Imagine you’re in the NFL draft. Scary, right?
Now imagine you’re in a pool of hundreds of other players. Each of you has had decent success thus far in your careers. (Let’s face it, you wouldn’t be here right now if you didn’t.)
Furthermore, you know there’s one team you really want to pick you. To make their decision, they’re relying on what they’ve heard from others, you, and a couple of small clips to determine how successful you may be on their team. And they’re only choosing a select few players.
How does one person even begin to stand out in a sea of qualified individuals? How do you demonstrate your worth in just one assessment? How do you prove to someone you’ve never met before that your previous work, experiences, and success will, in fact, translate to success in your desired profession? Although – I hate to break it to you – you’ll likely never be in a situation quite like the NFL draft, you will likely find yourself asking yourself these same questions before a job interview.
Interviews can be a daunting, even grueling, process for some trying to enter the work force. Whether it’s your first interview or your 50th with years of experience under your belt, people often find it difficult to properly showcase themselves to potential employers. Here are some helpful tips to get you on the right track towards becoming a member of the next SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS TEAM…Oops! I mean, employed:
One of the most overlooked parts of an interview is, surprisingly, what happens before the interview itself takes place.
Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
- Review your resume and make any last adjustments you see fit. You should know your resume like the back of your hand. This is important in case a potential employer says something like, “tell me about yourself,” bringing about a perfect opportunity to share your elevator speech, which can simply be a quick run-down of your resume, granted you know it well.
- Edit, check for mistakes, and repeat. In a pile of resumes, even the most seemingly innocent of slip-ups can be the difference between getting selected or not. You may even want to ask a few trusted individuals to read it over.
- Clean up your social media. It should technically already be clean, but verify everything you post and are tagged in.
Study the Playbook
- It is of the utmost importance to do your research on a company before going in for an interview. The company’s website is a great tool to learn more. Look at its mission and values, as you can relate them to you and your experiences in the actual interview. For instance, if one of the company’s values is their strong ties to the community, you can bring it up in the interview and mention how you liked that they wanted to give back to the community and share similar philanthropic goals as you recently were a part of a “Walk for the Cure” in your town.
- Look at things like their stock price and the goods/services they supply. You want to be aware of what they do and what industry(s) they’re involved with. Look at their recent press releases or even sign up to receive their newsletters.
- Another great tool is glassdoor.com, which provides a window for job searches to get a better idea of what a company is like and the types of questions you may get asked during an interview.
- You might want to scope out the location of the interview so you’ll know where you’re going and/or parking the day of.
- Print out your resume, and print out a lot. You never know how many people you may meet or will be interviewing you while you’re there. Better safe than sorry.
On the day of, make sure you arrive at least 15-20 minutes early to the interview, in a full suit with your resumes and whatever other materials you see fit.
- Make sure you firmly shake everyone’s hands and make an effort to try and remember their names.
- Maintain good posture throughout the interview. If you don’t look confident, an employer won’t assume it.
- Speak clearly and slowly. Often, when nervous, people speak too quickly for the interviewer to understand. Make a point to take full breaths between sentences as a cue to slow yourself down.
- Think about your answer to the question before answering right away. It’s okay to take a second and gather and organize your thoughts for a well-constructed answer.
- Make eye contact.
- Take notes. Throughout the whole interview you should be taking notes when appropriate. This shows you’re genuinely interested in the position and company, and it is also good to reference back to when it’s your turn to talk.
- Try to keep from fidgeting. It’s distracting, unprofessional, and highly unlikely your ability to click a pen 2,000 times in ten minutes qualifies you for the position. Two great ways to prevent this is by taking notes and using your hands while talking. This keeps your hands occupied without being overly-distracting.
Often during an interview, you’ll be asked questions like, “Tell me about a time when…” or “Have you ever… and if so, how did you deal with it?” These are what we call situational questions. The interviewer asks these not to know if you’ve ever faced a challenge or worked with a difficult group in school because, quite frankly, I’m sure everyone has, but to see HOW you problem solve and overcome conflict. To conquer questions like these, follow this commonly used format known as the S.T.A.R. method:
- Situation: Provide a decent amount of background information and detail to give the interviewer context
- Task: Clarify the task at hand. What exactly needed to be done?
- Action: Explicitly describe what you did to overcome the challenge. Explain your thought process in determining the proper action taken.
- Result: Describe the outcome of the problem and what you learned from the experience. You can even include things you might have done differently or even how you’ve grown and know what to do now, in dealing with similar situations.
If ever asked a question about your greatest weakness, don’t tell them how perfect you are, but also don’t tell them all your flaws. The best way to approach this is by providing a flaw that isn’t necessarily a flaw and show how you’re working at fixing it. Some examples of this include:
- Perfectionist – This just means you can fuel that into your work, but explain how you’re working at reaching out to others if you’re perhaps spending too much time on something.
- Very young or inexperienced – Explain how you’re a quick learner and eager to gain knowledge to be better.
- Invest too much of yourself into work – Shows dedication and willingness to work hard, but explain how you might work at stepping back to see the big picture and balance all aspects of your life.
Most Importantly, Be Yourself
Be personable and be you. Although this may seem like an easy task, it can be quite difficult to do under game-time pressure.
Once the interview is over, you will usually be asked if you have any questions. Always ask questions. This is a perfect opportunity to go back to your notes and ask for clarification or more information about something a recruiter mentioned. Your questions should be well thought out and demonstrate your eagerness to learn more about the company.
- When you’ve finished asking your questions about the company, ask what the next steps in the interviewing process are and when you expect to hear from them next.
- Before leaving make sure you shake the interviewer’s hand(s) once more.
- Be sure to send a thank you letter/email to whomever interviewed you a day or two after the interview. Here is your last chance to make an impression before a decision is made. Thank them for their time and if he/she mentioned any professional or personal details about themselves, it’s nice to mention them again to show you were listening and care, whether it be “Hope your work load is lightening up this week” or “Have fun at that Redskins game!”
If you can successfully carry out these tasks, you’ll be on the right track to nailing your interview. However, a great interview is not limited to just these tips. Do your own research and find more ways to separate yourself from the playing field and score that dream job. Touchdown!
Written By: Grace McDonald | Audit Intern