No matter your age, interviews can be nerve-wracking. Here are some tips for shining a positive light on your candidacy.
First, forget your agenda which is getting a job. Instead, think about the interviewer’s agenda which is to find the right person to solve his problem or challenge. Before the interview match the hiring manager’s needs to your background and experience. Focusing on the employer’s needs will force you to answer the often unasked but top-of-mind question, “What can you do for me?” If you fail to answer this question adequately, you are out of the game.
Review the job description and identify the top skill and experience requirements. These are what you are most likely to be questioned about. Brainstorm possible questions and responses. Develop multiple stories (from work or school) that reflect your ability to get the job done. You can’t share the same example over and over and expect to land the job.
Work the bugs out of your presentation before you get to the interview. Preparation goes a long way. Practice aloud, in front of a mirror and record your responses on your phone or tablet, or role play with a coach or mentor. You don’t want your presentation to sound memorized so don’t get stuck on coming up with just the right wording. Instead, focus on framing your response to showcase important skills.
Before the interview check out the employer’s “PR,” “News” or “About Us” section their website. Use this information to inform you of recent successes and possible opportunities or trends. Throughout the interview listen, be curious and ask questions that reflect your preparation.
Use your response to the “Tell me about yourself” question to demonstrate that you are ready to hit the ground running. Skip the “I was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio and earned my civil engineering degree from San Jose State.” Instead highlight relevant experience that shows that you have what it takes to be successful.
Bring a leave-behind to every interview. Most candidates won’t bother to create something unique that highlights their expertise. Doing so will help you stand out from your competitors. Consider creating a “how to” checklist, writing a short article on a relevant topic, or developing sample social media posts. The sky is the limit. Be creative!
Have a solution to your Achilles’ heel. Before the interview figure out the most likely weakness in your candidacy. Next, determine what experience, skill or personality trait is most likely to make up for it. Practice responding to the interviewer’s objection with, “You’re right and because of my X skill (Y expertise or Z personality trait) that won’t be a problem.” Don’t rely on your ability to wing it. You want to have this answer down cold.
Before you leave the interview ask for feedback on how your skills/experience meet their needs. Listen and respond appropriately. If there is a misperception about your candidacy this is the time to rectify it. Ask about next steps in the process and when/how best to follow up.
Send a well-thought-out thank you note highlighting relevant skills and experience. Make no mistake, a thank you letter is a second sales opportunity. Use it to your advantage.