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If you get selected for an interview, you’re among the top 20% of applicants for the position, which means you still have decent competition. Knowing the best practices of a job interview will help you stand out and make a strong first impression that converts to a job offer.
The top 10 job interview Do’s and Don’ts are
- Do research your employer
- Do set yourself apart in a positive way
- Do approach the interviewer as an equal
- Do set up multiple interviews
- Do conduct yourself in a professional manner
- Don’t speak ill of your ex-employers
- Don’t be unclear in your answers
- Don’t talk more than you have to
- Don’t be passive
- Don’t make a clumsy exit
In this article, we will dive deeper into the interview do’s and don’ts, so you can prepare to make the strongest impression that turns your upcoming interview into a solid job offer. Let’s start with the Do’s of an Interview.
Do Your Research
When looking for a job, the first thing you must do is filter out irrelevant listings and companies. If you do not do that at the application stage, you have to do more research when invited for an interview. Even when you opt for listings directly relevant to your career interests, you have to research the specific company you’re interviewing for. The key things to research include
- The company culture – A company’s values and culture have far more impact on your career and personal fulfillment than the pay it offers. Knowing about the company culture can also tell you how to conduct yourself when interacting with its recruiters.
- Recent news – If the company has had any recent wins, congratulating the interviewer can be a good way to show your research. You can look at the press releases on the company’s website to get this information.
- Salary and promotion trends – Getting the inside scoop on salaries can be difficult, but portals like Glassdoor and other job boards have survey features that give estimates for certain companies. Knowing this will help you make the right ask when compensation is discussed.
Do Prepare Your Value Proposition
While memorizing answers to all potential questions can backfire by making you look robotic, it helps to memorize an elevator pitch for yourself. You must be able to tell the interviewer, in three sentences or less, why you are not just the right candidate for the job but the best one to bet on out of all the applicants. Directly saying that you are better doesn’t work. Instead, you must craft a well-thought-out response. The following questions can help you prepare a good intro.
- What tangible achievement sets you apart from most applicants? “I am better than most candidates” is something almost every applicant is going to say, which is quite ironic. When you set yourself apart from others, make sure you do so by citing something tangible.
- What specific thing can you bring to the position that others cannot? Extending your value proposition by mentioning a unique talent or a preferred rare skill can increase your odds of being selected over other applicants.
- What unique reason interests you in the job, and why are you likely to stick around the longest? The answer to this should be genuine. If you do not want to stick around for a long time or the job does not interest you more than the average candidate, you can skip including this answer in your value proposition.
Do Go In With a Collaborative Mindset
In the section above, we covered having genuine answers, and that’s because you do not want the job at the price of honesty. Sometimes, it might look like a specific job will fix your whole life.
The problem with said mindset is that it doesn’t get results. Companies do not post job ads because they want desperate people. They do so because they need good candidates as much as you need a good job.
Walking in with a collaborator’s mindset acknowledges this equation. If you’re in your head like most candidates, you signal desperation. But when you walk in with a mind open to taking or leaving the job, you communicate authority and competence. Interviewers pick up on this and even try to sell you on the position. To have a collaborative mindset, you must.
- Have a non-negotiable checklist of traits a job/company must meet for you to accept the job. This cannot be faked, so make a reasonable list that you won’t have to compromise.
- Ask questions that help you find out whether the job is worth your time. The interviewer usually asks, “Any questions?” at the end. Most candidates either indicate that they have no questions or ask ones that assume they will get the job. Your questions will set you apart.
Do Schedule More Than One Interview
As stated above, you must look at the job as one of many and be open to taking or leaving it based on what serves you. The best way to do this with integrity is if you already have multiple interviews. In that case, you’re not faking a collaborative approach. You’re genuinely looking at the job as one among a multiple, just like the interviewers are seeing you as one of many.
Do Conduct Yourself Professionally
Just like you will have non-negotiables, the interviewers will have their specific non-negotiables. Some of these are communicated in the job advertisement, while others are mentioned by the recruiter. Regardless of the specific asks, there are a few things almost all companies expect. They are amalgamated into the term “professionalism” but constitute the following:
- Being on time – Be on time when you’re scheduled for an interview. Using your best judgment, you can sometimes excuse yourself when the scheduled time is up, even if the interviewer hasn’t officially wrapped up. This communicates the lack of desperation that helps you get a better offer.
- Dressing appropriately – Not all companies have a suit culture, but it helps to dress in formals instead of informal clothes. The appropriate clothes are different in the creative field. Ultimately, your research helps you realize how you should dress for an interview.
- Having social courtesy – Finally, things like giving people the benefit of the doubt, allowing colleagues to save face in awkward situations, and having empathy in social situations make up the bulk of what gets noticed in your conduct.
Don’t Vilify Previous Employers
The transition from “have the social courtesy” to “don’t badmouth ex-employers” is a reasonable one. Novice job seekers assume that badmouthing a supervisor or a previous employer will get them in the good graces of their next boss.
You must understand that your potential employer relates more to your ex-employer than to you. When you don’t vilify a previous boss, your new boss knows he can trust you with his reputation.
Don’t Be Vague in Your Answers
The number one way to out yourself as unfit for a job is to speak in vague platitudes. While words like “dream big” and “conquer fear” can carry weight coming from a business leader, the same words fall flat when used by a potential employee in an interview. You have to be specific with your answers and avoid unclear answers that might make you look indecisive.
Don’t Talk Incessantly
Silences are uncomfortable, and interviewers know that. Don’t fill the silence by talking incessantly because speaking for longer periods increases the odds of slipping up. Make your answers to the point. That doesn’t mean you must give one-sentence answers. It just means you must know when to stop. Usually, the structure of your answers should be as follows:
- One-sentence answer that covers the essential question.
- A few sentences elaborating on the initial answer.
- A recap of the elaboration i.e. the first sentence reworded.
Don’t Lose Control
It goes without saying that the interviewer usually controls the conversation. But that doesn’t mean you should give up all control and accept whatever way the conversation gets framed. Make a list of things you want to get across, and if no question arises to justify communicating specific achievements, concerns, and accolades, create the opportunity yourself.
Say, “if you don’t mind [interviewer name], I did want to ask/add something, but it didn’t come up. May I?” then proceed to let them know something you want them to know or ask a question you want to be answered.
Don’t Overlook the Exit
Finally, remember that your first impression ends at your exit. It does not matter how well the interview goes if your exit makes the interviewer doubt your authenticity or professionalism. Make a graceful and professional exit but make them think you have someplace else to be. It helps to schedule something right after the interview, so you genuinely have something to look forward to. This keeps you from looking desperate.
Your prime objective in an interview should be to figure out if your relationship with your employer will be mutually beneficial. The Do’s and Don’ts of an interview help you communicate your value while simultaneously figuring out if the opportunity is as good as the job ad makes it look.