- Ask relevant questions.
- Know your value and demonstrate that value.
- Demonstrate problem solving skills.
- Have solid answers ready.
COVID knocked us for a loop. While there’s always been stiff competition when interviewing for a job, recently, the competition has gotten stiffer. Too many people lost their gainful employment with the pandemic’s crushing blow. This means even more people will be vying for the same position and hoping to land the job. Are you ready to up your game?
So, what can you do to stand out in the crowd? Understanding the difference between an average interview and a great interview can help you narrow the gap.
When delving back into the job market, preparation is key to getting a step up. What will you offer that other candidates can’t? How will you answer certain questions? What soft skills do you bring with you? Let’s take a look at 11 tips that can help you not only have a great interview but give you a good chance at landing the job.
Interview Tips to Help You Land the Job: 11 Tips to Get an Edge Up on the Competition
1. Ask relevant questions. When you’re in the process of being interviewed, there usually comes a point where they’ll ask if you have any questions about the position you’re applying for. Saying no isn’t a great way to close the interview. Instead, ask the right questions which show you take the process seriously and want the job. This back-and-forth engagement is not only important, but also allows you a chance to show your value to their company in the answers you give. Of course, always come prepared having researched the company, position, and what the competition may be like.
Here’s a list of nine questions to ask during your interview. You don’t have to ask a lot of questions but having a couple in mind is a smart move.
- What type of work culture and values does the company hold?
- Is there opportunity for growth?
- What will my day to day responsibilities be?
- What challenges do you feel come with this position?
- Do you think I’m right for this role?
- How does this position fit into the company’s overall plan?
- What do you like best about working for this company?
- What benefits come with working here?
- How does the company measure success with their employees?
2. Know your value and demonstrate that value. It’s not enough to simply go into the interview with confidence. Remember, there’s a lot of competition. This is about communicating your value and letting the hiring manager know that you’re the right candidate for the position they’re trying to fill. If you’re a great fit, you’re going to benefit their team in reaching their business goals. It’s important to stand out amongst a sea of candidates. You do that by communicating your value, plain and simple. Leave no question in their mind that you’re the right person for the job.
3. What soft skills do you have that are easily transferable? Did you know that more and more companies are looking for increased soft skills that may not be listed in the job requirements? These are the type of skills that everybody appreciates. Expressing that you bring these qualities with you is a smart move. It shows you bring added benefit.
There are changeable lists when you do a search on commonly needed soft skills, so we’ve grouped them together with the different wording to make it easier to see that they can sometimes mean something quite similar.
- Creativity/Recognizing Creative Solutions
- Communication/Conflict Management
- Critical Thinking/Problem Solving
- Adaptability/Growth Mindset
- Organization/Time Management
- Emotional Intelligence
- Responsibility/Work Ethic
- Social Skills/Culture Awareness
4. Demonstrate problem solving skills. Problem solving skills is an important asset you can bring to the company you’re applying to. Being able to show that you have this soft skill adds value and shows you are able to work through issues as they arise. How do you do this? You can use one of two methods to easily show this skill. Let’s look at two acronyms that can help you recognize the best way to demonstrate you’re a strong problem solver.
- STAR: Specific, Task, Action, Result. In this instance, you’ll discuss a specific situation (not generalized), what task needed to be accomplished, what action you took, and the final result which shows the outcome and success of how you handled things at the time.
- PAR: Problem, Action, Results. This is another easy to remember acronym which shows you how to position your answers. You speak about a problem that occurred, the action in which you took, and the final results from taking that action.
- Note: they both do a similar thing. You’re pinpointing a circumstance, you demonstrate you were able to handle the situation as it came about, and that with your problem- solving skills, you delivered a solution that had a positive outcome. This positions you as the hero of the story, but also shows them you are capable of tackling problems with a solid thought process.
5. Show them you want the job by asking for it. This is not a plea of desperation. Rather, it’s showing you’re genuinely interested in the position and working for their company. Tell them that you’d love the opportunity to work with them, and don’t leave a question in their mind that you actually want the position if it’s offered to you.
Nothing says lack of interest more than a lukewarm response. In essence, it’s the same as asking somebody how you look, and they say “fine,” when what you really wanted to know was that you look okay for whatever situation you’re about to attend. Think about a bride on her wedding day, walking down the aisle, and asking her partner how she looks. Fine. Show genuine interest—don’t fake it.
