As I have been on both sides of the table for job interviews, I wanted to provide helpful best practices that you can apply in any industry you wish to pursue. These tips work well for that big position you are seeking after, internships, and the “in-between jobs” transition. Each industry is unique, but I wanted to provide general guidance that can be used across the majority of professions.

Do your homework

 

Research thoroughly the company you are applying for. Most employers want to know what you know about them to assess that you are genuinely interested in working for them. Check out their website; it is usually used as a PR and marketing tool to educate consumers on the company culture and values.

Connect your résumé to the job description

It is recommended that you study the job description and qualifications to determine if you would be a good fit and if the company would be a good fit for you. An exercise I like to do is to look at the qualifications and connect it to your résumé. For example, if they are looking for someone who “pays attention to detail,” find an experience in your résumé that would highlight that skill and be able to talk about that experience concisely. You should be able to do this for all if not the majority of the qualifications. Also, know your résumé in and out. They will be asking you about your résumé, so review it over and over so you can talk about your experience.

Craft a solid “Me in 30 Seconds” statement

The most common interview question is “tell me about yourself/tell me why we should hire you” and yet, most people stumble on this because they do not convincingly sell themselves to the employer. How to remedy this is to have a solid elevator pitch or a “Me in 30 Seconds” statement. It is a powerful introductory statement, usually 3-5 sentences that explains who you are, your related accomplishments, and what value you can bring to the company. Why it is called a “Me in 30 Seconds” statement is because most people can listen easily if a response is under 30 seconds. Creating a “Me in 30 Seconds” statement will not only allow you to answer this question but you will be able to present yourself confidently and give the employer a great impression of you.

Example: “I have always enjoyed interacting with people. As a result I became a public affairs professional and have been in the profession for the past eight years. I have managed a variety of community relations and education programs in the state. As a result of my organizational abilities, I have had the responsibility for overseeing all the public affairs programs for a multimillion-dollar project. What I enjoy most is helping small start-up businesses find a successful niche in the community.”

I have included a link here that further explains this and has exercises for you to craft one for yourself! Practice, practice, practice this!

Create a couple power statements / STAR method

Behavioral questions are common if not expected in an interview, and power statements are great ways to answer them. Using power statements indicates to the employer that you know your résumé and that you meet the qualifications.

  1. Identify a value, skill, strength, or accomplishment you want to highlight that relates to your objective.
  2. Give a specific example of that skill.
  3. Show the result of your skill (if possible, use percentages, dollar amounts, or numbers to reinforce your claim).
  4. Make sure your statement matches the needs or goals of the organization.

I have included a link here that further explains this and has exercises for you to craft one for yourself! Practice, practice, practice this!

Another great exercise is to use the STAR method. Following the STAR method will help keep your answers concise while providing the employer a proper evaluation of your skills. The STAR method stands for:

Situation – think of a time when you had to demonstrate a certain skill or qualification

Task – outline a challenge you faced

Action – explain what steps you took to resolve the challenge

Result – present the outcome

Dress like you already work there

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There is truth in the phrase “dress for the job you want.” You should be familiar with the company’s dress code. I have included a couple resources here and here to serve as inspirational guides. If you are not sure what is the company’s dress code, it is better to err on the conservative and neutral side.

Leave much earlier and do not be late for the interview

 

Always show up early—never on time or late for the interview. Showing up on time or late never sets a good impression to the employer and will cause you an unnecessary amount of stress. Showing up early will give you time to familiarize yourself with the surroundings and allows you to review your résumé. Even if the employer is late, it does not give you permission to show up late in the future. For commuting, I tend to leave at a time that is double the time it would take to get there. You want to take into consideration potential stalling circumstances like traffic or accidents, no parking, bad weather, difficulty finding the location, etc.

Give a firm handshake and have open body language

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We form judgments about people within 10 seconds or less. A firm handshake and having open body language gives off confidence. People appreciate it when I shake their hands firmly, and I too appreciate it when others do the same. The conversation and meeting can only get better from there. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy has a great TED talk on how changing our body language around others can change people’s perceptions about us. I found the research here quite helpful and practical.

Be your BEST self

 

We hear often that we should just “be ourselves” in job interviews, first dates, family reunions, etc. Frankly, that is terrible advice because there is no scalability. Life coach Matthew Hussey said, “When someone says ‘be yourself’ all it does is give us validation for staying the same and not taking risks. It’s a polite way of saying, ‘be who you are now, don’t explore being more evolved, advanced, or daring.” Rather, genuinely, BE YOUR BEST SELF. Remember, no one else can be a better you or even a best version of you than yourself. Believe that.

Have questions for the interviewer

Having thoughtful questions for the interviewer shows the employer that you are genuinely interested and curious about the position. It might sound counter-intuitive, but not having any thoughtful questions for the employer can come off that you know very little about the position and that you are not a learner.

Send a thank you note

While it is appropriate to send a thank-you email now, sending a thank you message to the interviewer will never go out of style or underappreciated. Even if you no longer wish to work for the company, it is better to express gratitude towards the interviewer for their time. The key is to be brief but thoughtful. A couple sentences are fine—no need for lengthy paragraphs.

Remember these tips, and you’ll make a great first impression. Good luck!

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