Timeless Interviewing Tips Will Make You Stand Out Among the Competition
CareerBuilder released a survey indicating that 74 percent of employers say they plan to hire recent college graduates this year, up from 67 percent last year and the highest outlook since 2007. Despite the fact that the market is trending in their favor, 2017 grads need to realize that competition is stiff for coveted roles (the nation’s unemployment rate is near an all-time low) and that means timeless interview techniques should not – and cannot – be overlooked.
When I was graduating from college and embarking on my first “real world” job search, there was no Internet, LinkedIn or Indeed.com to search for jobs, to research companies or to network for job leads. In fact, most employers didn’t begin posting jobs online or accepting resumes via email until the mid-1990s. So today, when I am asked to provide advice to recent grads on landing that important first job, I have to acknowledge that the process and approach applied to corporate recruitment and job search has dramatically changed. However, there are a few very important things about interviewing that have not. Take this as free advice from someone who has been a professional recruiter and consultant to large companies on all matters related to the recruitment of top talent for over 20 years. The timeless tips I outline below offer good, common sense advice that will help one candidate stand head and shoulders above his/her competition when interviewing for a job. Feel free to pass these along to any high school or college-age kid or early-careerist who is about to join the workforce:
First of all, always do your homework in advance! Visit the company website, review the LinkedIn profiles of the people you are meeting with, read company press releases and annual reports, if applicable. As a good ice breaker early on in the interview, and if appropriate, ask one or two questions about something you saw in the interviewer’s LinkedIn profile that relates to a common bond or interest — i.e. you went to the same school, lived in the same neighborhood or city or earned the same college degree. Sometimes just simply complimenting them on their career successes and asking them what they like most about the company is a good conversation starter. If the timing is right, use the information in press releases and the annual report to formulate future-oriented questions about the company and the direction that it is taking – areas for strategic investment, acquisitions and that sort of thing.
When the interviewer questions you, answer briefly and succinctly and include a relevant example that demonstrates your competencies or skills. Think “STAR” as a way to remember how to respond to questions asking for an example by stating the Situation or Task you had to address, what Actions you took to resolve the situation, and the outcomes/RESULTS. When possible, highlight achievements to support your depth of expertise by citing awards, rankings, recognition received, etc. Also ask questions about the role, the reporting structure, how long the position has been open and why. If it seems that the job has been a revolving door, that’s certainly a red flag and you’ll want to probe to learn more about the cause.
Close the interview by asking politely, but not aggressively, for the job. Ask about the timeline for a decision and what the next steps look like. Don’t hold back on asking how many people are being considered. Let the interviewer know you are very excited about the job and appreciate the opportunity to interview. End by telling them you would love an opportunity to work there and look forward to hearing from them.
Follow up with an emailed thank you and ideally also send a handwritten thank-you letter via snail mail that very same day.
Bottom line, at the end of the day, the purpose of the interview is people connecting to people and determining if you can mutually work together. Do you fit the company culture? And do you have the aptitude to learn new skills OR currently possess the level of experience and critical skills needed to be successful in the role? Some interviews may seem more like an interrogation at the start with interviewers focused on assessing your skills to be sure you meet the minimum qualifications before you both invest more time. It’s your job in the interview to be sure you leave the interviewer with a positive impression of who you are as a person, and you do this by showcasing achievements that demonstrate you have the skills and can be a loyal, reliable, top performing, team oriented employee.