Interview Preparation and Helpful Tips
Dress Your Best: Interview attire should be professional/business casual. You can always dress down on the job – but you need to get the job first. As a rule it’s always better to be over-dressed than too casual.
Be Punctual: Plan ahead for traffic, parking, road construction and detours. You never want to be late to your first impression interview. You’re better off arriving early, reviewing your notes, gathering your thoughts, and heading into the interview relaxed vs. showing up late, feeling rushed and ill-prepared.
Do Your Homework: Invest some time reviewing the companies website, study their products, learn about their markets, and research the competition. Nothing is more unimpressive than an unprepared candidate who cannot justify why the company should hire them, or articulate why they want to work there. Aside from knocking em’ dead with your knowledge, your preparation will make you feel far more confident, and confident people get job offers. Abraham Lincoln famously said, “I will study and prepare myself and someday my chance will come”. This is your chance so come prepared.
Ask Questions: From your research, formulate a pre-prepared list of questions and bring them to the interview. Let the interviewer drive the conversation, but feel free to ask your questions at the appropriate time. Asking a few well thought out questions not only implies interest in the job and company, but also shows that you know your stuff and that you’re a professional that should be taken seriously.
Bring Your Resume: Most interviewers will already have a printed copy if your resume in advance, however it’s a good idea to bring several copies just in case. It’s also advisable to bring a notebook and pen to take notes.
Show Your Interest: Be energetic, lean forward, smile, and show your enthusiasm. At the end of the meeting tell the interviewer(s) that you’re sincerely interested in the job and inquire about the next step in the interview process. Companies typically don’t extend offers (or invitations to second interviews) unless they are confident they will be accepted. So don’t leave them hanging and wondering if you are interested in the job. Often times it’s not the most qualified person that gets the offer – sometimes it’s the person who appears to want it the most.
Salary Discussion: Avoid inquiring about salary, bonuses, perks, benefits, vacation time, work from home policies, etc. Your focus should be squarely on what you can give to the company … not what you can get from them. Your objective in an interview is to convince the company that your contribution would far surpass their investment in you. If you succeed at that goal you will likely get an offer, however if you fail to convince them of this, then it is guaranteed you won’t. It’s just that simple. If they do choose to make you an offer, it will be the size of your perceived value and your potential contribution that will determine the size of your offer.
If the interviewer asks about your salary requirements, you should parry the question and instead explain that your primary focus is on finding a long-term career opportunity, the right team fit, a compelling challenge, more responsibility, or a role where you can make a positive impact. Another way to respond to the salary question is to tell the interviewer you would like to defer a conversation about compensation until after the company has had a chance to evaluate whether you’re the right fit. You can tell them you’re looking for the best offer based on your experience and education. If pressed, you might respond by asking, “what’s the range for this position or did you have a salary range in mind for this position?”
Go for the Offer: An interview is never the right time to evaluate whether you want the job – the interview is your time to perform, impress, and win an offer. You’ll have plenty of time following the interview to ponder the job and consider all your options, and you can always decline an offer after you get one, but you can’t turn down an offer you do not have. Nor can you negotiate with yourself or decide if you want a job that has not been offered to you. So don’t put the cart in front of the horse. Stay focused on the goal – win the offer first, then decide if you want it. Not the other way around.
Follow up: Be sure to follow-up with the interviewer(s). A well-timed email or a hand delivered thank you note may seem like an old fashioned notion, but this small concession can make a big impression, and sometimes in a competitive situation this alone can tip the scales in your favor.