Updated: Feb 28, 2021
By Yahaira Hernandez, YHPAA Public Relations Director
If you’re reading this blog, it’s probably because you impressed an employer with your job application and have advanced to the interview stage, if that’s the case then congratulations! If you’re in the beginning of your job search and are currently building what you hope will be a resume good enough to earn an interview, then you might find our resume building blog helpful. Either way, we’re glad you’re here and ready to tackle what is probably the most important step in the hiring process.
Interviewing with a hiring manager or panel, whether it is in-person or virtual, can be quite a nerve-racking experience. I can relate to the nervous interviewee that likes to prepare well in advance and practice answering all sorts of different questions. Plus, I was once part of a hiring team, so I will be sure to include some personal anecdotes (albeit somewhat embarrassing) and insight on what exactly my team liked to see from interviewees.
Now, let’s go over our top 10 tips that can make your interview stand out!
1. Double Check Arrival or Log-In Details
Once, I showed up early to an interview in Downtown Austin and wasn’t given parking instructions, so I unknowingly parked in an ungated reserved government parking lot beside the building my interview was in. Thankfully it wasn’t a big deal to the panel, but the receptionist was asked to physically go, walk in rain and ask the parking lot security officer not to tow my car as I was only going to be there for an hour. How embarrassing is that?! And another time, I had a Zoom interview that required you to sign in and maybe due to momentary panic, I completely forgot my password (facepalm). So, I immediately changed my password and was 5 minutes late to the interview. What are the lessons here? Ask for details on parking and building entrances and of course, have your virtual website log-in handy!
2. Research Company
One of the many questions an employer may ask is something along the lines of, “Why do you want to work for our company/organization?”. And even if they don’t ask, it’s wise to research the organization to describe in great detail why you think their mission statement is important to you, or how your experience can further enhance their brand and so on. This will prove to them that you did your homework and they will really appreciate you thinking of something new that you could bring to the team. They’ll also appreciate your answer being geared towards how you can help the organization and not how working there can benefit you.
3. Practice Mock Interviews
Whether it’s with your significant other, a friend or even by yourself – practice mock interviews until you feel ready to tackle any question that comes your way. This is a very useful strategy that I and I’m sure many others find useful. Start with a list of potential questions the interviewer may ask, perhaps the list in this Indeed article can help get you started.
Depending on the job itself, questions and scenarios can widely vary – so prepare as many basic and industry-related questions as you can. Here are a few common questions I have personally heard from employers:
1. Tell us about your yourself.
2. Walk us through your resume (and portfolio).
3. Why do you think you’re a good fit for this company/organization?
4. How do you stay focused and organized?
5. Tell us about a time you had to resolve an issue, how did you handle it?
4. List Questions for Employer
Along with preparing a list of potential questions the hiring manager (or panel) may ask you, you should also think about questions you would like to ask them. I was once told that job interviews also provide a chance for you to see if the organization is a good fit for you. Almost like you are interviewing them to see if you could picture yourself working there alongside their team.
Here are some questions I typically ask to help me better understand what kind of team I’d be joining.
1. What is the team culture like?
2. How do you determine success in this role?
3. Is this role expected to be more independent or collaborative?
4. How long have you been in this company/organization and what do you like about it?
5. After proving to be successful in this role, is there opportunity for growth or advancement?
5. Dress Professionally or Business Casual
It’s fair to assume that dressing up for an interview is a smart move – or at least a nice shirt if it’s a virtual meeting. Business casual is a safe choice but if you’d like to step it up a notch, a nice suit or dress can appear more professional.
You definitely don’t want to go too casual as it may appear like you didn’t put much thought or effort into your attire for an important day like your interview, the thought process might be, “Well, how would they dress in front of a client for a business meeting?”.
Yes, your choice of attire might depend on what kind of job you're applying for but choose wisely and let them know you planned ahead for an important day like this one.
6. Never Assume You’ll Arrive on Time
One of the biggest lessons I have learned in my career thus far, is to never assume anything. Always be prepared for the worst-case scenario. That may seem like a negative outlook but in this case, you don’t want to assume issues won’t arise before your interview begins.
If it’s an in-person interview, be sure to check different routes, arrive at least 10 to 15 minutes early and take extra copies of your resume or portfolio in case someone asks for a copy. I recently had an in-person job interview at a large building in Houston (which is 2.5 hours away from my home) and because I’m not very familiar with the city, I made sure to arrive at least an hour early in case of traffic or getting lost looking for the right office in the huge building. Thankfully, I arrived right on time.
If it’s a virtual interview, don’t be like me and scramble to log in at the last minute, click your meeting link at least five minutes before your virtual interview to log in and make sure your wi-fi, camera and mic are working properly.
On one occasion, my team had an applicant come in 30 minutes early to a job interview. Although it was a nice gesture, it was a little too long (and awkward) to keep him waiting in our lobby until our scheduled time. These same hiring managers once also said it was very impressive to bring extra copies of your resume just in case someone new joins the interview and they don’t have your resume readily available. By arriving a little early and being well-prepared proves just how reliable you are – a great first impression!
7. Be Mindful of Your Body Language
Due to the pandemic, we’re obviously encouraged to wear masks and not shake hands, which makes it difficult to present yourself in-person as polite and excited to meet your interviewer/panel. Because they can’t see the smile behind our mask, try to acknowledge first meeting the interviewer(s) with a polite elbow bump, nod or wave and tell them how happy to are to be there.
During your interview, you can also be so hyper-focused on your responses that it’s easy to forget what your body is doing. Once you are in front of the hiring manager or panel, try to avoid fidgeting, don't cross your arms as you may appear bored or defensive, try not to yawn, maintain good eye contact (but don’t stare) and don’t slouch. These are just a few body language tips to keep in mind once you’re in the moment. For a more detailed list of body language tips, check out this Business Insider article.
8. Memorize Numbers
The employer has your job application in hand but to hear you mention a few numbers or statistics of your biggest accomplishments, can sound even more impressive. Don’t be shy, show off your high sales numbers or number of employees you manage. This is a good technique to showcase your skills and genuine pride in your hard work.
9. Watch for Filler Words
In stressful situations like job interviews, we tend to use more filler words than usual, such as “ums”, “ers” and "uhs”. It’s fine to say these from time to time but try not to repeat them so often that it’s distracting. This is where your mock interviews can come into play, ask your mock interview partner to let you know if you use filler words too much and you will see that this practice can potentially save you from having distracting speech patterns.
10. Send a Thank You Email
Whether you feel your interview went well or not so well, it’s always nice to send a thank you email to your interviewer(s) the day of or the day after your interview. Like you, they are taking time away from a busy schedule and are eager to fill the position as soon as possible, therefore thanking them for their time is always a kind gesture.
Being anxious for an interview is completely normal, so just focus on the fact that you have piqued the organization’s interest so far and now they are eager to meet you! In fact, according to this Inc.com article, on average, every corporate job opening attracts 250 resumes but only four to six applicants will be called for an interview, and only one of those will be offered a job – and this was pre-COVID times when not as many people were applying! This should tell you that they have narrowed it down to you and a few others, be proud you made it this far.
Feel free to use this guide (and a mock interview partner even) to help you along the way. And keep in mind, as intimidating as some hiring managers or panels may seem, they are humans too and are only looking for the best person for their team. Show them your strengths, wow them with your accomplishments and be confident.
In case you haven’t already, join our YHPAA membership or subscribe to our newsletter to learn about upcoming professional development events and networking opportunities that can help you excel in your career.
Do you have any other interview tips or techniques you’d recommend? Tell us in the comments below!