If you have read and followed through on the suggestions presented in parts 1, 2, and 3 of the job search guide, you have probably received some leads, or interest, from prospective employers. Now that you have grabbed their attention, you have to show them why you are the best candidate for the position. Selling yourself in an interview builds on the skills you established while creating your personal brand.
Many large companies have stringent interview processes - do not be surprised if you have to meet with several different people before you receive a definite offer. Below is an overview of different interviews that you might encounter. It is not uncommon to have a screening interview followed by one or more that are more job-focused.
- Initial HR or recruiter screening - Gauge relevant qualifications for the position and desired salary range.
- General job-related interviews - Assess background and experience; determine the skills that translate to the responsibilities of the open position, as well as the level of interest and probable fit within the company’s culture.
- Behavioral assessments - Evaluate previous experiences and the manner in which the candidate behaved given a certain context or situation.
- Skills assessments - Examine the level of proficiency in a given skill set based on previous experiences.
- Personality tests - Appraise the candidate’s level of self-awareness, indicating if she/he is the right fit for the position and whether she/he will succeed in the position and company culture.
- Confirming interviews - Validate the candidate to determine whether the company should extend an offer (based on the fit for both the company culture and the position) and appropriate salary range.
You will encounter different questions based on the type of interview you are experiencing. There are many resources available that present interview questions - some are common and others are more off the cuff. Check out the following articles for potential interview questions:
Interviews can be conducted in person, on the phone or via video conference. Before the interview, be sure to properly prepare no matter the situation. One of the first ways to prepare for your interview is to jot down and rehearse your responses to any questions you can find. Often, the first question you will hear is, “Tell me about yourself.” This is where your elevator pitch comes into play - always be prepared to answer that question. Additional tips you can follow to prepare for your interview include:
- Review the job description;
- Research the company (e.g., review its website, Wikipedia page, stock price, latest news articles, etc.);
- List your reasons for interviewing for the job and wanting to work for the company, as well as the experiences and skills that make you a good fit for the position;
- Dress professionally and make sure you look put together;
- Show up 15 minutes early for an in-person interview; and
- Remove distractions (e.g., pets or children during a phone interview, as well as hair in your face or a turned-on cellphone during an in-person or video interview).
During the interview, remember to stay positive and smile (even on a phone interview). At the end, it is almost guaranteed that you will be asked what questions you have. Be sure that you have something to ask. Pay attention during the interview and ask questions relevant to a topics you discussed. The following articles also provide lists of clever questions to ask: Walk Out of Your Job Interview in a Blaze of Glory and The 10 Best Interview Questions to Ask. At the point in the interview process where you feel comfortable, you should also ask about professional development (i.e., reimbursement for dues, attending conferences, etc.) and employee benefits (i.e., medical insurance, 401(k), etc.).
After the interview, you should always follow up with a written thank you note. You can email your thank you, or send a handwritten card in the mail. You need to send this as soon as possible, and no later than 72 hours after the interview. Be sure to thank the interviewer for his or her time, convey your appreciation for his or her perspective and reiterate the reasons why you are a good fit for the position. You should also follow up with the recruiter after the interview regarding next steps and to ask for feedback if they believe you are, or are not, the right candidate for the position. Everything is a learning experience, so any feedback you receive should be leveraged for your next interview.
If your interview is successful, you will have a final discussion with the recruiter or hiring manager to discuss final terms and conditions prior. This precedes them making an offer and will impact the final offer you will receive. The final edition of the job-search guide, negotiating, will cover best practices to help you with this imperative discussion.