want an answer and really want to know your number, everyone should know what their bottom-line number is. Add a bit more and negotiate down,” says Estevez. Once this question is asked, it is ok to then ask what the budget is for that position. If there is a big disparity, ask if there is an opportunity for a higher salary later.
Depending on the job your are interviewing for, demonstrations of your skills or job shadowing could be required. Skype interviews are also becoming more common, says Frank. These help interviews see how well a candidate can work with technology.
The biggest mistakes that Estevez sees is not being in the interview mindset as soon as you leave the house. Each person you see from the receptionist to the people you pass in the lobby or elevator, could potentially be part of your interview panel. Treat them all as such.