Most Important Interview Tips for Job Seekers

While a good resume and cover letter can get you an initial job interview, it's the interview itself that will determine whether or not you get a job offer. Below we'll review on the best interviewing tips and advice for job-seekers.

Research the Company, Hiring Manager and Position
We've listed research as the number one job interview tip for two reasons: First, it's the one most important thing you can do to increase your chance of a successful interview. Second, many job-seekers neglect to do it. Laying the foundation for a successful job interview begins with knowledge about the company you want to work for, the person who'll be interviewing you, and the position you're applying for. The more knowledge you have about the company, hiring manager, and position, the better you'll able to answer interview questions, speak intelligibly, and convince the interviewer that you're the right candidate for the job.

Know The Company
You need to have significant knowledge about the company you want to work for, if you want to make a good impression during your interview. If you're interviewing with a public company, you should know their stock price and be familiar with their annual reports. You should know who the company's main competitors are, be familiar with their products/services, know their target consumer markets, and understand their marketing strategies. But don't over do it once you're in the interview. Show the interviewer that you know the company well by providing intelligble answers to the questions asked. You may also want to ask a few questions about the company yourself, or comment on a few things the company has accomplished over the years, but don't question the way the company does things, comment on bad reviews they've received, or make recommendations to the interviewer about what the company should be doing better (unless requested).

Learn About the Hiring Manager/Interviewer
It's important to research the hiring manager, or person who'll be conducting you're interview. Sometimes you won't know before a job interview who the interviewer will be, but if you can find out, do you're research. It's often the case that the interviewer heads the department, or division, for the position being filled. If this is the case, they may be using the interview to determine if you're the type of person they can work with day in and day out. You can perform research on the interviewer using the company's website, Google, LinkedIn and several other online websites.

Research The Position
You should find out everything you can about the position you're applying to--before the interview. It's not uncommon for interviewers to ask job-seekers right of the bat why they're interested in the position. Answering this question intelligibly will set a good mood for the rest of the interview. Fumbling for a good response to this question is unforgivable, and will likely loose you the job. Learn about the position by researching the company and learning why the position is essential to the company. Find out if the position is new, or if you're replacing someone else. What are the requirements for the position?

Review Common Interview Questions and Prepare Responses
Find out what type of interview is going to be conducted and prepare responses to expected interview questions. This is another key to interview success. Many job-seekers assume they'll easily be able to compose logical, thoughtful, intelligible responses to any interview questions asked, only to find out, when put on the spot, they fumble for the right answer or have to think about a question longer than they should. Your answers to questions should be detailed yet concise, and focus on examples and accomplishments from your previous work experience that demonstrate your qualifications for the position. This doesn't mean you should have memorized responses--in fact, we recommend that you don't. Just develop some talking points about yourself and your qualifications that will allow you to response to the questions being asked.

There are however certain questions, and types of questions, that are unique to certain industries and positions. Answering these questions without preparing can be quite challenging. The following are excellent resources that will help you prepare answers to common questions you can expect during the job interview, as well as not so common questions that may appear.

Turn It Into a Conversation
Many job-seekers make the mistake of just sitting back and waiting for the interviewer to ask the next question until the interview is over. This is rarely the best strategy. The interview shouldn't be just an interview--it should be a conversation. It's important to have some back and forth with the interviewer, otherwise the interview becomes completely one-sided. Take some initiative and engage the interviewer with some questions too. Ask the interviewer some questions that he or she would only know the answer to, such as why they chose to work with company, or who their most successful employees are and why. Don't overwhelm the interviewer with a barrage of pointless questions, but show the interviewer that you're really interested in the company and position, by asking a few insightful questions that stimulate a conversation.

We even recommend preparing questions to ask before the interview. You want to ask a few good questions, but not too many. If you're too aggressive in asking questions, the interviewer won't be able to find out what they need to know about you to determine if you're the right person for the job.

Arrive On Time
In our Job Interview Checklist for Job Seekers we address in detail the importance of arriving on time to the interview. Let us just reiterate, arrive on time to your interview--maybe even a little bit early. Give yourself an extra 15 to 30 minutes of travel time to make sure you're able to be prompt and punctual. Arriving a little bit early will also allow you time to get settled, find out who you're interviewing with (if you don't already know), and observe the dynamics of the company. Arriving late is unexcusable. Start your interview off on the right foot, not with a lame excuse for being late.

Make a Good First Impression With Everyone You Meet
Your prospective employer wants to know if you're a good fit for the company's culture, if you're going to get along well with the other employees, and if you're going to treat the staff politely and respectfully. From the valet to the receptionist to the hiring manager, show everyone you encounter the same level of respect and courtesy you'd show the CEO of the company--and don't be arrogant. It may be on the advice of the receptionist that you're extended the job offer--or your job offer is derailed.

The first impression you make with the interviewer--the impression formed within the first few seconds of greeting you--can also make or break your interview. Make a strong first impression by arriving on time, dressing appropriately, smiling, making eye contact, showing your enthusiasm, and extending a firm handshake.

