Now that you got the call for an interview for a job you applied to you need to prepare. This article covers how to prepare for an interview, what to convey during the interview, and tips to being a strong candidate even after the interview has taken place. There are tips on how to dress, what to ask, social media advice, practice questions, follow-up notes, negotiating salaries, and much more.
Research the Company
During the interview, you’ll want to state why you are a great match for the company. If you don’t know much about the company that is easier said than done.
Research the companies mission statement, how long they have been in business, check if there are press releases on future projects or past accomplishments. This information is generally easily found on the company’s website.
Research the Interviewer (if you know who it is)
If you know who will be interviewing you, you may also be able to research the person as well. If the company has a search tool on their website, search for the interviewer’s name. You can also go online and run on find information. Simply type the person’s name in the search box along with the company’s name. If your interviewer has been in the press or in an online article representing the company this will likely come up in your search results.
Also, check if the interviewer have a LinkedIn profile. If the profile is public, you’ll be able to view it. Simply go to LinkedIn.com and type in their name. There will be many people on LinkedIn with the same name so look for the person working for the company interviewing you and check their title. If the facts match up, you probably found your interviewer. You may be in luck! The more you learn about the company and those interviewing the more prepared you’ll be.
Choose your Interview Outfit Wisely
You can take advantage of color theory for your interview. Research has shown that certain colors are associated with certain emotions. Take advantage of that. For instance, if you are looking to portray yourself as professional, educated, and successful choose dark suit colors instead of pastels. Colors such as black, slate gray, navy blue, forest green, and burgundy are examples of power colors.
Since blue gives a sense of trust and confidence, navy blue is a great color for an interview suit. Slate gray (or commonly referred to as charcoal gray) gives off feelings of loyalty, security, and authority. Bright colors can make you seem assertive and full of energy while neutral colors – such as beige – blend you right into the office wall.
A slate gray suit can make you come across as conservative. If you go with a lighter gray suit you will appear more social. Your choice of color should depend on the position and company you are applying for.
Colors and their correlating emotions:
- Black = Power
- White = Innocence
- Red = Overpowering and can lose trust
- Blue = Calm and loyalty
- Green = Tranquility and health
- Yellow = Anger
- Orange = Excitement
Prepare for Common Interview Questions
While interviewing for various positions, keep notes of interview questions asked that you remember from your interviews. You can reference those prior to future interviews. Add to the notes as you accumulate questions at interviews. Reflect on your answers and improve upon them. Some common questions are:
- Tell me about yourself?
- Why do you want to work for our company? (what do you know about our company)
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Tell us about a time you made a mistake and how you corrected it.
- Describe a stressful situation and how you handled it.
- Why should we hire you over someone else?
- Why did you leave your last company?
- How would your former manager describe you?
- How would your former team members describe you?
- Describe a disagreement you had with a coworker and how it was resolved.
- How do you stay current in the industry? (relevant magazines, blogs, podcasts, or other professional development)
- Do you prefer working alone or in a group?
The interviewer may also ask what pay you expect. You can answer this a few ways. If you do not know the salary range at the company, you can answer any of the following ways:
- "Can you share the pay range for this position?"
- "I’m excited for the opportunity to work at such a great company, my salary is negotiable."
- "Based on my experience and qualifications, I’m sure we can reach a common agreement."
Until the company is actually offering you a position, this initial question is scoping out the salary they may offer. Remain open (if possible) at this stage unless they are ready to make you an offer. Sometimes entry level jobs discuss salary right away. You may feel you should answer this question during the interview, so use your best judgment.
What to do During an Interview
There are many soft skills employers look for. These soft skills are great to review and highlight during an interview. These are easy to highlight! For example, if you arrive to your interview on time, look professional, seem confident, and come prepared with a leather notebook portfolio and pen, they automatically view you as organized, confident, and professional – with good time management.
How you answer your interviewers’ questions will also tell them a thing or two about your communication and presentation skills. They are also likely to ask a few scenario-based questions surrounding how you handled particular challenges at your previous place of employment. This is how you can showcase your decision-making abilities.
If your resume history shows longevity with your employers, you will be viewed as loyal and dependable. If you have reference letters, they may also highlight a few more for you, such as your work ethic or ability to motivate others – make sure you bring them.
Employers do not want to train their employees in these soft skills, they want them to already bring them to the table.
Valuable Soft Skills
- Work ethic
- Communication skills
- Presentation experience
- Ability to motivate others
- Time management
- Research skills
- Leadership/Management skills
Starting the Interview off Right
The first 30 seconds is crucial.
