We recently shared some preparation tips to help you get ready in the days leading up to your next job interview. (If you haven’t read the full blog, check that one out here first.) In this article, we’ll focus on the big day.
Walking into a conference room or coffee shop, or even logging into a Zoom room can be nerve-wracking when your potential dream job is on the line. The interview process is your time to shine and the last hurdle to clear before you cross the finish line — which is hopefully where your future employer will be waiting with an offer letter.
Read on for seven tips for putting your most hireable foot forward on interview day:
1. Be on time (arrive early)
Arriving late to an interview can take you out of the running before the meeting even begins. Things happen — a traffic jam, the train or bus running behind, GPS taking you to the wrong building. Get ahead of these unforeseen circumstances by leaving 15-30 minutes earlier.
If nothing happens and you arrive with no delay, great! You can sit in your car or on a bench outside and take a few extra minutes to read through your notes.
If your interview is taking place via video conference, log into the meeting at least five minutes early. That way, you can ensure the link is working and check your sound. (There’s nothing worse than starting an important meeting with awkward hand gestures because others can’t hear you.)
2. Build rapport with your interviewer
Likability matters in an interview — like it or not. Mind your manners and be polite to your interviewers and anyone else you encounter during the process. Everyone from the recruiter you spoke with on the phone to the receptionist at the front desk may be providing feedback to the hiring manager, so be friendly and courteous to all.
When you meet with each interviewer, greet them with a firm handshake and a smile. If you’re sitting when they come into the room, be sure to stand up to greet them.
As things get started, don’t be afraid to make a little small talk to build rapport and put both yourself and your interviewer at ease. If this kind of interaction is difficult for you, come prepared by doing some homework about the interviewer or their team. Maybe you went to the same college or have an acquaintance in common you could mention. Or, you could compliment them on an award or some good press their team got recently. (If all else fails, you can always talk about the weather!)
3. Listen carefully and respond thoughtfully
During your interview, pay close attention to the questions you’re being asked and listen to the entire question before answering. This sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes when people get nervous, we tend to jump ahead in our minds and start thinking about a response before the other person is done talking.
Take your time answering each question and be thoughtful about it. If you’ve prepared and practiced responses to some common questions ahead of time, those shouldn’t throw you for a loop.
If you get some tougher questions, it’s okay to say, “Great question! Let me think about that for a second.” It’s also perfectly fine to ask them to clarify the question or repeat it back to them to make sure you understand it correctly. They may just need to word it differently for you to better comprehend what they’re asking.
4. Bring your authentic self to the interview
Don’t go into an interview trying to act like the person you think a potential employer wants you to be. Be your authentic self and let your true personality shine through.
Most interviewers are looking for two things: 1) to make sure your skills match the role, and 2) to see if you’ll fit in and complement the rest of the team. Be confident in who you are and what you bring to the table.
Remember, interviews go both ways — you’re evaluating them as much as they’re evaluating you. You want this job to be a good fit for you, too, so pretending to be someone else could come back to bite you down the road. Plus, if they’re not accepting of who you are you probably don’t want to work there anyway.
5. Highlight your problem-solving skills
Problem-solving skills are a core competency most employers are looking for. So in many cases, interviewers are more interested in seeing how you arrive at an answer to their question than the answer itself.
As you respond to questions, explain your thought process and give relevant examples from your own experiences. This demonstrates how you’ll respond to challenging situations on the job and shows you can think critically.
6. Be honest about areas you need to develop and grow
Being confident in your skillset is one thing, but exaggerating your abilities is another. No good can come from saying you know how to do something that you really don’t.
Be transparent about your experiences and the proficiency of your skills. Almost no candidate can check off every single box on a job description and employers will value your honesty.
Any organization worth your time will provide training and professional development opportunities to help you learn and grow. Don’t hesitate to let your interviewer know about any areas you’d like to develop and let them know how excited you are to learn their way of doing things.
7. Seal the deal with a thank you note
Sending a thank-you email or handwritten note a day or two after an interview is essential, and it’s an easy way to stick in the mind of your interviewers. If you met with more than one person, send a personalized note to each individual.
Thank you notes provide a chance to show your appreciation and reiterate your interest in the opportunity. Even if you’re no longer interested in the position after the interview, still send a thank you note — you never know what future opportunities they may have for you or if you’ll meet again down the road.
“Ask during the interview for an approximate time frame of when they plan to fill the position,” says Jennifer Dobel, AKPsi Alumna and Senior HR Representative for Apache. “Depending on their projected timeframe, email or mail a thank you note within 24 hours of the interview. Personally, I prefer the handwritten thank you cards. They make a much bigger impression.”
Get more interview tips on MyAKPsi
Keep leveling up your professional development with Alpha Kappa Psi. Student and alumni members can get additional interview tips and other professional development materials on MyAKPsi.