Interview – What to do on the big day?

Arriving at the interview without being fully prepared is a rookie mistake. You only have one shot at making it to the next step in the hiring process. Be at the top of your game and make sure you follow these steps.

1. Research everything you can. Don’t wait for the interview to learn about the company and people. Before the interview, research competitors, financial performance, culture, management style and who your colleagues may be. Thanks to the Internet, you can uncover a treasure trove of information about companies and people. Visit the company website to see which news it’s sharing about itself, but don’t stop there. Look up the people you’ll be interviewing with on LinkedIn. Ask for their names when you schedule the interview. If you can’t get a name, at least research people in the department or with similar roles. You can also use Glassdoor to see if any employees have reviewed the company. You may even find interview questions the company has asked in the past. Talk with people you know and ask what they know about the company. And don’t forget to talk with current and past employees about what they liked about working there. The more information you know about the company going into the interview, the better. The questions you ask will be stronger, and you’ll come across as prepared and professional.

2. Prepare answers. You can’t predict every question you may be asked during an interview, but you can anticipate some. One of the easiest ways to identify potential interview questions is to review the job posting line by line. Each requirement is a potential question. For example, if a post states, “Manage client relationships and develop relationships to ensure project success and client satisfaction,” you will certainly be asked about your skills managing and developing client relationships. In order to answer this question, think about a specific instance at work when you successfully managed a client. Your example should include how your outcome improved client satisfaction. Use accomplishment stories to briefly describe the problem you were faced with, the actions you took to resolve the situation and the results. That’s a powerful way to tell your story.

3. Keep your answers concise. In order to keep your interviewer’s attention, you’ll want to keep your answers succinct, but you don’t want to omit important information either. That’s a tough balance to reach. “Never use more than 60 seconds on any answer,” writes Robin Ryan in her updated edition of “60 Seconds and You’re Hired!” She explains that we live in a world of short attention spans and sound bites. In order to leave a memorable impression, your answers need to be enthusiastic and succinct.

4. Rehearse out loud. Your answers may sound terrific in your head, but may not come out as well when spoken. Great actors and actresses rehearse their lines, but they don’t sound robotic or rote. That’s because they practice the words, as well as the tone, inflection and body movements, to come across as genuine and believable. When you invest time practicing your answers out loud, you will also present the best version of yourself.

5. Prepare questions. Conversational interviews, which are back-and-forth discussions, feel more comfortable and establish rapport. In order to achieve this mutual relationship during an interview, asking questions is the solution. Don’t just ask, “When do I start?” Or only ask, “How much time off do I get?” Ask questions that show you are interested in the role. Ask what immediate concerns the interviewer would like to see addressed, or how your performance will be evaluated. It’s fine to bring your list of questions into the interview, just in case you need to reference them. The interviewer usually has a list of questions they refer to as well. Mutual respect and a level playing field will help you feel more comfortable, too.

6. Plan to follow up. It will be your responsibility to follow up after the interview. Job seekers often become discouraged when they don’t hear back, but don’t let this stop you from following up. Before you leave the interview, find out when to follow up and with whom. Take initiative and contact the appropriate person after the stated date. Your persistence can show interest, maturity and responsibility. One last warning: Never assume no news is bad news. It only means the interviewer hasn’t contacted you yet.