You’ve completed the first steps. You researched, tailored your resume and cover letter, once again, to apply to a position that best matches your skills. Days later you receive an email to coordinate a call-back with the Human Resources department for a 30-minute interview. Afterwards, you receive a congratulatory email. You have been selected to interview in the next round with the Director. Now what?
Things to make note of when meeting with the HR representative or Recruiting agency:
- Who will you be interviewing with? (Name and title/position)
- When is the interview? (If remote, ask for the time zone. If in-person, ask for the address.)
- Will this be a remote or in-person interview?
- Will you be reporting to this person if hired?
- Thank the representative for the opportunity to interview.
If you already read Best Interviewing Practices 2021, I will assume a few things moving forward. If you have not read the previous blog, click on the link above to catch-up.
As a quick recap, we discussed common questions asked, questions to ask the interviewer, and questions to avoid. Now, let’s talk about the interview itself, how to best perform with all the knowledge we’ve gathered and how to navigate difficult conversations.
|Basics you already know:|
|Arrive early||Research the company||Dress to impress|
|Research your interviewer||Prepare for common questions||Practice interviewing|
|Align your skills with the job description||Create a genuine connection||Thank the interviewer|
How to navigate a 60-minute interview
Let’s go over a few interview guidelines and ground rules. All interviews are conversations between two parties; interviewer (or interviewing panel) and interviewee. However, at some point during the interview the roles are switched and it’s your turn to interview. Even under extreme circumstances, never speak negatively about your previous employer. You may be tempted or even encouraged, do not give in. If the interviewer is late or ill equipped, be understanding. Your reaction and consideration of their limited time will leave a lasting impression.
Decide what you want out of this phone call; strategize how you are going to market yourself and how you will create an impact. Outline what benefits are most important to you and research compensation packages for the company. Glassdoor and LinkedIn are excellent resources. Identify what you can afford to lose in the negotiation process (remote work, in-office perks, premium insurance, vacation time, sick days, etc.). While it may seem early in the interview process to think about benefits, compensation packages, and salary, it is critical that you have a ballpark idea if and when presented with the question.
- Be an active participant in the conversation.
- Plan talking points to keep you on point and concise.
- Create a “must-mention” checklist.
- Identify the critical skills you possess that make you an excellent candidate.
- Establish what separates you from other candidates.
- Aim to leave a lasting impression.
Part I – The Awkward Welcome
Earlier I mentioned that interviews are a conversation between two parties. Allow your interviewer to introduce themselves and when there is a pause introduce yourself. Restate you name, the job role/position for which you are applying for and thank them for giving you the opportunity to interview.
If there is a long pause, for whatever reason, ask them about their day. Small talk tactics are often live-lines and can create a lasting impression, especially if you find commonalities. However, do no be afraid of a little silence. You are not tasked with creating conversation in every silence gap.
Part II – The Common Questions
Tell me about yourself
This answer might seem like a no-brainer. It should be relatively easy to speak on the topic. You know yourself, right? Based on this information alone, it can be assumed no preparation is needed but we would be WRONG. This open-ended question can easily become a downward spiral of unrelated gibberish. What do they want to know? What is the goal for asking this question?
Use this opportunity to outline your best job-related assets you use in your current job and any recent accomplishments. Depending on your response, it can be an easy transition into the next topic and offer follow-up questions that qualify you for the position. “Tell me about yourself” allows the interviewer to get to know you. You might offer critical information that may qualify you for the hiring process. At the same time, you are using your best communication skills and demonstrating yourself in the best light possible.
Pro Tip: Do not talk about your personal life. When opening up about yourself, keep it strictly to hobbies, job-related traits, and stories that guide the listener to a better understanding of your achievements and capabilities. Outline your answer as a checklist according to the job role. This is a very safe way of ensuring success.
What are your weaknesses? Strengths? Tell us about a mistake you made and how you corrected it.
This question can prove to be a little tough if you have not fully addressed your wins as well as your losses. Being honest with yourself is a key factor in successfully answering this question. The first thing you have to do is to take a step back and ask yourself “what does the interviewer want to know?”
When addressing your weaknesses make sure to mention all that you have done to correct them. Interviewers want to know that you have grown professionally.
Why do you want to leave (or left) your job?
Rule #1 never speak poorly or your current job. Instead, note the things you liked, learned and developed. Mention the reason why you want to move on as growth or seeking new challenges. It is popular to mention all that you have achieved during your employment as well.
What are your salary expectations?
Do the research. This is one of the key items that cannot be done poorly or inefficiently. Often, you can combine your motivation for a higher salary (or a salary worthy of your skills) with your “why?”. Open your mind to the different ways you can negotiate and market yourself successfully while building your case for salary negotiation.
Focus on the market. Identify the highest and lowest salary for your position in your state, city and zip code. Identify skills that enhance your job role.
How to negotiate salary?
- Build your case using negotiating tactics
- Skills-based facts
Part III – The awkward/difficult questions
Identify any potential challenges you might face with the company and the job role. Get in front of your challenges and setbacks through preparation. Set clear and transparent goals for yourself during the interview. For example make a checklist of potential challenges and prioritize them in your research. How have you managed the gap in skills? Have you taken courses? Received a certification? Being able to identify opportunities to increase knowledge of your skills and experience ahead of time can help regain control of the conversation.
Part IV – Reverse Interview
Support and participate in the same initiative demonstrated by the interviewer. Human Resources Departments are struggling to screen a lot of candidates in very little time. This leaves a lot of room for miscommunication and disconnection. Use this time as an opportunity to fill those gaps.
Part V – Post Interview
Follow-up! Follow-up! Follow-up!
Taking control post interview is key. You did the research, you aced the interview and now … what?Send a “thank you” note within 24-48 hours. Making a positive impression can be as easy as thanking your interviewer at the end of the interview. Apply to other job roles/companies. While it is easy to fantasize about your dream job, don’t have your heart set on one job role.
Applying for jobs can be disheartening and exhausting. Remember to give yourself credit. Take ownership of your growth and power. Take time to recover and evaluate your efforts. And lastly, be accountable for your efforts and evaluate your progress and shortcomings.
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