Acing Your Next Interview

Acing Your Next Interview

Interviews can seem like a nightmare. From random questions to awkward handshakes to losing your Wi-Fi half way through a Skype call – things can get awkward.

But acing an interview only takes more preparation on your end. And we’ve made it easier for you to prepare by sharing the seven things you need to know before your next interview. In fact, you’re going to be so prepared, you might even enjoy it!

Pre-game.

“Tell us about yourself.” “What’s your greatest weakness?” “Tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it.” Sound familiar? The good news is that most hiring managers rattle off the same interview questions and you can prepare by jotting down a few notes or bullet points to keep on hand for the interview itself. You’ll know you have your bases covered without feeling like you’re reading from a script. Need some help?

Here are the 31 most common interview questions. Take some time to jot down your notes beforehand and for bonus points, spend 10-15 minutes practicing with a friend or family member. This can make a huge difference in how you choose to approach your responses later and will keep you from getting stuck on a tougher question.

Be sure to outline your professional accomplishments or “greatest hits” and have them memorized for each interview or typed up as a handy leave-behind. Sharing past achievements gives employers a much better idea of the successes you can bring to their organization – it’s important.

Dress for success.

Plan the perfect outfit. And remember that when it comes to an interview, unless you’re given a disclaimer beforehand, it’s impossible to overdress. Keep your look classic and conservative for the first interview – it’s a great time for applicants of any gender to suit up.

Make sure you get your outfit dry cleaned, pressed, or tailored. Don’t forget those little details: check for loose threads, shine your shoes, make sure your fingers look manicured, and don’t wear any heavy makeup or cologne. Remember, people always notice the little things you wouldn’t think they normally do in an interview.

Connect with the people in the room.

Most interviews start with the interviewers asking you to tell them about yourself. Prepare a quick 30-60 second soundbite. What should you share? Make it a nice even mix of your personal, professional and educational background – try to keep it unique so you set yourself apart from the other interviewers. This is your chance to make a positive intro that will set the tone for the remainder of your interview, you want to be memorable. Here’s an example:

I started my career at [insert company name] x number of years ago after majoring in [insert degree] at [insert school]. I like to stay involved in the local community and volunteer at [insert organization]. In my free time I like to [bird watch/blog/hike with my dog/travel, etc.]

This is just a starting point, make sure you make it personal, and give it your own spin. Leave out anything related to your kids, your age, religious affiliation, or any pesky medical issues you may be dealing with.

Be descriptive.

Most interviews that don’t end well have one thing in common: a lack of detail. Telling an interviewer that you’re a “Hardworking punctual perfectionist who is always on time, goes above and beyond, gives 110%, and is a team player” is going to put you in a group with about 80% of interviewers that will say the exact same thing.

If you’re asked about your qualifications, be detailed. Give examples that really describe why you feel that you possess a certain set of qualities. Also, use numbers: say “seven years in Marketing”, rather than “a lot of experience”. If you increased sales numbers at your current organization then explain how and what the percentage or resulting dollar amount was.

Know your strengths and weaknesses.

You shouldn’t struggle to figure out what defines you or your work ethic – you’ve got that down pat. You should be able to articulate pretty easily what your greatest strengths and weaknesses are, and most interviewers will be asking about both.

Rather than providing a bullet point list of random qualities or telling your interviewers what you think they way want to hear, tell a story instead about something that happened in a previous role and how you handled it. That lets you bring your proven abilities into play.

Asked to share your greatest weakness? Be sure to describe something that you have already overcome or that helps you to do your current role even better. Don’t bring anything negative or too personal to the table that can leave lingering concerns after your interview.

Maybe you can be a workaholic and sometimes have a hard time finding the right work-life balance or you’re a perfectionist? Make sure you come ready with a weakness that doesn’t set off any red flags.

Know the information in your portfolio.

Between your resume, portfolio, glowing letters of recommendation, certificates and awards, you should be able to easily and succinctly discuss why you are most qualified for this position and why they should hire you. Again, practice makes perfect, make sure you’re thinking about this and jotting down some quick and powerful achievements and traits that you bring to the table.

Don’t compare yourself to others.

Never compare yourself to other candidates or the experience you think they may have. When you start drawing comparisons between your abilities versus others and their potential lack of, you risk looking insecure, arrogant or even unprofessional.

Want a great example of what you shouldn’t say? “I’m fresh out of school, so you can mold me and train me on how you like to do things. I am not stuck in my ways like a more seasoned employee might be.”

Statements like these just tell interviewers that you that you think those with experience are “stuck in their ways.” Avoid comparisons to others. Keep it positive and focus on your own abilities.

Meet the Authors

Evelyn Vega is the Founder and President at Staffing Strong and the President of the Phoenix American Marketing Association. Since 1999, she’s made her career about supporting her clients in building meaningful careers and partnering with businesses in finding quality hires. In her free time Evelyn is a Girl Scout Troop leader and yes, she can help you order some cookies.

Amy Roberts is a Senior Creative Recruiter at Staffing Strong and is on the Hospitality Chair for the Phoenix American Marketing Association. For more than ten years Amy has been helping professionals in finding their dream jobs.  She also makes a mean margarita.