You’ve done it!
You’ve landed the interview for the position you’ve coveted for months, if not years. You start to dream about what it would be like to work there: from the projects you’ll work on to the meetings with head honchos you’ll have, impressing them with your professionalism and wit. You envision all the time and effort you’ll invest into securing your future with this company and maybe even land a corner office some day.
I have no doubt that you’re a bad-ass babe who is capable of killing it in any job, which is why you need to make sure you absolutely shine in the interview.
A lot of job candidates are “good on paper”, meaning they have all the credentials on their resume to catch the eye of any prospective employer. But during the actual interview process that high GPA or having several years of experience in a particular field won’t be as important if you appear unprepared and unaware of your personal attributes and the company for which you are trying to work for.
Here, I’ve compiled a list of important steps to take in order to prove you are the most capable person for the job! Enjoy!
1. Do your research about the company
Many people apply for jobs at big companies based solely on word-of-mouth experiences they’ve heard from others, or about a perception of that company the public has in general.
What some people don’t realize is just how little they know about the company and everything they stand for. So let’s make Google your best friend and get digging for some info!
Many companies have a mission statement or a philosophy by which they try to conduct their business. Many also have philanthropic programs in place for the community or for their employees. For example, Procter and Gamble have put goals into place that address the sustainability of the environment and aim to minimize the negative impact their business has by implementing eco-friendly initiatives. Bank of America has a program called “Neighbourhood Builders” in which they have invested over $220 million in in 49 communities by partnering with over 1,000 non-profits to help address economic mobility and social progress in the community.
Pretty cool, huh?
When you’re applying for a job, it’s important to recognize that you will be representing what the company represents. Being informed of all the company says and does will serve you well when the interviewer asks why you want to work there and you can explain how the company’s values align with your own.
Additionally, some companies may even ask you about your experience with them as a customer or what you think of their website. Often times, they’ll even ask you for suggestions in ways they can improve from your perspective. If you truly have something you think may be helpful, let them know about it. Not only does it show that you like the company enough to use their product or services for yourself but also that you are able to contribute ways to improve the company, a surefire way to impress!
2. Know your responses to the common interview questions…and a few that are unusual
These days, employers are very well aware of just how much info is out there for people to access about how to interview well. There are the routine questions which often look like this:
- What are some of your strengths/weaknesses?
- Why do you want to work here/Why are you a good candidate for this position?
- Tell me about your previous job and what you liked and disliked about it
- Tell me about a time you went above and beyond your job description to [help a coworker/help a customer/get the job done]
- Give me an example of a goal you set for yourself and tell me how you went about achieving it
Of course these are all great questions that are very important in determining whether or not they feel you are prepared and have given some insight as to why you may be a good person for the job
What these questions don’t do is allow an interviewer to see you think on your feet, especially in the face of nervousness and the pressure of having an interview. Most people rehearse their answers to the above questions so much that many people in HR positions have come to know the basic answers them all. By asking “weird” or unusual questions, the interviewer can have a better look at who you are as an individual and catch more of a glimpse of your personality. This website has a great list of these kinds of questions but here are a few below:
- If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
- If you could have dinner with anyone in the world and throughout history, who would it be and why?
- What would you do if you won a $20 million dollars?
- What is your favourite song?
Don’t be afraid to have some fun with these questions! The whole point of them is to get an idea of who you are and assess whether or not you fit into their work culture so make sure you let your sense of humour or love for The Beatles be known!!
3. Dress for the job you want
You might currently work at an American Eagle clothing store, in which it was probably OK to come to the interview wearing a pair of jeans and a nice top. Or maybe you work in the customer service department at a corporate office but are trying to get a job in a creative design field where maybe a black pantsuit will look a bit stuffy.
The point is, you need to do a bit of research here.
For more corporate-type jobs, it is generally recommended to stay on the more conservative side with clothing, hair and makeup. Think blazers and blouses with a dark-coloured pair of dress pants, as an example. With that being said, there is nothing wrong with letting a bit of “you” shine through, perhaps it’s by wearing a bold lipstick or a statement necklace. You want to come across as professional, especially if the job you’re going for will have a lot of interaction with executives or people in the public.
Alternatively, if you’re going into something more creative as I mentioned above, then you want to be able to show that part of you while still looking professional. If you know your workplace is more “business casual” with their dress code, then a fun print or texture on a shirt or a pop of colour with a bright pair of heels/flats may be a great way to convey your sense of style!
Pinterest is amazing for searching out this kind of thing as it will allow you to see looks from people in the business or stylists who know fashion. Either way, have fun with it!
4. It’s all about the wording!
When interviewing, the words you use can be just as important as your resume itself!
For example, when you shake the interviewer’s hand, thank them for this meeting, not interview. Calling it an interview can often reinforce the one-sided “I ask the questions, you give the answers” kind of environment. By calling it a meeting, you are implying the give-and-take nature of a natural conversation when two or more people are in a meeting.
Review your responses to questions to find ways the interviewer might perceive your answers in a negative way. A good example of this is telling the interviewer that you love to travel, which might lead them to worry about you taking large chunks of time off to do so. Try phrasing it in a way that shows them how travel has opened your eyes to culture and diversity and that you would like to continue to have experiences like this in the future. Another example is going overboard when asked what you didn’t like about your previous workplace/boss, which may lead them to see you as a complainer or unable to take any responsibility for negative experiences you’ve had in the past. Instead, state what you learned from any past negative experiences or how you tried to turn it around into a positive experience, which shows problem-solving and growth.
Additionally, you want to make sure that your responses and examples are action-based. This kind of talking can often make people worried about sounding full of themselves but it’s the best way to show how and why you are the best person for the job. For example, it’s all fine and well to say that you’re a highly organized person, but it’s going to have a much greater impact if you say “An example of this would be how I implemented a new filing system based on colour coding for easier and faster access to files”.
When speaking try to watch out for phrases such as “I think” or “I feel”, as they don’t convey as much confidence. Stating “My experience working with suchandsuch has allowed me to develop my strong leadership skills” sounds much more self-assured than “I feel that I have strong leadership skills because of XYZ…”, which sounds more like an opinion than a statement of fact.
5. Sell yourself!
As I mentioned earlier, many of us have a tendency to feel uncomfortable when talking about our accolades and successes. While it’s important not to come of as cocky or a know-it-all, an interview is the time to parade your accomplishments!
If you worked hard to achieve a high GPA while working to support yourself financially, find a way to tie that into the conversation. Maybe you received positive feedback and praise from your boss when you implemented a system to improve efficiency or sales in your department, so tell them about it!
Pointing out your positive attributes and accomplishments lets them know that you are confident in your abilities and shows you know how to find ways to put your skills to good use. You are letting them know that you are driven by goals and success and that you will bring that to your new role so make sure to toot that horn!!
Finally, if you feel at the end of the interview like you would truly be a good candidate for the job, make sure you state that at the end. By saying “I really would love the opportunity to bring my positive qualities and experience into this role” you are confirming that you have liked everything you have heard during the interview and feel like you’d be a good fit. This will reassure the interviewer that you are still interested in the position and would be more likely to accept an offer if it comes your way.
If there is any one last piece of advice I can leave you with, it is to be yourself above all else. Trying to tailor your responses and personality to “fit” into a mould for a job will only cause you and your employer stress down the road because you won’t have truly been a good fit. At the end of the day, they are doing you a favour if they don’t offer you a job because the chemistry isn’t right and it will allow you the opportunity to search for a job that will provide you much more happiness and satisfaction.
If you have other advice or stories to share from your interview experiences please share! Learning from one another is how we can all improve!