What judgments do you want your job interviewers to make about you? Do you want to portray that you are confident or qualified or enthusiastic? Well you can by walking into an interview prepared.
According to a study by Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov in Psychological Science, it only takes 100 milliseconds for a person to make judgments about someone else. And, when participants were exposed to a person for longer, their confidence in their judgments only grew.
The adage goes that you only get one chance at a first impression, and a job interview may be your only chance to make a solid first impression on a potential employer. You can nail your first impression by following these guidelines to prepare yourself for that interview.
Do your research
Nothing shows your enthusiasm to work for a company like knowing the facts. Before walking into an interview, do your research. Research means going deeper than just the company’s website. So, where do you begin?
The company’s website is a good starting place, but it should not be where you stop. Read the company’s mission and figure out how it relates to you. Familiarize yourself with their work. Skim their social media and find their press room to familiarize yourself with their news and accomplishments.
Next, research the people. Some companies have an organization chart of their staff. If there are biographies available, read them to get a feel of who makes up the company. Especially try to locate information on the interviewers. Finding areas of common interest with your interviewers can serve for better small talk than discussing the weather.
Lastly, do some research on yourself. See what your interviewers are seeing. According Jobvite’s 2014 social recruiting survey, 93% of recruiters review a job candidate’s social media and 55% of recruiters have reconsidered a candidate due to what they find. Clean up your social media by looking out for posts with alcohol, profanity, illegal drug references and spelling/grammar errors.
Anticipate questions and practice
Wouldn’t it be nice to have the answers to the questions asked by your interviewer before they are even asked? While this may be impossible, studying common interview questions can help you prepare a few answers ahead of time.
Here is a list of some common interview questions:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What is your greatest weakness?
- Describe your work style.
- What is your proudest achievement?
- Why are you interested in this job?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What other companies are you interviewing with?
This is just scratching the surface of common interview questions. To answer these questions, be honest, be realistic and stay positive. You will want to be specific with your answers, however, if you don’t feel comfortable giving certain details then let your interviewers know. Finally, make sure you relate your skills and accomplishments to the company or job description.
While you can prepare for some questions, you probably won’t be able to anticipate all of them. There are ways you can equip yourself with answer for the questions you didn’t foresee. Before an interview, prepare anecdotes.
Anecdotes are an interesting way to give your story. They convey your key traits by showing instead of telling and help you create connections with the company. The Muse suggests starting with the punch line that brings the main takeaway to the front. Then, build up the context to revisit the main takeaway or challenge. Finish the anecdote with details about how you solved the problem.
You can prepare strong answers for an interview by quantifying your accomplishments. By doing so, you will paint a picture for your interviewer of who you are and what you can do.
“It’s important to quantify and be descriptive of your experiences because that is going to be a snapshot of how that can translate to a job,” Marcus Anderson, a career and academic advisor at JMU, said.
Finally, conduct mock interviews to prepare yourself. Sit in front of your mirror and practice out loud or answer questions with your friends.
Pin down the perfect outfit
Don’t get caught the day of the interview dusting off your suit or trying on your dress only to find it doesn’t fit correctly. Once again, preparedness comes in handy when picking an outfit.
The interview is coming up soon, but how do you decide what to wear? You don’t want overdress and you don’t want to underdress. You can do some research here too. Reach out to a contact in the company or look up images that might hint at their dress code and common colors.
An interview is about you so Glassdoor recommends finding a common ground between your own style and the company’s style. Your outfit is an extension of who you are and how you portray yourself.
Also, don’t forget the small details. Iron your clothes, shine your shoes, give some attention to your nails and check for loose hems. Forbes also suggests making a subtle fashion statement that shows your personality. From an interesting tie to a Mockingjay pin, small decisions like this can be a great conversation starter.
Nail the nonverbal communication
Your body language says a lot about you, so make sure it communicates your enthusiasm for the job.
Start with a firm hand shake and maintain strong eye contact that is not overly persistent. As mentioned above, it only takes it only takes 100 milliseconds to make judgements about someone, so flashing a smile is important in first impressions.
An article by Motto suggests mirroring your interviewer and talking with your hands. Mirroring your interviewer’s movements helps foster closer connections and a feeling of empathy. Talking with your hands helps produce speech, however, movements shouldn’t be erratic or fidgety.
After an interview, thank you notes are important and can even be expected by interviewers. An article by Forbes recommends jotting down notes, interviewer names and questions the moment you return from the interview and before you can forget. These notes can be used to write thank you letters that should be sent out as soon as possible after the interview.
“Email right after the interview and then send a handwritten note to follow up,” Lauren Berger, founder of InternQueen, said.
Thank you notes help you stand out from other candidates and leave a lasting impression on your interviewer.