Ace Your Next Job Interview and Impress the Hiring Manager
Looking for a job has always been mentally challenging. With how our world works today, the competition, and now with the threats of COVID lurking, it has become even more challenging as it is. The first obstacle when you apply for a job is acing the job interview. How do you prepare for such a feat? That is what we are going to talk about in this post.
Facing a job interview is almost inevitable when you are seeking a job. Job interviews are a company’s first impression of you, it’s how they assess your personality and your list of skills to see if you are fit to the position you are applying for. So whether it’s a face-to-face meeting or an interview online, you need to be prepared for it.
Today, we are going to talk about things relating to job interviews, and hopefully, by the end of this post, you will learn how to perform well and avoid the common errors that cause many candidates to lose out on the job.
The Nature of Interviews
How often do we sit down with strangers, wait for their questions, and then give prepared answers for those questions? Rarely. In fact, a job interview is an unusual human interpersonal communication because it’s something that we rarely do and are not really trained for it.
Everybody has nerves when dealing with something we are not very familiar with. A job interview is a good example of that. It’s normal to feel nervous because it means that you care about the interview. You don’t want to be too relaxed because it shows that you don’t care about the job, that you don’t really want it.
Sometimes, the best performances come from when you have a bit of tension and pressure because it focuses your mind and gets you thinking on one subject, which is yourself and your experience. Don’t worry too much because your nerves will decline over time. The more you do, the less nervous you will be.
If you’ve got opportunities to do job interviews or even these mock job interviews, do them. Practice. Try over and over again, and you’ll get better at it.
Tips to ace your next job interview
Many people do interviews without looking at the organization they are applying for. Most of the time, this is because people are applying to too many companies that they just don’t have time to do any research beforehand. Doing a little research about the company is important to ace your job interview. Understand the organization’s position and vision so you will know how to tackle the questions they might throw your way.
As said earlier, there is always stress with job interviews, and it could be worse when you lack preparation. Now, preparation could be coming up with answers to questions, but it can also mean researching the employer’s website and learning as you can about the company. You can also check websites like Google News to see how the company you are applying to is doing.
Some things you could look for in your research:
● What is the organization’s philosophy? This is important information to know because then you can know how to answer the interview questions to fit their philosophy.
● What is the organization’s strategic goal? What are they trying to achieve in their business?
● How is the organization currently doing? Are they expanding or getting into new markets? Are they coming up with new programs or products or services?
Some Areas to Examine
Products & Services
You need to know what the company is about. What are they selling? What’s their purpose in business? Have a general idea of what their products and services are.
How is the company operating? This will give you insights on how you might fit in with the position you’re applying to.
What customers do they have? What type of audience do they appeal to? Are they the same kinds of customers you’ve maybe had in your jobs before?
You can also look up at what awards the organization has. This will tell you a lot about how they’re doing and also what groups are awarding them.
You might also look up the culture of the company just for you to know whether you want to work in that culture. It can also help you tailor your answers to their cultural expectations.
Now, let’s go to the heart of your job interview preparation, and that is looking at interview questions.
How to Prepare for Questions
Job interview question preparation is essential, but many people don’t do it. So what do you need to do to prepare well for the possible questions?
Find Question Banks For Your Field
You can’t just guess every question they might ask you, but there are question banks available on the internet for your field, so take advantage of that.
How the questions are worded vary depending on your interviewer, but most of them ask the same points and are trying to get at the same things. So find those job question banks, then prepare your answers, and do at least one mock interview.
Do A Mock Interview
When you have already come up with the possible interview questions, it’s time to practice them. Do a mock job interview. Ask your family or friends for help. Let them ask you the questions and try your best to answer them in the most succinct way possible. When you don’t have anybody to help you, you can use the text-to-speech software on your phone. Have your phone’s voice ask you the questions and practice answering them.
Using your phone or anything you have, record yourself doing the mock interview and watch it back after. Some of us don’t enjoy seeing ourselves in videos or even hearing our voices, but recording yourself is a big help so you can see what bad habits you have when you are answering the questions. Maybe you scratch yourself or twirl your hair or crack your knuckles while answering the interview questions. You won’t be aware of your habits until you see it yourself. Evaluate yourself and take notes of what improvements you can do to be better.