- Provide a firm handshake that is not too hard but also not limp like a fish.
- Make eye contact with the interviewer(s).
- Do not fidget or rock back and forth in your chair.
- Sit up straight and lean toward the interviewers a little.
- Do not overdo your cologne or perfume. This is easy to test with a friend prior to the interview. Tell your friend you are interviewing for a position and inquire as to whether your perfume/cologne seems too overpowering.
- If you have multiple interviewers, make eye contact with each of them. It is easy to focus on one person, but ensure you include them all. Remember, at the end of the interview they will collectively be discussing what they thought of you as a candidate.
- Do not adjust your clothing or touch your face during the interview.
- Do not sound desperate for the job. You want to come across confident, not desperate. It is fine to let them know you want the job, but that you don’t desperately need the job.
- Do not answer a question with a simple yes or no. Expand on the question. They want information from you. However, be careful not to give them a 10 minute history lesson on the topic.
- Be personable. You want the interviewers to like you. This may seem so obvious, but this may be difficult to pull off for those of you that are shy or nervous. Try to relax and understand interviews are a two-way street. The company is assessing if you are right for them, but you are also assessing if they are right for you! You are important and valuable! If you can bear in mind it is a two-way street, you can relax a little and focus on getting to know them as well.
- Do not ask about pay, benefits, vacation, and hours yet. They may share that information with you, but if they don’t the interview is not the appropriate time.
- Do not say anything bad about your previous employers OR managers. EVER!!! Think of some other reason you left places of employment that are not negative, do not lie, but you do not need to trash your former employers. Remember, if you mention that your manager was the worst manager of all time, the interviewees may question whether you may have been the worst employee to manage of all time.
- If you are having a phone interview, it’s very important to project an upbeat, professional and friendly voice on the phone.
The interviewer will likely ask you if you have any questions. At the end of the interview, it is entirely appropriate to ask “When will the hiring decision be made?” You may find a senior manager is on vacation for three weeks and a decision will not be made until that time. Perhaps the company has to wrap up their fiscal year. This question’s answer will give you some idea as to when this opportunity could come to fruition. This information is crucial because it provides you the dates in which you should follow up. If they say a decision will be made by next week Monday, and it is now Tuesday, you can send an email inquiring about the status of the position and express your interest in the opportunity to work for such a great company.
You might also ask, “Why is this position open?” Perhaps you find out the company is expanding, that’s a great sign. Or the holder of that position was promoted, which shows movement within the company.
At the very end of the interview, thank them for their time and express your enthusiasm for the opportunity to interview at such a great company. If the interviewers’ information is not available online, make sure you ask for a business card prior to leaving. This will give you their contact information and proper spelling of their name so you can properly follow-up.
After the Interview
Follow-up with a thank-you email that same day. This is just one more way to sell yourself and keep your name in front of that employer. They could be making a decision the next morning and you want to contribute to it. Here is an example email:
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name,
Thank you for the opportunity to interview for the [JOB TITLE] position. I enjoyed [STAFF NAMES IF APPLICABLE] enthusiasm for the company along with the welcoming reception by the staff.[ABC COMPANY] offers (list something you learned during the interview such as cutting edge technology or innovation) which allows my strengths in (list your strength that aligns with the company mission) to assist [ABC COMPANY] accomplish its core mission.
I am very interested in starting a career at [ABC COMPANY] and look forward to hearing from you soon. Should you have any further questions, I welcome the opportunity to answer them.
If you have not heard from the employer in some time after the interview, it is acceptable to send a follow-up inquiry. A week after the interview is an appropriate time to craft and send a polite inquisitive email such as:
Hello Mr./Ms. First Last Name,
Thank you for the opportunity to interview at [ABC COMPANY]. I am hopeful to still be considered for the [POSITION]. Any news would be appreciated. I hope to become [ABC COMPANY’s] newest team member and prove my value as soon as possible!
Thank you in advance for your time and response!
Negotiating salary can be a challenge, but it does pay off. If a company offers you a position, you know right away that you are their first choice. They don’t want to go through the trouble interviewing candidates again. Pause after being offered an amount and give a verbal clue that you are considering the offer. A simple “hm” will do. Then, negotiate a higher wage. If this is a minimum wage job, you may be able to politely ask if $1.00 more per hour is feasible. Stress that you would enjoy the opportunity, but hoped for a higher wage than was offered. Stress that you are dependable and hard working.
Sometimes everyone starts at a company at the same wage. Often you will know this up front and generally that starting wage is non-negotiable.