Whether you get the job or not all comes down to your interview. Although you can pad your resume until it’s full of relevant experience and skills, it’s the interview that makes or break the application process. And throughout my years in business I’ve seen my fair share of interviews—both successful and unsuccessful—so I can safely say that the interview is the place for candidates to shine and fly or crash and burn. So, below, I’ve listed my top five tips for interviewees to keep in mind for their next interview.
1. Be Prepared
Not being prepared for an interview is one of the most common and detrimental interviewing mistakes. It immediately tells the interviewer that you’re 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 Us” page—but you should be knowledgeable enough to converse about the company, ask detailed questions, and understand the job description. We live in a digital world in which a wealth of information is available online. So make sure you do your online research before the interview.
2. Body Language Counts
A first impression is still just as important as everyone says it is. Remember, you’re being assessed from the very moment you meet someone, both consciously and subconsciously. So practice both your verbal and non-verbal mannerisms. Practice your body language and walking into the room confidently. And during your interview, make sure to be interested, to actively listen, and to ask and answer questions thoughtfully. Also, don't succomb to nerves or anxiety.
3. Resist Bad Mouthing Previous Employers
Don't do this. For one thing, it says that you might one day also talk poorly about the company you’re interviewing with. Also, nothing is black and white in job breakups, so a lack of personal accountability 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, my personal advice is to take the high road and don't bad mouth your previous employer (while still trying to remain as truthful as possible about why you're looking for a new job).
4. Be Able to Tell a Coherent Story About How You Got Here
Without looking at your resume, you should be able to tell someone the critical factors that influenced your choice of schools and jobs, as well as what life experiences brought you through that door ready to start the next chapter of your career. If you can’t tell a coherent story without looking at your resume, then you should practice. Practice with a friend, if necessary. In my experience, if people can’t tell a coherent story about themselves, then they’ll have a hard time being an ambassador of their department and a difficult time achieving further success. I’ve learned from running a global translations company with offices in 30 countries and 4,000 employees that 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—there are a million factors that will influenced them—and they'll blame their feelings on amorphous concepts like “chemistry” or “we just didn't mesh well.” Make every touchpoint 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 go a long way toward influencing the interviewer’s opinion of you.
Finally, if you don't get the position, remember that rejection is part of life. You can embrace or even thrive on it. There will always be another opportunity.
Phil Shawe is the founder and Co-CEO of TransPerfect, a global family of companies and the world’s largest privately held provider of language and business services.
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