As any job seeker knows, the interview is usually the "make it or break it" point that determines whether you get hired. Therefore, it's crucial to be as prepared as possible and to give your potential employer a great impression. What can you do to make sure your meeting with a hiring manager goes well? Here are a few smart tips from hiring and career experts to help you ace your next job interview.
Be prepared for different types of interviews
In the past, you could be fairly certain your interviewer would ask you to share a little bit of information about yourself and ask you to discuss points on your résumé. Today's hiring managers don't always run their interviews this way, so you need to be prepared for alternative types of questions.
"Behavioral interviewing is a pretty common technique among hiring managers," said Joyce Maroney, director of The Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc. "That means fewer questions involving recitation of your accomplishments and more about how you produced a particular result and what you learned from that experience. Prepare yourself by reflecting on your key accomplishments and ... what you learned from each."
"Candidates need to be open to experiencing different types of interviews," added Cristin Sturchio, global head of talent at business research company Cognolink. "[They need to] think quickly on their feet to answer any question asked, whether it's on their résumé or not. Be prepared for anything that comes at you." [8 Things You Should Never Do During a Job Interview]
Go for a hard sell
While a job interview is an opportunity for you to see if the company is the right fit for you, its primary purpose is for you to sell yourself as the best person for the position. Richard Maltz, senior corporate account manager at talent management firm Instant Technology, reminded candidates that their qualifications alone won't get them a job offer.
"An interview is really more of a sales pitch in which you are both the sales person and the 'product,'" Maltz said. "You need to be able to articulate your value as an employee through examples and accomplishments that match up with what the position's and company's needs are."
Of course, as most job seekers know, it's also wise to do your research on the company before the interview, Maltz added.
Tony Beshara, owner and president of recruiting and placement firm Babich & Associates, said that candidates shouldn't be afraid to sell themselves strongly and aggressively.
"They need to ... convey what they can do for the company that nobody else can," Beshara said. "The best way to do that is to share previous experiences and tie success stories to what they can achieve in the new job. That means knowing their strengths with regard to the open position, and selling any features, advantages and benefits that would apply."
Think before you speak
One common nervous habit of job candidates is to answer too quickly and ramble on, without really knowing where their response is going. This often happens when a person is thinking about how he or she will respond to the question instead of fully listening to what's being asked. Bryan Lewis, chief operating officer of Cognolink, said that thinking about your answer thoroughly before speaking — even if it means there's a moment of silence after the question — shows that you're present and paying attention.
"Candidates shouldn't feel the need to immediately speak," Lewis told Business News Daily. "Think about the question you're asked, and ask clarifying questions to prove that you're practicing active listening."
Always follow up — the right way
When an interview is over, most job seekers know that it's polite (and improves your chances with a hiring manager) to send a thank-you note within 24 hours via email. But a good follow-up is more than just a cursory "Thank you for meeting with me." Instead, a candidate should restate his or her understanding of the job requirements and how he or she can fill those needs, Maroney noted.
"During your interview, you should have picked up on specific objectives the hiring manager has for the position," Maroney said. "Give them something that will remind them why you'd be successful in meeting those objectives — especially if you've given it more thought and have a new thought, idea, perspective or solution."
"Based on what they spoke about in the interview, candidates often send collateral material to the hiring authority, such as short- and long-term plans for what they would accomplish if they got the job, and marketing plans they have developed in the past," Beshara added.
Maltz recommended asking about the interviewer's timeline in making a decision. That way, you can time your follow-ups based on their timeline to avoid overcommunicating.
"The goal is to keep yourself in the hiring manager's mind but not to the point of being bothersome," Maltz said.
Finally, consider sending an additional handwritten note to the interviewer after your email follow-up has been sent.
"We had a candidate who sent a handwritten note on personalized stationery and hand-addressed it," Sturchio said. "It really caught our attention. Anything that can get you to stand out is great."