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6. Make sure to answer the questions that the hiring manager is thinking in your answers. There may be hints or implied questions that the manager may be thinking but won’t come right out and ask. We’re not talking about sensitive questions about your health, race, or religion. Rather, when they ask an implied question, it suggests they’re looking for a specific type of answer.
It is suggestive in asking for a specific answer. Example: Don’t you agree that a strong team starts with a strong leader? This isn’t the time to argue otherwise. Another would be, I find arrogant people difficult to work with, don’t you? They are looking for you to agree with them. But, be cautious in what you say and how you say it, regardless. They are measuring your response. Be tactful.
7. Have solid answers ready for the top 10 common interview questions. This doesn’t mean you’ll be asked each of these questions, but they are brought up enough times that they make the list. By taking the time to know what you’ll say when asked these questions before the interview, you won’t be caught off guard, and can curate a thoughtful and smart response.
- Tell me about yourself. Make this about the job, more than about you. Explain why you’d be a good fit for the position.
- Why are you the right candidate for this job? This speaks to your qualifications, and how your experience and knowledge makes you the right person for them to hire.
- Why do you want to work for our company? Do your research before going, and make sure you know who they are, what they stand for, and what they do. It shows you know more about them, and then explain why you’d fit into their company well.
- What are your weaknesses? Turn a negative into a positive. Example: I tend to drive myself hard and push until a job is complete, but it’s because I’m determined to do a stellar job.
- What are your strengths? This plays into job qualifications and wanting to be certain you can do the work. This is a great time to show them with an example of something that went well in a previous job and how you handled the situation.
- Why are you leaving your current position? Be honest, be tactful, and use common sense.
- Where do you want to be when it comes to salary? Don’t overprice yourself so much that you’re no longer in the running. Look at what the average salary is for the position, and mention that you’re open to negotiating your salary.
- Tell us about a difficult situation and how you handled it. An important piece of this interview question is on how you choose to word the circumstances of the problem. How did you handle it at that time, and how do you look upon it now?
- How do you handle pressure like deadlines? Stress is a part of everybody’s life. There’s no escaping it, but how you react to stress says a lot about who you are. Think of an answer that shows that while you understand a situation is stressful, you have smart ways to cope with that stress.
- Where do you see yourself in five years? This gives them a way to see if you’re looking to remain long-term, or are you planning on jumping to the next good thing that comes along. It’s important that they understand your long-term goals are to remain with the company. They don’t want to pay a fortune to get a solid employee trained, only to lose them not long after. It’s a waste of time and money on their end.
8. Understand what case interview questions are. Be prepared to ace them. The case interview format is a newer trend. They often come up for certain fields that require analytical thinking such as jobs that deal with finance or consulting. The hiring manager wants to know that you can think both creatively and can demonstrate key skills that will help in the position you’re applying for.
Case interview questions tackle analytical thinking and situational cases. When you’re discussing your answers, be sure to explain why you did what you did with the outcome. This is about problem solving, plain and simple.
Here are some examples:
- There may be questions about a company that’s spiraling and in financial trouble. They’ll want to know how you’d handle the situation.
- Another type of question they might ask is how you’d advise a declining company that wants to expand market to deal with competition in their industry.
- They might also ask something along the lines of how you would guide and help a start-up business that needs faster growth.
- Take the time to prep and answer practice questions. By being strategic about your answers, and knowing a clear way to respond, it can help you confidently answer the case interview question during the actual interview.
- Use structure when answering questions and learn to follow a pattern of success.
- You want to answer the question they asked, not what you think they asked. Take a moment and clarify by asking a question, finding out exactly what they want to hear.
- Take a moment to think of the best response, before simply blurting out a fast answer. Consider what you want to say and how you want to say it.
- Wrap up your answer to their question with a conclusion which actually answers the question. Don’t go off on tangents. Stay focused on the question at hand.
9. Closing questions. When the interview comes to a close, take a moment to ask a final question. One, it shows you’re interested in the position, and two it helps pinpoint if there’s something that might have been missed during the interview. There may be something they were hoping to discuss that didn’t come up. Ways to handle this are by asking one or two closing questions.
- When can I expect to hear back about the interview?
- Is there anything else you need from me?
- Are there any questions you think I should ask?
10. Send a handwritten thank you note. People hear this advice, but many blow it off, thinking it’s an unnecessary step. You thanked the hiring manager for their time. That was enough, right? Here’s why you want to send a thank you note after your interview. It will accomplish a couple of things.
