Your resume and cover letter might be important in landing a job, but the interview is what secures your position with a company. As any job seeker knows, there are a lot of factors that make or break your chance of being hired.
"Interviews can be nerve-wracking," said Michael Steinitz, executive director of Accountemps. "Unlike the resume, which you can review several times until you feel it's perfect, you only have one chance to make a good impression."
Want to secure your dream job? Here are four job interview tips to ensure success.
1. Be prepared
Preparation, or lack thereof, directly affects performance in interviews. If you believe you're the perfect fit for the position, you need to prove it to the hiring manager.
"Employers are looking for candidates who provide the 'wow factor' and can immediately demonstrate the value they bring," Steinitz said. "Showing up for the interview unprepared tells the hiring manager that you have little interest in being hired."
Hiring managers don't always ask you about your resume, though, 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."
If you have any remaining questions, such as what your job will entail and if there is potential for growth, write them down so you can mention them in the interview, Steinitz added.
2. 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 recruiter at Hirewell, 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."
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."
3. Think before you speak
One common nervous habit of job candidates is to answer a question too quickly and ramble, without really knowing where their response is going. This often happens when a person is thinking about how they will respond to the question instead of fully listening to what's being asked.
Bryan Lewis, chief operating officer of Third Bridge, said 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."
4. Always follow up – the right way
When an interview is over, most job seekers know to send a thank-you note within 24 hours via email.
"Always follow up with a thank-you note to each person who interviewed you," said Steinitz. "This professional courtesy is an opportunity to restate how you can contribute to the organization's success and reiterate your enthusiasm for the position."
But a good follow-up is more than just a cursory "thank you." Instead, a candidate should restate their understanding of the job requirements and how they 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."
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.
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.