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10 Tips to Nail Your Job Interview

You know to show up on time for your interview, to look the interviewer in the eyes, to give a good, firm handshake. Everyone knows that. Likewise, you’re no stranger to the advice about researching the company, asking insightful questions, and thanking the interviewer.

You understand the big picture of a successful job interview. Here are job interview tips to ace the subtle nuances of interviews:

Tip #1: Come with your happy face.

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Interviewing can be stressful and many candidates forget to present the most pleasant version of themselves. Nobody likes negativity (we call them “Negative Noo Nahs”).

Contrary and cynical talk is especially troubling to future employers. When hiring managers hear you disparage former bosses, coworkers, and processes, what they really hear how you will insult them and the company if you were to be hired. Be 100% positive throughout your entire interview.

Had bad experiences? Everyone has and future employers are looking to see how you will handle them. Turn those negative experiences into valuable lessons learned and how you have grown from those experiences.

Example: “When I was a new employee at _____, my supervisor asked me to do ______. I had a gut feeling it was a terrible mistake, but did as my supervisor told me. It turned out to be the mistake I knew it would be. If I could do it over, I’d stand my ground with reasons and research and contradicting my supervisor in the most respectful way possible.”

Tip # 2: Dress the part.

Over or under dressing for an interview can be a disaster! By understanding the environment and dress code, you can do yourself and the interviewers a huge favor. You want to always dress professionally, however over-killing on your look could cost you.

A good rule is to dress slightly nicer than the typical everyday dress at the office in question. If you’re unsure, do some research. Look at the company website for pictures of employees or drive by the office at starting or quitting time to get a feel for the company and culture. If everyone leaving the office is in denim, a button-down shirt with nice khakis (for men) and dress slacks (for women) might be appropriate. If the majority of employees wear business casual, a suit would be appropriate for both women and men.

Tip #3: Stay fresh. Some interviews last all day.

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Clean brushed teeth, a freshly washed face, and, if you are a woman, a retouch of your make-up make you look and feel confident. Keep a small stick of deodorant in your handbag, briefcase, or backpack and reapply during a bathroom break. (Never in front of the interviewer or the company employees.) If you are only going for an hour or so, make sure you have ample time to refresh before you hit your prospective employer’s door.

Tip #4: Keep personal opinions in check.

The last thing you want to do is make that hurtful comment about how you don’t like cats only to find your interviewer has three. The list of possible faux pas are endless, so keep small talk on neutral ground. Personal opinions need to stay personal. Need we say more?

Tip #5: Know your resume.

Surprisingly, many job seekers have a hard time remembering dates or numbers when they are being asked which makes them appear flustered and incompetent. Your resume is about you. It’s not a huge request from interviewers that you should know what is on your resume. Brushing up on your resume’s content and strengths you gained from each job gives you the air of confidence and insight.

Tip #6: Treat gaps in employment and jobs with short tenure with honesty, confidence, and brevity.

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Honesty and brevity are key in explaining short-lived jobs and terminations. Whatever the situation–short time on a past job, being fired, time off for illness or family responsibilities–don’t go into a long story. People don’t need to know how to build a clock. They just need to know what time it is.

Be honest about leaving less-than-ideal situation. Admit some things you should have done differently and explain what you’ve learned. Sometimes it’s just better to admit it was the wrong fit. “I did not vet that company the way I should have,” is a honest answer that shows humility and make interviewers more likely to engage with you. Hiring managers can understand an A player wanting to leave a C situation.

And being fired doesn’t have to be cataclysmic disaster if handled candidly in the interview. I’ve had people look at me squarely in the eye and say, “I was fired. And I think I was fired unfairly.” Nine times out of ten, it’s a really good explanation.

Tip #7: Don’t derail

Interviewer’s’ time is at a premium and you want to be remembered as the candidate who was “right on track.” Candidates often go on too long answering a question, sometimes getting away from the original question and forgetting what the question was to begin with. Trailing off can be an issue if you are in a project management or leadership role and perceived as a weakness.

tip7and8_imageRepeating the interviewer’s question is one strategy to show you’re listening while giving you a chance to think of a response, but don’t use this strategy for every question. There is nothing wrong with a short, thoughtful silence while you consider the original question and formulate a topical response.

Tip #8: Don’t be an overbearing boar.

We get it: you’re smart and accomplished. That’s why you got the interview. But nobody likes a smarty pants. Even if you bring a deeper or more well-rounded skill-set to the table, have humility. It goes a long way.

Tip #9: Remember you’re on their turf

Organizations are protective of their processes and products. Don’t presume to know about the prospective company’s current environment and don’t assume suggestions during a first interview will cast you in a favorable light. Instead, ask questions to understand the processes and projects. These questions allow you to vet the company and understand where you might fit.

If your interviewer asks for suggestions, tie your answer to a past experience. Doing so highlights your expertise and shows humility in being willing to first learn about the project.

Example: “I’d really like to get a deeper understanding of your processes before I give suggestions. In past experiences, our department was faced with ___________ and we implemented. ___________.”

Tip #10 Smile. Really. Smile. But not in a weird, condescending, or creepy way.

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Enjoy yourself and relax. The interview is a chance to network and learn more about your industry. You’re in the interview to vet the employer just as much as they are interviewing you. Smiling and being at ease will help the interview will go so much smoother!