20 Practical Interview Tips!

Without further ado, the ‘Interview Tips’ blog is finally here! Frankly, I’m impressed I made it halfway through the year before going with the obvious Interview Tips column. While it’s not the sexiest topic, it is one of the most important.  This is where you win or lose the opportunity.

This will be Part 1 of a 2 Part series. Why? This entry takes you from beginning to end. From the moment you find out you’re getting an interview until you leave the interview. Next week I will focus entirely on how to prepare for an interview. It is too important to squeeze into this piece.

Some of these are textbook. Some are not. Some are obvious. Some are not. I learned years ago not to assume people know all about interviewing. When I fail to go over what I think is an obvious pointer, someone shows up to an interview with a manila folder in a wrinkled suit. Here we go:

  1. Prepare. No matter how good or senior level you are. Prepare. I’ve seen the most qualified person lose out plenty of times to a less qualified, more prepared candidate. Details next week.
  2. Dress Appropriately. This almost always means wear a suit for an interview where you are meeting someone for the first time. That rule has become a little more flexible, especially in certain industries (developers vs accountants). You’ll find different opinions on this but here’s my take: It’s tough to go wrong with a suit. It’s easy to go wrong with business casual or nice jeans. If someone is meeting with one of my clients, I prefer to be part of the decision. I’ve scheduled and received feedback from thousands of interviews so I tend to trust my judgement.
    • Tip: Remote possibility of interviewing soon? Take suit to dry cleaners, now.
  3. Take a professional binder/portfolio. At a minimum, give the impression that you care and can actually take notes if needed. Make sure it’s a professional looking binder, not a manila folder or notepad.
  4. Put extra resumes in your portfolio.(The one on the right, please)
  5. You won’t read this tip in a textbook:  Get your head right! Get your game face on. When I visit a client for the first time, Starbucks and turning up the music puts me in a good mood. I’m ready to smile and have a friendly conversation with a stranger. For some, it might mean complete silence on your drive. You do you.
  6. If it’s a phone interview: Do NOT take the call while driving. Can’t believe I have to include this tip. But, I do.
  7. Be on time. Which means, like your high school coach use to say, be early. If your drive to the interview is smooth sailing…you should be there at least 20 minutes early.  Maybe 30.
  8. Find a restroom in the lobby or hallway before greeting the receptionist. Why? Make sure you look good! Shirt tucked in right, tie straight, blouse not hanging too low, nothing in your teeth, you get the picture.
  9. Be polite and respectful to EVERY employee. Especially the first person that greets you which will probably be a receptionist. You are not better than that person and he/she can eliminate you from the process. Believe that.
  10. Good, firm handshake. Not sure if yours is good? Practice. It matters.
  11. Make good eye contact and greet them politely. Ask how they are doing, how’s their day. And, do it with a smile!
  12. Posture and body language are huge. Don’t slouch. Don’t cross arms. If you cross your legs, keep it professional. Sit up straight. Leaning in slightly shows you’re attentive and confident. To an extent, follow the lead of the interviewer.
  13. Follow interviewer’s lead.
  14. Bring a good level of enthusiasm to the interview. You’ll have plenty of time after the meeting to decide if you want to pursue further: Remember this?  Be All In Until You Are All Out
  15. Be confident, yet humble. Clear, yet concise.
  16. Remember STAR: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Even if the interview is conversational and not completely behavioral based, it’s important to clearly communicate the situation, how you attacked it and the results.
    • Most interviewers don’t expect that you’ve had a favorable outcome in every single situation. Be sure to think of a time when you could have done better.
  17. Ask good questions. Be ready for standard and tough questions. Check out our career center for a great list: Platinum Recruiting Career Center
  18. Close Strong: (Before walking out of the room) Express interest, thank them for their time and ask if they have any concerns with your background. Sound weird to ask about concerns? If you walk out of the room and they do have concerns, chances are slim you will bounce back. If they mention a concern, at least you have a fighting chance while you’re still there. It could just be something that you didn’t have time to discuss.
  19. Thank the receptionist on your way out.
  20. Send ‘thank you’ email within 24 hours. Preferably, same day.

Take care of all these steps? Congratulations, you just had a great interview! I’ll focus on preparation next week. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you regarding additional interview tips or questions regarding pointers I mentioned. Lastly, if you have a funny interview story, do us all a favor and share!

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