Most interview questions fall into two types – the factual questions and behavioral questions.
Factual Questions – simple questions of fact, just as its name suggests. Things like where you graduated in high school, or where you went to college. Stuff that’s probably already in your resume, but some interviewers will still ask you, anyway.
Behavioral Questions – these are more for trying to figure out how you would function in the workplace. These questions deal with your creativity, problem-solving, and decision-making capabilities. It will initially show how you handle stress, how you manage time, how you work in a team, etc.
Question Samples – Here are some sample questions that you might get asked in an interview:
● How would you describe your skills?
● What attracted you to this position in this company?
● Give me an example of a time when you have to solve a challenging problem. How did you respond to that challenge?
These are the difficult and unethical questions that you might get asked in a job interview.
Difficult Questions Samples:
● What Disney character are you most like? – Unless you’ve already thought about this, this is a hard question to answer on the spot.
● Describe a project that failed. What would you do differently now? – This is kind of a trick question since it would get you to talk about your failure.
● What’s your biggest weakness?
How to deal with weakness questions:
● Turn your weakness into a strength.
● Mention weakness that affects other jobs and not the one you’re interviewing for.
● Describe the weakness that you’re working to fix.
These questions focus on personal issues and identity (race, religion, gender, etc.). These are not questions that you’re going to answer fully. You’re not even going to answer them, instead, you’re going to turn it back on them or move away from the question. If you are getting these kinds of questions, ask yourself whether you want to work for the person who’s asking unethical things.
● Direct but brief: If somebody asks you, “Do you attend church regularly?”. You can just say, “Yes, I do,” and then just let the dead air go and wait for them to fill it.
● Polite question: This is when you turn the question back to the person asking. For example, if you’re asked, “What does your husband do?”. You can say, “Why do you ask?” because that’s a strange question to ask in the first place.
● Polite refusal: If they ask, “Do you have any children?”. You can say, “My family plans will not interfere with my ability to perform this position.” You’re not answering it right, and you have all the right not to get into such a personal question.
● New direction: For example, you’re asked with, “Where were you born?”. You could then say, “I’m proud that my background is x because it has helped me deal effectively with people of various ethnic backgrounds.” You’ve turned the question in a new direction while giving an answer that will satisfy the interviewer.
These are some easy, quick responses that you could throw back at the interviewer. But usually, being asked these questions is a red flag. The big unethical question that was used to be asked before (and that obviously can’t be asked anymore) is “Are you planning on getting pregnant?” That kind of question is obviously wrong, and companies can get into trouble nowadays with the policies.
Keep calm and give collected responses to these kinds of questions. And consider whether you want to work for somebody who’s asking such questions.
Ask Your Questions
At the end of job interviews, you usually ask questions. This is a great opportunity to show your preparation. Earlier, we’ve talked about preparing for the interview and researching information about the company, and that can spark questions for you.
If they ask you for questions at the end and you don’t have any, that can show a lack of preparation or maybe a disinterest in the organization. But if you’ve done your work and you’ve looked into the organization, you could ask a really smart question.
Example: “I noticed in your annual report that you’re developing a new Children’s program. Will the successful candidate be involved in that project?”
Should you ask about the salary? I think at this point, it’s too early to bring up topics about money. Sometimes hiring managers bring it up and ask you what your salary expectation is, and it would be good to have a prepared answer for that, but otherwise, stay away from this topic.
Don’t ask selfish things like how much vacation time you’re going to get. That’s not something you ask at the end of a job interview. Just make sure you have those smart questions for them.
Fundamentals of Good Answers
It’s not good enough to know what questions might be asked and have answers. There’s a certain answer that you need to offer. You should prepare those answers, and you’ve got to memorize or familiarize them. It doesn’t have to be a word for word, you just have to get the key points and ideas of your answers.
You also want to have a little to-do list of things you want to say during the interview. In the interview, you might have the chance to bring up three or four achievements that you want to mention. You can have that memorized as well.
