Interview tips to help you get the edge on your competition

appearanceIt seems everyone has some sort of tip for interviews, however, some are better than others. I’ve been on numerous (professional job) interviews, have made several mistakes, and I’ve learned a bunch that I want to share with you. I landed a job I clearly wasn’t completely qualified for by doing the below. Seeing that I’m a guy, some of these tips will help men more than women, regardless this will help the ladies too.

In no particular order (some of these might be obvious but they’re worth restating):

  • Arrive on time, there’s no excuse for being late whatsoever.
  • Dress up and be clean shaven (this doesn’t mean you have to lose the goatee or beard either). Just any old sport coat and slacks and tie won’t work, you need go with black slacks and a black coat, you can vary the shirt and tie to show style or your own touch. You only have to button the top button of the coat! Borrow something from a friend or family member if you have to, heck, buy something and take it back after the interview if you have to. If you get the job, dress for the next position you want in the company.
  • Clean and shined shoes is a must.
  • Don’t wear cologne or perfume or smell like smoke. Wear antiperspirant or something that doesn’t smell. Don’t come into an interview smelling like cigarette smoke – chew nicotine gum before if you have to. Don’t wear an undershirt if you sweat too much either.  If they ask you if you smoke, tell them you quit recently (some employers test for nicotine use though – you can find out on their website).
  • Dry your hands before shaking hands with others (if you sweat). Shake with a firm grip, not a weak flimsy grip.
  • Be knowledgeable about the position and company you want to work for. You don’t have to know everything, but you should spend half an hour to an hour learning about their products or services and top dogs. Know what will be expected of you and be ready to answer  – even if you don’t have the necessary experience.
  • Know who you’re meeting with beforehand, and their role in the organization. Have some questions ready for each of them, such as, “In what respect would I be working with you, How would you describe the company culture, what do you like most or least about your job.” You should have questions for these people, unless you’re willing to take anything this is as much about you finding the right company to work for. It doesn’t make sense to take a job just to quit a month or two later because you’re miserable.
  • Be confident you’re going to get the job, but not cocky.
  • Bring something to write notes on. Don’t write down everything they talk about in the interview, rather key points that you want to communicate back in your thank-you letters. Get each person’s email address for thank you letters.
  • Be enthusiastic, but not burdensome. You’ve got to show that you’re outgoing (depending on the role) and can jump right in to working with others. As well, you must ensure to them that you work well with little supervision.
  • Think of examples to share before hand of accomplishments you’ve made, as well as mistakes you’ve made and how you overcame them.
  • If you don’t have complete experience in the job you’re applying for, emphasize your ability to learn quickly on the job. Emphasize your desire to keep learning and bettering yourself through continual growth in education and experience. Know what you want to do in 5 to 10 years. Anticipate your career path and communicate it well.
  • Avoid using buzzwords to make yourself sound more intelligent.
  • Show how what you’ve done in the past has helped to increase the bottom line. At every opportunity, show things that you’ve done to help cut costs and or increase profits in your past jobs. Make them feel that you will pay for your salary by process improvements, and how you have a knack for finding solutions through working with others.
  • Be happy and nice and make eye contact with the interviewer. If the person interviewing you doesn’t, it’s OK, be attentive. Listen to what they’re saying to you.
  • Avoid talking about your salary expectations by saying you’re more interested in finding the right job. Another method would be to tell them that it depends on the expectations and requirements of the job and until you learn them then it’s too difficult to give them a number. Get the job first, employers will be much more willing to negotiate salary if they want you, believe me.
  • Sell yourself. This means inject your past experiences as the interviewer brings up questions. For example, they may ask you what experience do you have in dealing with customers. You’re response shouldn’t be a blanket statement, such as, all my customers love me. Rather, give examples of problems customers had and how you helped them resolve the situation to their satisfaction while keeping the companies profits in mind.
  • Keep the attitude that the company interviewing must sell you on the job too. This is supposed to be two parties coming to an agreement to work together, not just one party wanting to work with another.
  • Treat the receptionist the same way you treat the hiring manager, and everyone in between.
  • Send thank you letters via email within 48 hours, the faster the better. In your thank-you letters talk about points each person brought up, and how you can help to solve their problems. Even send the receptionist a thank-you letter. Don’t use a boiler plate letter to each person, write out individual letters to each person – none of them should be the same.
  • Make it seem like you’re in demand and have a few other interviews, don’t be afraid to share the fact that you have another offer on the table too. Create an outside demand for yourself and make the interviewers think they will lose you if they don’t act quick.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask when you can expect to hear back from them. Find a point person to keep in contact with, but only bother them when a deadline for them calling you back has passed. Push the envelope if need be, but only if completely necessary, by this I mean tell them you’ve got another offer and you need to know where they stand, because you’re extremely interested in their position, maybe more so than the offer you have on the table.

The above list should give you a great head-start on your competition. Don’t fret if you don’t get the job right away. It takes time and patience and rehearsal, sometimes through screwing up, before you’ve got your game down. Always shoot high for yourself, meaning take the interviews for jobs you’re not completely qualified for. It’s worth the shot, I’m living proof. Good luck!

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4 Comment

  1. Ken says:

    Wow…what a comprehensive list! This all sounds great. I’d gladly share it with anyone I know. Good job.

  2. FinanceDad says:

    Thanks Ken.. I plan on sharing more specific thoughts and techniques in the future, specifically on how to give your resume an edge on your competition. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Thank you for putting this together! I had an interview this morning, and this list was a great help.

  4. FinanceDad says:

    My pleasure. I learned the hard way, so I’m hoping I can help others avoid that. Still, a lot is learning on your own through making mistakes. Shoot for the sky, you’d be surprised. Thanks for your comment!

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