Be Prepared, and Ask Good Questions
By Sandy Slager
Chief Operating Officer, MindEdge Learning
It’s graduation season: happy times for many hard-working young adults. And after the party ends and the sun comes up on late May—if you haven’t done it already—it’s time to land yourself a job. With your résumé displaying your newly minted degree, you’re ready to take on the job market. But do you have the interviewing skills you’ll need to stand out from your fellow candidates? Here are six fundamental tips for setting yourself apart as a job candidate.
You shouldn’t show up to any interview without having done your due diligence on the company, its products, its competitors, and its history. Most of this information can usually be found on the company’s website. But by also connecting on social media, looking at consumer reviews, and checking LinkedIn for any connections at the company, you just might be going a step beyond your fellow candidates.
You may be thinking, “I’m applying for a creative job or a technical role, why would I dress up?” And the answer is: because you are trying to impress. They don’t know you, they don’t know how competent you are, and they probably don’t care how cool you are. So, bite the bullet, buy a suit (or at least a professional-looking outfit) and show up clean, well-groomed, and overdressed.
3. Don’t get too comfortable, but be enthusiastic
Your interviewer wants you to be comfortable, but not too comfortable. Even if the environment is welcoming and friendly, err on the side of professionalism. Don’t help yourself to the candy dish. Don’t interrupt the interviewer like you’re gabbing with your best pal. BUT by all means, be enthusiastic. Show your passion for the field and for the tasks at hand. The interviewer wants reassurance that you’ll show up to work happy and ready to self-start.
4. Ask well thought-out questions
Going into any interview, you should be ready for the question, “Do you have any questions?” And there’s no reason your questions can’t be prepared in advance. During your “Prepare” phase, write down at least five questions that show you’ve done your homework. And try to avoid what-can-you-do-for-me? questions like, “What kind of benefits are offered?” or “Can I telecommute?” Instead, focus on the role. Question the methodologies, the culture, the reporting structure. Set yourself apart by engaging in a discussion.
5. Prepare answers to basic questions
It doesn’t hurt to prepare answers to the following basic questions:
- Tell me about yourself.
Although not a question, this may indicate that the interviewer hasn’t read, or doesn’t recall, your résumé. Prepare a succinct answer that hits the mountain tops. Tell the story of your professional growth through time, but remember that you’ll have opportunity to elaborate later—so don’t overdo it.
What made you want to apply to this position?
This circles back to your Prepare phase. It’s an opportunity to paint the picture of how this position aligns with your skill set.
What’s your biggest weakness?
Saying you don’t have any weaknesses is a no-no. You can spin a strength into a weakness, for instance: “I’m very detail-oriented and sometimes I can allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. I need deadlines to keep myself from falling behind.” Or you can actually pinpoint a weakness and back it up with something you’re doing to correct it, for instance, “I feel my experience is thin on search engine optimization, and actually, because of that weakness, I’ve enrolled in a course to build up that competency.”
Why are you looking for a new job?
Do not talk trash in an interview. Interviewers don’t want to have to picture you sitting with your next hiring manager, talking trash about them. If you’re looking for a job because your last company was a disaster, devise a gentler way to explain this. For instance: “I’m looking for a new job because I felt my values were no longer aligned with those of my management team.” Or: “I felt I wasn’t being given the resources to succeed.”
In the experience of this hiring manager, most job applicants do not send a follow-up note—but those who do certainly stand out. Be sure to collect business cards for any staff persons you meet during the interview, and write notes to each person to thank them for their time. Personalize the note by mentioning something from your conversation. Lastly, reiterate your enthusiasm and the alignment of your skill set to the requirements of the position.
Remember, any interview is an opportunity to hone your interview skills. You should take all interviews seriously, even if you’re not sure you’d accept the job. You’ve graduated, you’re armed with your degree, and maybe you’ve even got some experience; interviewing is just another skill you need to develop. Your résumé won’t speak for itself, so speak efficiently and effectively on its behalf with excellent interviewing skills.
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Copyright © 2018 MindEdge, Inc.