The Top 4 Job Interview Success Tips
By Don Goodman
So you had a professional resume prepared, you passed the initial phone screening, and now you have been invited into your first face-to-face interview with an employer. Here are some great tips that most people do not know that can help you gain a competitive edge.
Before the Interview...
1. Check out the interviewer and the hiring manager.
The more you know about the person who makes the hiring decision, the better you can focus your conversation.
In your phone screening you should always ask for the name of the person the position reports to. Armed with this information you can research their background.
If you are not interviewing with the hiring manager in this first round, ask for the name of the individual(s) who will be interviewing you. Then, do your research about them before the meeting. Where have they worked (did you work for the same or a similar company)? What was their career path (do you have a similar path)? Do you have a school or location in common with them?
This helps you build rapport with your interviewer and remember – people hire people they like. So, your job is not only to impress them with your skills and experience, but also to get them to like you and want to work with you.
LinkedIn will tell you all sorts of information including how long they have been there and where they came from.
Be sure to see what LinkedIn Groups they belong to, who they are following, their interests and projects, whether you know anyone in common, and if they have posted comments and articles.
Also see if they are active on Twitter and check out their tweets as these give a glimpse into their personality.
[For more, read Smart Research: Check Out the Hiring Manager.]
2. Search for former employees.
In LinkedIn you can search for past employees and may also find the person who held the job before. Here you will find a rich source of insights, and information regarding the position, the manager, and the corporate culture.
Regarding the request, the best way to ask for information is to use something like the following:
"I found you on LinkedIn and noticed that your background includes working at ABC. I am interviewing there and wondered if you could answer just a few questions as a random act of kindness. I promise not to take much of your time and thank you in advance."
You can also search your college alumni database to see if anyone worked there. A fellow "alum" is generally more likely to respond to your request than someone with whom you have nothing in common.
[For more, read Leverage LinkedIn for Your Job Interview and Using LinkedIn for Company Research.]
3. Research the company.
Of course you will check the company out by viewing their web site and press releases. You should also see their presence on Twitter (and follow them), Facebook, LinkedIn, and even YouTube. That’s all pretty standard.
Here are some other things you can do, which vary depending on the type of position you are seeking.
If you are seeking a sales position then try to "mystery shop" the company. Just call the company and indicate you are interested in knowing more about their products and services. Pay attention to your conversation with the sales person and see if you can identify any flaws. Then, call a competitor and see what happens.
I know a sales professional who, when meeting with the manager, said "By the way I mystery shopped your firm and your competitors. Would you like to know what I found out?" This caused the interview to go from a 30 minute timeframe to over an hour, and clearly distinguished him from the other candidates.
For a marketing role, try to determine how they generate interest and brand awareness. Check out the web site reviewing the user engagement and experience.
Also look for them on social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc.), and see how many followers, likes and so on they have.
See what kinds of offers and interaction they offer. You can probably see what ad agency they are using by just doing a Google search.
Then, see if you can intelligently comment on what they are doing, and formulate questions appropriately.
- FINANCE / ACCOUNTING
For these kinds of positions, look for their financial statements and press releases. This is simpler for a public firm, but you can find basic information for pretty much any organization.
Check out their key financial ratios, read the Management Discussion & Analysis (MDA) on the SEC reports so you are better armed than other candidates in your discussions.
- HUMAN RESOURCES
You have probably already applied for the position so remember the experience. Was it cumbersome and time consuming? Are there improvements you can imagine? Are they using social media to find talent?
- INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
LinkedIn is a great way to identify the key technologies they are using by simply looking at the profiles of their current IT personnel. See what groups people have joined. Also check out discussions on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Google the name of the CIO to see if they have appeared in articles. Additionally search for articles in Computerworld, CIO, and other leading publications to see what topics they are addressing.
Look for advertised positions on Dice, and note if there are specific technologies or positions they are trying to fill.
[For more, read The 20-Minute Company Research Guide.]
At the Interview...
4. Be prepared.
Did you know that you create a lasting impression in just 120 seconds?
Here are some things you need to consider to impress them.
- Bring copies of your resume.
There is nothing that stalls an interview faster than when the manager says s/he forgot your resume, and you do not have an extra copy.
- Practice your handshake.
Your only and immediate physical intimacy is with your handshake, so practice it on your family members. Good tip: if you are concerned that your palms may be sweaty, sprinkle a little baby powder in your pocket.
- Make eye contact and smile.
Show that you are happy to be there and looking forward to the discussion. People instinctively react well to happy, smiling people.
- Energy level.
Put some bounce in your step. Act like you are excited to be there, and are filled with ideas.
- Dress appropriately.
Do not overdress. You can also call the receptionist and ask what the dress code is. Receptionists generally love to help.
- Be aware from the time you hit the lobby.
Assume you are on camera at all times. Treat the receptionist well as some firms will ask them for their impression.
- Prepare your smart answers to the common interview questions.
Standard questions are usually asked by most employers. Be prepared for those questions by relating your answers to this specific employer, based on your research.
Follow these tips and you will see dramatic improvements in your interviewing and overall job search.
More About Succeeding at Job Interviews
About the author...
Don Goodman is a triple-certified nationally recognized career professional (Expert Resume Writer, Certified Career Coach, and Job Search Strategist) with over 20 years of experience helping thousands of people quickly land their next job. A graduate of the Wharton School of Business and Stanford University’s Executive Program,