The average length of an interview is 40 minutes. It’s hard enough trying to show a hiring manager who you really are and prove yourself capable of excelling in a role, not to mention in such short time. How do you ensure those 40 minutes in front of your potential employer are the most dynamic 40 minutes possible? Here are nine pro tips to help you ace the interview and land the job.
1. Know thyself
Know your strengths and skills. Strengths are personal traits and can be described as your unique qualities. Examples are diligent, dependable, flexible and punctual.
Skills are knowledge based and are typically acquired from education and experience. Examples include computer skills, language skills, technical skills and interpersonal skills.
Here's a great resource to help you prepare your thoughts: Advanced Resources' Interviewing Cheat Sheet
2. Do your homework
Research the company. What is the company’s mission or purpose of the organization? What are its principal services or products? Besides the company website, do some internet research on major competitors, news, or revenue information.
Research the position. What are the major responsibilities? Make note of the qualifications and required skills to help you match your skills to its requirements. Research the typical earnings, career advancement and employment outlook.
Research your interviewer. Google them and use LinkedIn to look for ways to make personal connections to help you stand out. Look for awards and accomplishments that you can congratulate them on.
3. Master the phone interview
The phone interview is often the first of two or three (or more!) interviews that could take place in person. There are two types of phone interviews - The phone screen, usually done by someone in HR, and the phone interview, which is done by the hiring manager.
Give yourself the best chance of acing the phone interview by finding a quiet place, listening carefully to the interviewer, and enunciating clearly. Dressing up for the interview helps you get in the mindset to take this interview seriously. Standing up during the phone interview will help give you more energy. Of course, prepare for the interview as well, and have your resume in front of your for reference.
4. Put your best foot forward
How you present yourself is key to a successful interview. Have a strong hand shake. Keep great posture. Actively listen. Maintain eye contact. Avoid negative talk and non-words, like "um." Shy away from talking too much (remember to keep your responses to under three minutes).
Remember that nerves are normal. The interviewer has been in your shoes before!
Dress for success. Aim for a conservative suit or outfit, depending on the company culture and keep accessories to a minimum. Check out our Pinterest boards for ideas.
5. Be prepared to ask
Remember that the interview is a two-way street. You should come prepared to ask the interviewer questions about the workplace, your role, and your team. Avoid questions about pay, benefits, or background checks. End your list of questions with asking about the next step in the hiring process.
6. Prepare to answer
Interviews can be stressful, but preparing answers can help alleviate some of this stress. Be prepared to answer questions about what's on your resume, behavioral-based questions, and general interviewing questions.
Be prepared to answer questions like "Tell me about yourself," "Tell me about a situation when your priorities quickly changed or shifted," and "How do you organize and plan for major projects?" Give examples of how you've succeeded in each of these situations.
Learn to tackle tough interview questions, check out our tips from a recruiter.
7. Be a STAR
The STAR method can help you provide specific and detailed answers to behavioral-based questions. Keep your responses between 1 and 3 minutes.
Situation - Open with a brief description of the situation and context of the story (who, what, where, when, and how).
Task - Explain the task you had to complete highlighting any specific challenges or constraints (deadlines, costs, other issues).
Action - Describe the specific actions you took to complete the task. These should highlight desirable traits without needing to state them (initiative, intelligence, dedication, leadership, understanding, etc.).
Result - Close with the result of your efforts. Include figures to quantify the result if possible.
8. Ask for the job
You can take one of seven approaches to asking for the job: direct approach, feedback, next steps, objections, ranking, fit, or the 1-10 approach.
9. Follow up
Ask about the next steps before you leave the interview. Get your thank you note in lightning speed. Ask if you can connect on LinkedIn (and then do it!). If things drag out, check in periodically.
Got an interview coming up? Prepare to stand out from your competition and interview with confidence. Download this guide to help you land the job. Click to download Interview Prep Guide by Advanced Resources.
Searching for a new job? Connect with one of our recruiters to work with you through your job search. We offer free interview coaching and preparation!
(Editor's note: This post was originally published in April 2014 and was updated to include current information.)