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by Kaitlin McManus | October 28, 2019

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Sometimes, it seems as if there’s no right answer to interview questions. And to a certain extent, that’s true. Employers want to hear certain things, of course, but you have to balance telling them what they want to hear, telling them the truth, and not relying on trite or token phrases—like how perfectionism is your greatest weakness. All that said, there are certain things that you should say in interviews and certain notes that it could benefit you to hit. “Magic words” may be a slight exaggeration, but working in a few of these phrases at just the right time could help give you the leg-up you need to nail the job.

“Thanks for taking the time to meet with me today.”

Interviewing candidates is, for many hiring managers, a long and arduous process. It’s often something that’s done on top of one’s regular workload too, and while hiring managers really do want their open positions filled, it can still be difficult actually finding the time in a busy workday to evaluate and meet candidates. Acknowledging the effort that your hiring manager has put forth to meet you is something that they will definitely appreciate, and it’s a classy move that can help you stand out from the crowd of candidates.

“I’ve grown a lot through _____.”

Look, let’s be real: If you’re out looking for a job, it’s because, for one reason or another, your current job isn’t doing it for you. Interviewers may ask why you’re leaving your current position, and it’s important that you don’t speak negatively about your employer. Ditto for past internships, school, etc. Trust me, “professional bad-mouther” is not the reputation you want. In situations where you may not have rave reviews, focus on your experiences instead of the negativity. Any experience or growth gained from past positions is something you’ll bring to your next one, after all. So make sure you bring your experience back to the position you’re interviewing for—reference the job duties specifically if you can, to show you’ve got a good understanding of what the position will require.

“What has your experience here been?”

Asking interviewers about themselves actually is a little bit magic. It’s no secret that people like talking about themselves. Even when, technically, they’re supposed to be talking about you. It’s the same advice you’ll get about first dates, and an interview is a little like a professional first date. Taking the time to ask your interviewer what they like about working here, what they think of the culture, or how their organization stands out from the market from an insider’s perspective may tell you a lot more about the company than trawling its website or listening to the prepared spiel the interviewer gave you at the start of the interview. So make sure that you’re listening to their answers—the way in which they talk about their job can be incredibly revealing, particularly if the person you’re speaking with is someone you’d be working with if you’re hired.

“How would you measure success in this role?”

Here’s the thing—getting the job is only the first step. When you get hired, be it as a result of one interview or another, you want to do it as well as you can. At least, I hope you do. It’s a good idea to get a sense of what your employer wants from you in terms of results, whether they have specific metrics in mind or something less concrete. Asking this question also shows that your interest in this job extends to the long term and that you’re concentrated on taking your potential responsibilities seriously. It also gives you a chance to further see if the job is a good fit for you—do you and your prospective employer measure success in a similar way? Do you have similar ideas as to how you might grow in this position? These are important things to learn when deciding if a position is right for you.

“What are the next steps?”

This is one of those moves that can make you seem confident, even if interviews leave you quaking in your boots. If you want this job (and I hope you do), ask for it. I’d avoid asking outright “Gimme the job,” because that would be weird and unprofessional. But expressing genuine interest will make it clear to your potential employers that, if they offer you this job, you’ll take it. That you want to be here, and you’ll do the work to make that happen. Asking what the next steps are shows that you intend to see them through. That kind of commitment and confidence can make you very attractive to employers and be the perfect capstone to a well-done interview.

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