by Rachel Vilsack
Some employers may dread the interview process as it takes their time and effort away from the day-to-day operations of their business. I, however, love the interview process. As a recent participant in an interview panel, I got the opportunity to gain insight into how job seekers approach the process and how they sell their skills and experience. Often I am pleasantly surprised with the poise of a candidate and his or her answers to a question. Sometimes I see where a candidate has room for improvement.
Here are a few interview tips based on recent observations:
- When you set up the interview, ask who you will be interviewing with. If it’s a panel, get their names. You now have some powerful information. What can you learn about these interviewers? What do they do at the company or business you are applying to? Are they on LinkedIn or other social networking sites? Do you know anybody that they know? Use appropriate information or connections during the interview.
- Bring a clean copy of your resume. Most resume-scanning or computer matching programs spit out an unformatted and, frankly, unattractive copy of your resume. Show the interviewer you care enough to bring your resume on a nice piece of paper. And you can include all the high-quality formatting, font, and graphics you want!
- Make the clear connection between how your current or previous job responsibilities match the skills of the position you’re interviewing for. This is especially true for job seekers with limited or unrelated work experience. You may not have direct experience, but if you tell me how your skill set is applicable to the job you’re applying for, then you just did a better job than the candidate who told me only the mechanics of what they did on their previous job.
- Research the company, the office you’ll be working for, the products or services they provide, and then use this information in your interview. If you can’t summarize the organization’s mission or describe the main products or services offered – you don’t have to be an expert on them, but be able to list them properly by name – then you didn’t spend enough time preparing for the interview.
- When given an opportunity to ask questions, go beyond “what is your hiring timeline for this position?” Ask one or two substantive, probing questions instead. If you get me to think “wow, that’s a really great question!” then you will stand out against a candidate that just asks what a typical day is like on the job.
- Please ask for the job! An interview is really a sales opportunity. You’re selling the employer on your skills and expertise. (And whether you think so or not, the interviewer is trying to sell you on their business.) Make your concluding comment your final sales pitch for why you are the best person for the job. I promise you that it demonstrates enthusiasm and effort.
- Send a thank you note or email. Interview follow-up is important. Make sure your follow-up is concise, free of errors, and addressed personally to each of the people you interviewed with.