Congratulations! You landed an interview for your dream job. While you can pat yourself on the back for getting your foot in the door, don’t start celebrating quite yet. The hard part is yet to come – selling yourself.
I don’t want to scare you, but according to Undercover Recruiter, a third of interviewers have pretty much made up their mind about candidates in the first 90 seconds of the interview. You read that right: you have approximately a minute and a half to convince a stranger that you’re worth it. That doesn’t give you much time to say what they want to hear, meaning much of their judgement is based solely on how you present yourself…what you’re wearing, how you shake a hand, if you make eye contact, or if you seem awkward
There’s a lot that goes into an interview. Non-verbal communication is just as important as your resume and words. Want to get it right? Read on.
The Dos and Don’ts of Interviews
Every interviewer is different, but there are some basic rules a candidate should follow when engaging in an interview. Follow these dos and don’ts and you may be sitting in that corner office faster than you think.
- Do research the company, have a good grasp on their vision and objectives, and do your homework on their competition
- Don’t walk in blind
- Do check your LinkedIn network for any common connections before your interview (everyone loves a name dropper) and consider reaching out to those connections to get any inside scoop
- Don’t go to an interview without knowing who you’re interviewing with and what their role is in the company
- Do rehearse your answers to likely questions, such as, “Tell me about yourself” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses” (tip: saying your weakness is that you work too hard or you are a perfectionist is going to get an eye roll)
- Don’t sound scripted when those questions are asked
- Do come to the interview with your own questions prepared, those that are relevant to the role, organization and culture (this goes a long way to show your drive and effort)
- Don’t ask the interviewer salary/benefit questions, how many hours you’ll have to work, or if you can take off for a four-week jaunt to Mexico (at least not in the first interview)
- Do dress appropriately for the job you want
- Don’t roll out of bed and think you look the part (unless you’re interviewing for the frontman of a band, perhaps)
- Do map out directions to the interview and predetermine parking, ensuring you leave time to spare in case of traffic (and for goodness sake, make sure your car is in good working order)
- Don’t show up to the interview with less than five minutes to spare (you don’t want to be late or look like you had to sprint to get there on time)
- Do answer the questions with specific examples
- Don’t talk in circles to avoid answering the question
- Do ask for the job if you want it and know you’re qualified
- Don’t walk out of the interview without thanking the interviewer for their time and consideration, and asking when you can expect follow up
Stats You Should Know
You don’t have to take our word for it, even though we’ve been interviewing candidates for our clients for over a decade. Look at these stats from an Undercover Recruiter survey of 2,000 bosses and tell us we’re wrong:
- 21% say playing with hair or touching face
- 47% say having limited or no knowledge of the company is the most common mistake
- 67% say failure to make eye contact
- 28% say lack of a smile
- 33% say bad posture
- 21% say crossing arms over chest
- 9% say too many hand gestures
- 26% say a weak handshake
- 33% say fidgeting too much
What Matters Most
- 55% say the way you dress, act, and walk through the door
- 38% say the quality of your voice grammar and overall confidence
- 7% say what you actually say
- 70% say they don’t want applicants to be fashionable or trendy
- 65% say clothing could be the deciding factor between similar candidates
The Whole Package
Keep in mind, the interviewer already has your resume in front of them. Don’t waste the precious 30-40 minutes you have to stand out by rehashing what’s already written on paper. Your goal is to help them see how all those line items has given you the unique experience to exceed their expectations for that specific job.
Your experience definitely matters. If you’re in IT, for instance, they want to know what current technology you are skilled in using and how you’ve used it to do certain things. Get specific. You may be the team member who is looked to as the expert, so let them know you will add value to their team.
You want to be humble, but you’re there to sell yourself, so go for it. They want to see you’re a real person, with humor, warmth and personality. This doesn’t give you license to be a smart ass, mind you. If you aren’t absolutely certain of the humor potential of your interviewer, stay clear from sarcasm. The last thing you want to do is offend.
If the interviewer is good and cares about hiring someone for the long term, they will be looking for more than experience. They will want to be sure you can fit into the company culture as well. They want the whole package, so let them see you bring it, with a smile. All of us have worked somewhere with a person who may have been good at their job, but they caused drama in the office that affected the office mojo. They may have been toxic or simply annoying. A cultural fit matters as much as a skill fit.
One more thing to remember: you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. If you don’t want to be that black sheep everyone gossips about when you’re not around, you want to be sure it’s a place you want to work, too. You want to like the people you work with and you want to feel valued for what you bring to the table. If you’re like the majority of employees, you want to be challenged, while also being supported. You want the opportunity to advance in your career, while also receiving the necessary training to get really good at what you’re asked to do.
Don’t fear the interview. Consider it a fantastic opportunity to land a job, and if not, gain some experience for the next interview and hone your interviewing skills. You may not get it right every time, but if you use common sense, put in effort to prepare, and have measured confidence, you can walk out of the interview with your head held high.