- A thank you note will help them remember you, and make you stand out. They probably interviewed multiple people, and you want to be somebody they remember. This small step sets you apart from the others. It shows you’re thoughtful, professional, and smart in taking this extra step. It’s strategic, as well as showing you pay attention to detail.
- It also allows you another chance to show the hiring manager that you’ll be able to add value to their company. By including a note with either a specific piece of information, or even a couple short bullet points about why you’d be a good fit, you’ve reminded them you’re a good match for what they’re looking for and again showing genuine interest in the position.
11. Follow up. Just as you prepped before the interview by researching the company, and knowing what’s expected of the position, cap off the interview with a solid follow up plan. Before leaving, you’ll want to ask when somebody will be contacting you. If you’ve not heard from anybody by a certain point, it can be smart to make a follow-up call, showing them that you’re still interested in the job. This is not about badgering them. If they said they’d call at noon on Monday and the phone doesn’t ring, don’t call them at twelve-thirty wondering where they were. Be realistic, and understand things come up. Give them leeway to respond before being the person that is a nuisance and calling each day to hear. This leaves a bad impression.
We’ve covered more than ten ways to ace your interview, with specific examples. There’s a lot of information to take in. Let’s break these tips down more concisely as a quick reminder of what we covered.
- When asked if you have any questions, have one or two relevant questions in mind you can ask in return which allows you to show interest, and learn more.
- It’s important to demonstrate your value as a potential employee. Don’t just say you’re a creative thinker or have strong communication skills, show them an example of how you’ve used those skills in the past.
- Show them you have transferrable and much sought-after soft skills, such as being a team player, are good with critical thinking, or that you have a strong work ethic.
- STAR (Specific, Task, Action, Result) and PAR (Problem, Action, Result) are both solid ways to show you’re good at problem solving, a skill that’s critical to companies.
- Asking for the job shows you’re genuinely interested in the position. You’d love the opportunity to work for them, and by coming out and letting them know, they know they aren’t wasting their time.
- Understand implied questions and use the subtle hints that the hiring manager may use to answer questions to show them what they want to hear.
- Prepare for the most common interview questions by having a smart response that is well-thought out. Practice these beforehand.
- Know the proper way to structure and strategically answer case interview questions.
- Ask closing questions which allows you to make sure something wasn’t overlooked, and to again show your genuine interest in the position.
- Send a thank you note, thanking the hiring manager for their time, while also showing and reminding them how you’d add value to their business.
- Follow-up after the interview within a proper amount of time if you haven’t heard anything. No badgering the witness!
Are You Ready to Ace the Interview?
Take a deep breath. It was a lot to go over. Congratulate yourself for getting through the entire thing. It shows you take the interview process seriously. This is great, because it shows you understand the need to prepare for something important.
One more thing worth mentioning again is the importance that goes into researching the company, industry, and competition. This helps you know not only who they are and what they stand for, but what products or services they offer. Take time to see what they say about themselves on their website, and what outside sources may say about them. Going in prepared is important. They will most likely ask you information about their company, so make sure you’ve done your homework. The time you spend investigating your potential employer will help you construct concise, strong answers that don’t leave you fumbling.
Also, just because there’s a lot of competition for employment, doesn’t mean you can’t have a winning edge. Not everybody will take the time to prep or think about the steps we’ve gone through. Now, imagine you’re the hiring manager, and during the interview people stumble with how to answer certain question like case interview questions. Or maybe they don’t ask closing questions and are in a hurry to get out of there. How will that look to the employer?
Another important aspect of the interview worth mentioning is body language. Confidence is important, and that includes things like eye contact when talking, and appropriate gestures. Slouching and shrugging are not flattering in a business environment. Posture speaks to others. It’s like the way somebody folds their arms over their chest or fidgets while speaking. They send small signals to the other person, whether you intend them to or not, and they are left to judge your reactions. Non-verbal cues are just as important as verbal cues.
Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. Would you want to hire you? Give yourself the best chance by being the candidate they need. Demonstrate your value, show your interest, and be confident with your well-considered responses. You’ve got this. Yes, there’s competition in the field, but it doesn’t mean you’re not the perfect person for the job. You stand as good of a chance as somebody else. By getting a step up, you’ll shine head and shoulders above the rest. The key to landing that job is by carefully preparing for your interview. Now get out there and get that job!