Express Enthusiasm, Stay Positive and Exude Confidence
We all know that smiling is contagious, well so is enthusiasm. If you want the interviewer to be enthusiastic about you as a candidate, show you're enthusiastic about being there for the interview and that you're enthusiastic about the job.

It's important to communicate your enthusiasm both verbally and non-verbally. It's okay to be direct and say "I'm really excited for the opportunity to work for your company." Your body language should also communicate your enthusiasm. Sit up straight, smile, and make regular eye contact. Try and project your voice, and make sure your responses are not monotone or dull.

During the interview, you're sure to face some tough questions, such as "Why did you quit your last job?", "Tell me about a time you failed", or "Tell me about at time when you made a mistake." Whatever question is thrown at you, stay on your guard and stay positive. Answer difficult questions directly and sincerely, but always end your answer with a positive spin. Show that you can turn a negative into a positive. If you don't know the answer to a questions say so--but stay positive.

One way to turn an interview from positive to negative in less than a millisecond is to badmouth your previous employer, boss, or co-worker. No matter how much you're baited during the interview, don't say anything negative about your previous job. Keep the interview focused on you, your qualities, and why you're the ideal candidate for the job.

Be confident. If you're confident in your abilities, you're interviewer will be too. But don't mistake arrogance for confidence. Confident people don't have to show that they're perfect, or even better than everyone else. Show you're confident without coming off arrogant. Confidence will get you hired; arrogance will get you fired.

Studies show that interviewers form a strong opinion about a job candidate in the first 20 minutes of the interview. Showing enthusiasm and maintaining a strong positive attitude is key to making a good first impression.

Be Genuine, Focused and Concise
At the end of the day, the interviewer wants to know who you really are--so be yourself. One of your goals as you deliver your answers should be authenticity and truthfulness. At the same time, you want to provide focused responses that answer the interviewers question while showcasing your skills, experience, and fit--with both the job and the company. Keep your answers concise and to the point, but include strong examples of your accomplishments and results you've achieved for past employers.

One of the benefits of preparing responses ahead of time to interview questions you're expecting, is that it will help you from rambling on or getting off topic once you're actually in the interview. Even when you have some great examples to share, keep your responses concise and to the point.

Dress the Part
Some experts say you can never overdress for an interview. Others suggest that dressing for the part is the correct solution--we tend to agree. You always want to have a professional appearance, but plan a wardrobe that fits the organization, culture, and position you're apply for. Dressing in a suit and tie for a graphic design position along side a bunch of computer geeks may be overdoing it a bit. Dressing casually for a position as a personal banker with Wellsfargo could be just as damaging to your job prospects. Before deciding on the appropriate attire, get an inside perspective by talking with a recruiter, or by visiting the company's website that shows images of their workplace.

Don't Pretend You Know Everything
Sometimes the correct answer is "I don't know". Not knowing the answer to a question isn't the end of the world, it's actually expected. Sometimes prospective employers and hiring managers want to see how you respond in situations where you don't know the correct answer. Are you going to admit you don't know, and seek help from a co-worker or managers? Or are you going to pretend you do know the answer and make a mistake that could cost the company dearly. Worse than not knowing the answer to a question, is not knowing and pretending you do.

It's also a good idea not to answer every question instantly--even if you know the answer. Interviewers expect you to take a few moments to collect your thoughts, and many prefer that you do. It's better to take a moment to develop a killer answer than to consistently deliver a mediocre response right out of the gate every time.

Pay Attention To Your Body Language
While it's the content of what you say and how you communicate that will get you a job offer, poor body language and bad habits could be just enough of an excuse for a hiring manager to pass you by for another job candidate. Smiling, good posture, nodding, eye contact, and active listening are effective forms of body language. Fidgeting, playing with objects, slouching, not maintain eye contact, continually touching your face, not speaking clearly or in monotone, brushing back hair, and chewing gum are forms of body language that can cause a poor impression--so avoid them like the plague.

Sell Yourself
Unfortunately, being the "best man for the job" doesn't necessarily mean you'll get the job. It's not the most qualified job candidate that gets the job, rather the candidate who does the best job interviewing. So if you're not the most qualified guy on the block, take heart, you just need to be the best at interviewing. And if you are the most qualified candidate, take note, you may get passed over for less qualified job candidates if you aren't good at interviewing and show casing your fit for the position.

Interviewing is like making a sales call, only with a job interview the product you're selling is yourself. Not only do you need to be the best candidate, you need to be the best demonstrating you're the best candidate. You need to be able to effectively and persuasively communicate that you have the ability to meet all the needs of the organization relative to the position you want to fill.

As the interview comes to an end, express your sincere interest in the position and appreciation for the opportunity to interview. Inquire about the next steps in the hiring process and ask when the employer expects to make a final decision about the position. If it's a sales position you're apply for, you may even consider closing the deal by asking for the job at the end of the interview.

Show Your Appreciation
Show your gratitude for the opportunity to interview for the position. Start during the interview by thanking each person you interviewed you. As a matter of common courtesy, send each person a thank-you email or card following the interview. While writing a thank you card isn't going to get you a job offer, it might just give you an edge over other candidates.

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