We are now immersed entirely in the digital age, with phone and video-conferencing technology, such as Skype, being the mediums of choice for most business meetings. From my experience, when it comes to job interviews – or at least during the final round or two – it really comes down to an in-person interview to judge a candidate’s ethics, charisma, expertise, drive and professionalism. You can style and pad your resume until it is full of relevant experience and skills, but it is the interview that tends to make or break the application process. I have heard it said that over 90% of all communication in an in-person conversation is non-verbal: it’s how you react to questions, your mannerisms, vocal inflections and eye contact. They are all important, even if subliminal, factors that allow experienced managers to make the right hiring decisions. Hiring the right employees is the most important part in a company’s pursuit of success – without the right culture and team, the business is doomed for mediocrity at best, failure at worst.
Throughout my years in business, I have seen my fair share of interviews – many successful and many less so. I can unequivocally say that the in-person interview is usually the place for a candidate to shine: or conversely, the place to crash. Below I’ve listed my top 5 tips for interviewees to keep in mind for their next job interview:
1. Be Prepared
Not being prepared for an interview, or mixing it up with another job opportunity, is one of the most common and detrimental interviewing mistakes. It immediately tells the interviewer that you are not 100 percent interested in the job or their company. To avoid this, make sure you do an adequate amount of research beforehand. An interview isn’t a test – you shouldn’t be memorizing every word on the company’s “About” page – but you should be knowledgeable enough to converse about the company, ask detailed questions, and understand the job description nuisances. We live in a digital world in which a wealth of information is available on search engines – make sure you are versed in the company.
2. Body Language Counts
A first impression is still, and will always be, just as important as everyone emphasizes. You may not be fully aware of the subtle cues that your body language portrays to other people. You are being assessed from the very moment you meet someone, both consciously and subconsciously. Be cognizant of this: say you are interviewing for your dream job and securing the position would mean everything to you, then you should prepare yourself in both your verbal and non-verbal mannerisms. Be knowledgeable of the company, practice walking into the room confidently, be interested, actively listen, and ask/answer questions thoughtfully – but do not give way to nerves or angst. Should you not get the position, remember that rejection is part of life – you can embrace or even thrive on it. There will always be another opportunity – again, life presents constant opportunities and, win or lose, you’ll be the same person once you leave that office.
3. Resist Bad Mouthing Previous Employers (even if they were bad)
Don’t do this. Not only the simple analogy that if to talk poorly about a previous employer, you may later talk poorly about the company you are interviewing with applies; it’s beyond that. Nothing is black and white in life or job breakups (including relationship breakups), so to me, there’s a lack of personal accountability that gets conveyed when I hear a one-sided story of why someone left their previous jobs. Of course, there are legitimate exceptions, such as an unsafe or harassing work environment – but on the whole, if it doesn’t work out, my personal advice is to take the high road and don’t bad mouth your previous employer (to whatever extent possible while still being truthful).
4. Be Able to Tell a Coherent Story About How You Got Here
Without looking at your resume, you ought to be able to tell someone a summary of the critical factors that influenced your choices on where you were educated, what jobs you took and why – along with why you left, why you moved cities, and what life experiences brought you through that door ready to start the next chapter of your career with your interviewer’s company. If you cannot tell a coherent story, without looking at your resume, then you should practice. Practice with a friend if necessary – from my experience, if someone cannot tell a coherent summary about themselves, then they will have a hard time being an ambassador of their department internally and a difficult time achieving further success. I’ve learned from my experience of running a global translations company with offices in 30 countries and 4,000 employees, there’s one universal truth in all cultures and people: they relate to communication and concepts through stories. Be able to tell yours effectively.
5. Don’t Fail To Follow Up
Always follow up with your interviewer – everyone thinks their own time is more valuable than it is. Thanking someone for their time and attention, along with the opportunity to be considered for the position, can never be a bad thing. While sending a “thank you” email is acceptable, sending a handwritten note on personalized stationary will truly make you stand out. People often don’t know why they like someone, or don’t – there are a million factors that will influenced them – and they will blame their feelings on amorphous concepts like “chemistry” or “we didn’t mesh well.” Make every touch-point as professional as humanly possible – sending a hand-written note immediately after connecting with your interviewer and referencing topics of conversation during the meeting can be a subtle positive factor that could influence the interviewer’s opinion of you.
Many workers abide by the saying, “don’t sweat the small stuff” in their professional career. I have the opposite view when it comes to business – it’s all small stuff, and it all matters.