You’ve been waiting and they finally reached out and want to bring you in for an interview. Now what? Are you prepared to make a lasting first impression? How do you stand out from the rest of the candidates? What is it that makes employers what to bring you back for another interview?
First impressions are everything in a first interview. The employer is checking to see how you handle yourself not only physically but mentally as well. Being prepared for this first impression can make all the difference between being rejected and being brought back for another interview.
If you were introduced to this potential employer by way of a recruiter, they should be setting aside time prior to the interview to prepare you properly for what may come. Great recruiters will not only tell you where the interview is but offer you insight into a potential employers’ personality as well as any other people you may possibly meet during the process. If you came upon the opportunity on your own, you will need to prepare yourself. So how do you do that?
1. Research: Research is the KEY to being prepared. Recruiters will tell you to research, research, research! Start with the company website. You should know their website inside and out. Find out if the company has recently been in the news. LinkedIn is also a valuable tool in finding out more about who you will be talking to during the interview but don’t forget to Google the interviewer as well. They may have written interesting articles or recently been in the news as well. Having this knowledge and being able to bring it up during the interview process will impress your future potential employer. Employers want to know that YOU are interested in them. They want to know that you are taking the process seriously and that you took the time to find out everything you could about them and the company. A few hours of research can make all the difference in the world and set you apart from the competition.
If your potential employer, for instance, just launched a new product and they are very excited about its potential asking them about it will get them talking about something that they find interesting. Engaging a potential employer in a two-way conversation about their current company creates a positive impression if you keep the conversation professional. These two-way conversations will make you stand out and leave the potential employer feeling that you were knowledgeable and engaged.
2. Questions: What you say when asked “Do you have any questions?” is a key indicator to the potential employer of how seriously you are taking the possibility of joining their company. A potential employer never wants to hear crickets when they ask this question. I always tell my candidates to come up with at least 5 to 10 questions that they want to ask during the interview. Some questions may be answered in the course of the interview while new questions may come up. Don’t be afraid to jot those questions down and refer back to them later.
Great examples of questions are:
“What is the career path for this position in the next 5 years?” This question tells the potential employer that you see yourself in the position for at least 5 years AND that you see yourself performing well enough to be promoted.
“Can you tell me what you love about the company? Why did you come to work here?” This is an excellent engagement question. It will not only get the potential employer talking but it will give you insight to their vision of the company and over all personality.
“Can you tell me about someone who was in this role that performed well? What was it about them that made them stand out?” This question will help you to understand the expectations that the potential employer may have for the role and let you assess your own ability to perform well under those expectations.
3. Honesty: So, you’ve been asked the dreaded “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses” question. Although many employers don’t ask this question anymore many still do so it’s better to be prepared to answer it honestly. Potential employers are looking to see how you handle this question. Do you have to wrack your brain to come with a weakness? Be honest… we ALL have things we could improve on. They want to see if you are forth right with the information or are you going to be nervous and fumble. You should state your weakness first. Tell them that you know it’s a weakness and that you strive to improve on it every day. Then end with your strength.
4. CLOSE IT: The interview went well so far.. you were prepared, honest and engaging. Things are starting to wrap up and there is an uncomfortable and awkward silence as the potential employer starts to get up and move you toward the door. You want to move forward but how do you do that?
What you do now can make or break the interview. No matter what level you are in your career from entry level to c-suite you need to close the interview. I’m always surprised at how few candidates know how to easily do this. It doesn’t have to be complicated or long and drawn out. You don’t have to relist ALL your endearing qualities again. The easiest and most effective way to close an interview is to simply state: “Mr/Ms potential employer, I like what I’ve heard. I’m interested in the opportunity. what’s the next step?”
Being prepared for an interview should never be taken lightly. Whenever I am preparing my candidates. I always give them adequate time to do their research and come up with questions about the company and the potential employer. Take your potential employer seriously and they will take you seriously. Coming prepared will be the best use of both your and your potential employers time.
Remember research is KEY and walking in prepared will make you stand out above the other candidates, don’t be afraid to ask questions, be honest and Close it! You’ll do well.