Job Interview 101 (Or, everything you need to know to ace the interview)
If you are called in for a job interview, this means the potential employer has read your application materials and decided you might be a good fit for the job. So, once you get this far, you’re already a good part of the way there.
Here are some tips on how to ace the interview and land the job.
Research the company: Our own internal research repeatedly shows that employers and hiring managers want candidates to research the company before the interview and that most candidates do not do this. Do your research and you greatly increase your chance of getting hired. This means knowing what the company does and the details of the jobs for which you’re applying. Some other things you can try to find out include:
- The company’s mission and values
- What the company culture is like
- Who their management team is
- Who their competition is
- Who their clients are
- How they reach their market
Some ways to find this out include:
- The company website
- Company social media accounts
- Glassdoor – this is a site which compiles employee reviews of and other information about organizations. (https://www.glassdoor.ca/index.htm)
- Corporate blog
- The news
Dress professionally and be well groomed. Dressing professionally may mean different things in different industries. If you’re not sure, it’s best to err on the side of formality and wear a suit or a conservative outfit. Make sure you’re clean and neat. Some might think this advice is obvious but we know that not everyone pays attention to it. Make sure your breath is fresh! Brush your teeth and don’t overdose on cologne or perfume. And don’t smoke beforehand.
Be on time or a bit early. Don’t be late for the job interview. Don’t be too early either. Five or ten minutes early is fine. Make sure you know exactly where you’re going so you don’t get lost on the way (and wind up being late).
Bring a copy of your resume. Bring a printed copy of your resume and of any other documents that might be required.
Be friendly to everyone you meet. Be nice to everyone, including the security personnel, the receptionist, and the person who lets the door close in your face while you’re entering the building. You never know who is watching or who knows who – the guy you snap at because he’s in your way might be the guy you’re interviewing with. Also, it’s just better to be nice.
Offer a firm handshake. Don’t give a limp handshake or grasp someone’s hand so hard you will hurt them if that have arthritis. Be firm and assured.
Smile and make eye contact. Smile! You need to convey that you are friendly and likeable. Making eye contact shows that you are interested and alert. Don’t stare into the person’s eyes though. Just make sure to look them in the eye from time to time.
Prepare to answer the following questions. If you are a newcomer, you might be asked some different questions from what is asked in the usual job interview – about your language skills, perhaps, or pertaining to Canadian experience. Here, however, are a few (not all) of the questions most commonly asked in job interviews.
- Tell me about yourself – Just about every job interview starts with a version of this question. Don’t talk about how much you love cats (unless you’re applying for a job at a veterinarian clinic). Talk about how your professional interests make you the right candidate for the role.
What makes you interested in this job? – Don’t say you need the money. Employers are more impressed with candidates who are passionate about working for them specifically than with someone who is just looking for a new gig. Explain what you think is great about the company or the role, and how the job excites you.
What do you know about our company? – Again, companies prefer candidates who want to work for them, so they look for candidates who have done their research. Talk about the company’s brand, mission, products or services and how you’d like to contribute.
What would you say your greatest strengths are? – This seems like an easy question – you know what you’re good at right? But don’t take this question strictly at face value. Read the job description carefully, and describe an ability of yours that would lend itself to being particularly successful on the job. Just make sure that they’re true strengths. You don’t want to claim to be good at something you don’t actually know how to do.
What do you think are your biggest weaknesses? – It feels like a trap. If you answer honestly, you’re admitting to something that could potentially turn off an employer. If you say “I have no weaknesses. I am perfect,” the employer will know you are either a liar or totally lacking in self-awareness. You have to say something. Think of an actual weakness, something that isn’t an essential requirement for the job, and explain how you became aware of it and are working on improving upon it. This shows that you are reflective, willing to learn, and striving to get better. Don’t say you’re a workaholic or a perfectionist. Everyone says that.
Tell me about a challenging situation you encountered at work and how you handled it? – It’s easy to seem positive and confident when everything is going well. With this question, the employer wants to know how you measure up when things get challenging. Talk about a conflict or setback at work, how you dealt with it professionally, and what you learned from it.
Where do you see yourself in five years? – Depending on the role and the level of the job, you don’t have to pretend that you want to still be in it in five years. Most people want to grow in their careers, and five years has become a long time to stay in one position. Instead explain how the job is the right move for your career growth at this time – and how your excelling at it would make both you and the employer more successful. Show how what you can accomplish, demonstrate and learn in this job takes you closer to where you want to go.
Why should we hire you? – This is an easy one. It’s not a trick question – employers are offering you the chance to sell yourself. Simply explain why you are enthusiastic for the job and how the accomplishments you’ve achieved in the past demonstrate your ability to be great at it. Be confident, but not cocky. Don’t say, “Because I need the job.”
Do you have any questions for me? – This is your chance to take control of the interview. You can often convey your competence and confidence to an employer more impressively with the questions you ask than the ones you answer. Asking smart questions can demonstrate that you have some knowledge of the industry, and that you’re already thinking about how you can contribute to it. Don’t say, “No.” And don’t ask questions such as, “how much does it pay?”; “how soon am I eligible for vacation time?”; or “how long does it usually take to get promoted?”
Prepare stories. For some of the above questions, you will have to have a story ready, such as one about a time you dealt a challenging situation. Make sure you have these stories prepared so you don’t get stuck with nothing to say.
Get the email addresses of everyone you interview with. If you are able, obtain contact information for each person you meet with.
Follow up with a thank-you note. Send a thank-you note afterwards, later that same day. Thank the people who met with you for taking the time to meet with you, and reiterate your interest in the position and why you are a great fit for the job. Keep it short.
Then you wait. If you hear nothing for a week or two, follow up again in an email. Keep that follow up short as well. Just say you were really excited about the job and are hoping that there has been some development. Then leave it. Many employers are very rude and will not let you know that you didn’t get the job. You will never hear from them again. If three weeks passes, you can probably assume this is the case. Move on and keep applying until you are hired.
If you don’t get the first few job, don’t get discouraged. Everyone gets rejected and it’s always difficult. Eventually, someone will say “Yes! You are exactly what I need!”