The length of your answers also matters. The worst answers are one-word answers where people just say yes or no. Even if the interviewer is asking you a question that can be answered with just a yes or a no, and it’s an honest question and not an unethical one, say more than yes or no. Elaborate your answer. In terms of length, don’t make your answer too long that you’re talking for more than a minute straight. In terms of sentences, you could go with maybe 5-7 sentences per answer. If you’re going too long, you may get yourself in trouble. You don’t want to say one word, but you also don’t want to go on talking for three to five minutes. There is a nice middle ground in it where you’re going to give enough of an answer to show that you know what you’re talking about.
What are weak answers? There a few categories here:
● Skills: “I know how to use the latest version of Microsoft Excel.”
● Things you did in a job: “I directed strategy and reviewed contributions from the team.”
● Generalities: “I’m a very hard worker.”
These answers are weak because they don’t show how you used those skills or personality traits to get success. Everyone can say they’re a hard worker. Everyone knows how to use MS Excel. How are you going to set yourself apart from other candidates?
What do strong answers look like? If you’ve done your preparation, strong answers are answers that show you know something about the company. Beyond that, two things can help you.
● Focus on objective achievements
“I won the yearly award for the highest volume seller.”
“They promoted me from cashier to manager in one year.”
“My software innovation saved the company XXX dollars.”
Don’t just tell generalities. Give answers to questions that focus on objective achievements.
● Tell little success stories
“The customer was yelling. I calmed her down by providing two options: a credit to her account or a discount. She accepted the credit and gave us a positive review on our website.”
These stories are just a few sentences where you take the interviewer back to a specific moment where you had to deal with a challenge. These are brilliant answers for those behavioral questions that we talked about earlier. Don’t give how you would deal with something generally. Instead, give an authentic example when something went wrong, and you solved the problem.
The first thing to look out for when performing the job interview is to speak loudly enough. Many people go in very shy, and they speak very quietly that sometimes you can’t hear it at all. And so the interviewer won’t get the total answer. If you are not speaking loudly enough, you’re not getting your answers out to the interviewer. This is the first key point on the verbal performance side.
Next is you need to reduce the umms and ahhs and likes and other fillers. It’s almost impossible to remove these things, but you need to reduce them. One way to effectively reduce them is to be aware of how you speak. Listen to yourself in your mock interview and see if you’re doing this. It’s not a big deal to get peppered here and there, but some people get their speech overrun by uhms and likes and ohs, and that’s when it becomes annoying.
Another thing that comes up in some people’s speech is uptalking. Uptalk means that you are going up in your melody in your voice at the end of your sentences when there’s no question. As we talk, we can speak in a monotone style. But having a melody in your voice is a good thing as long as you don’t overdo it. Continuous uptalk, however, can be annoying. It shows a lack of confidence. You need to go down at the end of a sentence because this will exude more confidence. You can go up in the middle of a sentence, that’s fine, but always go down at the end of your sentences.
Avoid using slang during interviews. You want to project that you are a mature member of the society and not some kind of street slang person. You want to appear formal and respectable during job interviews, so it’s wise to keep all your slangs for later.
And last, slow down and savor your words when you are speaking. There’s always a tendency for people to speak very fast when they are nervous. But don’t bombard the hiring manager with your words as if you are rapping. Take a deep breath and slow down. Say the full sentences. Don’t mumble or trail off. Speak the same volume right to the end of the sentence, because that projects a sense of confidence.
This is the process of intentionally or unintentionally signaling meaning through behavior other than words. We all communicate nonverbally every day, so it’s not just about what you say but how you convey it with your body.
You communicate nonverbally without even realizing it. In job interviews, there are situations where you can tell that the person does not want to be there, that they don’t enjoy doing job interviews because it shows in their body language.
There are unintentional nonverbal behaviors that are not very flattering. These behaviors don’t make you look very good, and often you don’t even realize you’re doing it. If you are recording a video of your mock interview, then you’re going to see some of these.
Gesture and Body Movement
What’s your body language like? Do you bite your nails? Are you fidgety? Are you twisting your hair with your fingers? Do you crack your knuckles? These things all happen when you are nervous, so once you get over those nerves, you’ll avoid some of those automatic gestures or body movements.
Some people often have frowns when they are doing job interviews. Or they look nervous in the face because they’re tense. Smiling will help you with this. Just don’t overdo it because sometimes you can smile too much. Be friendly and smile a bit when it’s appropriate.
