There’s a lot of interview advice out there. Most of it covers the same ground — have two copies of your resume printed (PSA: investigate the company culture before you print your resume!); dress nicely; have a firm, but not clammy handshake. Thanks, mom. Pretty old school. The kiss of death at some organizations.
The other advice covers what not to do.
Or, there is our favorite feel-good advice about how to mentally psych yourself up.
We think most of that advice is solid (again, be cautious, especially in Portland), but wanted to mix it up with some of our favorite tips for consistently good interviews, and (hopefully) lots of job offers. This advice is curated from over 25 BW recruiters who have interviewed thousands of candidates. We know. It works!
Note: very few of the tips involve the actual interview. Like work itself, it’s all about being ready, responsive, and doing the research.
1. Be Responsive
Be glued to your phone and email during the process (though obviously not while you’re in your interview). Hiring managers love fast responses — and it’s a way to show off how communicative and quick you are. One note of caution through: if an employer calls you out of the blue and asks to screen you right then and there, make sure you’re in a place where you can listen and respond fully — you can always tell them you aren’t in a spot where you can give them your full attention and you’d like to reschedule for another time in the near future.
When you’re meeting in person, show up on time! Maybe even 5-10 minutes early.
During the interview, your body language should also be responsive. Mirror your interviewers. If they are formal; you are formal. If they are informal; be informal. (But not too casual. It’s a fine line that you’ll typically know only after you’ve crossed it, if you’ve used inappropriate language or let something very personal and unprofessional slip.)
2. Be Prepared
The first question a lot of companies ask is “What do you know about us?”
Hint: “Nothing” is not the answer you want to give.
Read the firm’s website, read our post, A Definitive Guide to Interview Questions, (and especially be prepared to answer questions about your weaknesses honestly), and go on some informational interviews.
One of our recruiters is known for telling every candidate “you can’t over-prepare for an interview.” And she’s right! Practice, practice, practice. Partner with someone you respect and trust and ask them do a mock interview with you. Rehearse your answers in the mirror, research industry-specific interview questions, review the company profile on LinkedIn, and scour their press.
3. Seriously Prepared
Another recruiter recommends having specific, situational examples of commonly asked interview questions. She’s a big fan of candidates that tell succinct stories rather than responding with generic “I work well in all sorts of teams” or “I do my best if I’m not micro-managed.” That kind of information is totally subjective and generic without some specific “proof” to back it up, which can be told through interview answers.
If being nervous or scattered is an issue for you, in addition to having answers prepared, you could list key points on your resume that you want to emphasize about your resume in advance. Use the list during the interview as a reminder to work those critical points into your answers. Same goes for having specific questions ready during the interview — about the business and their culture.
Also, if you have identified deal-breakers, make sure you ask about them. For example, if you need a flexible work schedule, be up front about it early in the process.
4. Dress for the Job
Look at the website, ask around, ask your recruiter, but know that every culture and company is different and you want to show that you’ll fit in and put your best foot forward. Sometimes that means wearing a suit and sometimes it means tailoring your look to the industry. It also means no sloppy fitting shirts, safety-pinned hems, too-casual looks, or wearing a competitor brand to the interview. And a lot of our recruiters appreciate a padfolio or other neat and professional way to take notes.
We can’t emphasize enough how far a positive and respectful attitude will take you. This includes being nice to everyone — the receptionist, scheduling coordinator, people in the hallway. You never know who will be sitting in your interview or how they are connected to the company. As Albus Dumbledore once said, “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” Your career may rely on people you don’t think matter — but they do.
Also, in the extended dating metaphor of the job search process, no one will ask you on a second date if it seems like you didn’t like the first one. Similarly, no one will ask you back for an interview if they don’t think you’re interested in the job, so don’t be afraid to express your interest in the company and the position.
6. Ask Questions
This is a way to “flip” the interview, and force the company to sell you on them. And you don’t have to wait until the very end of the interview either! Ask what brought the interviewer to the company. Ask “What is it about the organization that keeps the turnover low?” People like to talk about themselves, and you may learn something outside the relatively structured confines of an interview. You need to ask 2-3 great questions, so prepare at least 10 questions in case the interviewer covers most of them.
Also, before you leave the room, you should always ask: “I’m really excited about this opportunity and think it is a good match for my skills — before I leave, is there anything in my background or answers that you have concerns about or any additional information I can provide?”
7. Send a Thank You Note
One of our recruiters calls thank you notes “writing samples in disguise.” Similar to a cover letter, the thank you note needs to be personalized. You should refer to specific information from the interview, highlight your skills and fit, and reiterate your interest.
An email thank you is fine — even preferred, especially for a first interview. It’s quick and you can get in front of the hiring manager while your interview is still fresh in their mind.
Send a thank you note after every interview (you can change up the language, of course). Heck, you can even send a thank you after a good second or third interview even if you didn’t get the job — we’ve had candidates make great impressions who were ultimately hired when the company had another opening.