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  • Leah Blalock

Interview Tips That Actually Work

Your goal in any interview process is to have the interviewing company take the next step after speaking to you. That next step might be another interview, or it might be a job offer, but you always want to look toward making it to the next step. With that said, you never want to do or say anything that might prevent them from making the decision to continue the process with you. In the end you want to be holding that job offer and have the ability to make the decision that is right for you.

Here are some pointers from me, your external Recruiter. Hopefully already know these, but they are a good “refresher” before going into an interview:

Be on Time. This means be a little early. It is better to sit in the parking lot for ten minutes and walk in a few minutes before your start time, than to walk in a minute late. Know how long it will take you to get to your destination at the time of day you will be going. Plan accordingly.

Dress appropriately. It used to always be “wear a suit” to an interview. Not anymore. In the world of “business casual” and especially in less traditional software companies, you will probably stand out in a suit if all the employees are wearing jeans. That doesn’t mean wear jeans to the interview, but it does mean you should look the part of fitting in with the company culture. Ask your Recruiter what the attire is, and then just take it up a notch. For example, I suggest khakis and a collared shirt if jeans are the daily norm. Also, leave the perfume/cologne at home. Of course there are always exceptions, but this works out just fine the majority of the time. Side note: If you are doing a video interview, be just as mindful about your appearance and what they might see in the background. Be sure you won’t be interrupted or distracted during either phone or video interviews.

Prepare. Read about the company beforehand and know what they do. Don’t do this five minutes before you walk in (they’ll know). Spend a little time learning about the company and really absorb what the company is about, so you can be genuinely interested and enthusiastic. If you aren’t genuinely interested, this might not be a good long-term opportunity for you. Ask your Recruiter about the people you’ll be interviewing with so you know how their role fits in with the company and what you can expect in the interview. If this is a technical interview, there may be a test so don’t be surprised if you have to solve a problem or write some code. Your Recruiter should be able to tell you to expect this.

Let the Company drive the interview. Keep in mind the Interviewer has probably set aside a specific amount of time to get through the interview process and probably has some key questions he wants to ask. It should always be a back and forth communication, but let him drive the agenda. Be careful not to take over the interview to the point that it feels like you are interviewing them. Interact naturally, give well-supported, specific answers, and don’t go off on any tangents. Conduct yourself in a professional, positive and likable way. Make eye contact with your interviewer and stay calm. Obviously don’t use inappropriate language or slang (even if your interviewer does), and try to walk the perfect balance of confidence and humbleness. Arrogance does not go over well. Be positive and avoid saying negative things or things that might prevent your interviewer from wanting to take the next step. If you hear something you are concerned about or not sure about, instead of having a negative reaction, simply keep your reaction neutral and talk over your concerns with your Recruiter. “I’ll certainly take that under consideration,” is a great way to reply to something you are concerned about. Also, don’t throw any past employers under the bus even if it was a bad experience. If you need to convey something that is negative about a past employer or job, try to do it as diplomatically as possible.

Employers look for people who love what they do and get excited by the prospect of tearing into the nitty-gritty of the job. Expressing a technical interest in the opportunity is important. Here are some very common interview questions, so think through how you’d answer these if they were asked: What do you want  from this job? Where do you see yourself in five years? What are your strengths? Weaknesses? What do you like most/least about your current company?

If this is a first interview, that is not the time to ask questions about what your hours will be, what benefits they have, etc. First interviews are for letting them get to know your skills and allowing you to understand more about the job. Ask your Recruiter for details like this.

If they ask about Salary. There are a lot of opinions on this so be sure to handle this the way your Recruiter suggests. As a Recruiter, I have already discussed salary requirements of every candidate I present before he/she ever gets to the interview stage so be sure you are on the same page with your Recruiter. The general rule is to stay flexible. Tell them you are most interested in evaluating the total package. If they don’t bring it up…you shouldn’t bring it up.

Close strong. A great ending question you could ask (only if you are comfortable with it) – “Is there anything about me or my background that you think would prevent me from doing this job?” This will enable you to address any concerns or questions the Interviewer might have. Another suggestion – “What could I do in the first 60-90 days to make the biggest impact in this position?” OR “What would be my top 2-3 priorities in the position in the first 60-90 days?” This shows initiative and also lets you clearly understand near term expectations.

Finally, I always suggest you make this statement to the Hiring Manager at the end of the interview, “I’m really excited about this opportunity and I look forward to taking the next step.” Of course don’t say that if it isn’t true, but if it is, don’t assume they know you are interested. I’ve had clients call me after an interview and say, “Wow, we really liked John, but we just aren’t sure how much he liked us.”

Send a short, well-written follow-up email either directly or through your Recruiter after the interview.

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