This one is also interesting. Many people don’t want to look other people in the eye. In certain cultures, to look someone in the eye is seen as a problem that you are questioning authority or something, so they look away. But, in our culture, it shows respect and confidence. Now, you will not look a hundred percent of the time right in the person’s eyes, but you do most of the time. Look at them when you are speaking. If you look away too much, it suggests boredom that you dislike doing this interview, that you are not confident with yourself. So you need to be careful with your eye behavior.
You need to dress well and make sure it’s correct for the job and the environment. If you’re doing a job interview at a car garage as a mechanic, you will not come in the interview wearing a tuxedo. That would be ridiculous. Dress accordingly. You don’t want to draw too much attention to your clothes, but you’d want to have a nice professional look that is a step above what you would normally dress like.
Also, get a fresh haircut so you don’t look sloppy or too messy on the day of the interview. I would also suggest getting your interview clothes ready a few days before because sometimes, we think we have that outfit in the closet somewhere, and then on the day of the interview, we realize that it’s all wrinkled, and we don’t have the time to fix it. So make sure you’ve got your interview clothes ready a few days in advance before the actual interview.
Everything we’ve talked about in this post applies to all job interviews, but there is a new way of doing job interviews today, and that is having it over Skype. With the new normal, this is how job interviews come to be now. This could be done through any video sound software, it may be Facetime or Google Meet, but often it’s Skype. Let’s get into some unique issues that come up with doing an online video interview.
The biggest challenge with Skype interviews is primarily technical. First, be concerned about the lighting of the room you’re in. If you’re in a dark room, your computer will try to adjust, but it won’t look clear enough. Also, you don’t want to have the lighting behind your head. The lighting should be on your face during the interview. You should also be close enough to your camera. Usually, you would do this on your laptop so your face and the top half of your upper body should be visible.
Another thing is that often the internet connection is not good. Find a reliable source. Create a hotspot on your phone. Sometimes cellular data is more reliable. It all depends on your house and your location in your neighborhood.
Have a backup app ready to go in case the internet drops completely. When your laptop fails, make sure you have the same app on your phone, so you can quickly jump over to that one in case there’s a problem.
Finally, try to keep away your pets and kids when you are doing the interview. Be alone in a room and lock the door so you won’t be disturbed. Ensure that there’s total silence for the duration of the interview.
The first major tip when you’re performing a Skype job interview is to keep your head relatively still. Skype accentuates movements because you’re so close to the camera. Look at the eyes of the interviewer on the screen, not the camera. And third, don’t look at notes. Internalize all your answers, so you don’t have to look at any notes during the interview.
What to do on the day of the interview
● Plan to arrive early. You never know what delays you might experience along the way. So it’s better to arrive early than to be late.
● Bring your resume with you, along with other references. Even though you’ve already submitted your resume to the company, the hiring manager sometimes asks for it, so it’s better to have it with you on the day of the interview.
● Bring a notepad and pen. This might be a strange suggestion, but it can be helpful for you. When you jot down important points during the interview, it will give the interviewer the impression that you are serious in this job interview.
● Practice good handshake and eye contact. Eye contact is important because it expresses seriousness, confidence, and respect.
● Listen attentively, despite the nerves. Being nervous can deteriorate our attention span, especially when we get our focus into calming ourselves down. This might make us lose our train of thought and also take away our attention from the interviewer. So despite the tension and the nerves, do your best to listen to what the hiring manager is saying so you will know how to give a suitable response.
What to do after the interview ends
● After the interview, it’s recommended that you send a thank-you email the day after the interview.
● If you get an offer, wait for a bit longer before accepting it.
● Last, consider negotiating. If you find that the offer lacks something to compensate for your skills, you can do a little negotiating.
Job interviews are daunting when you don’t have any idea what you’re getting yourself into and if you haven’t prepared yourself for it. It can be a little stressful, but with a little help from the tips we gave above, I’m sure you’ll ace your job interviews from now on.
Eddie Vo is the Owner and Founder of VE Digital, a digital marketing agency focused on small to medium size businesses. He currently lives in Greater Boston and is also a portrait photographer and wedding videographer.