Congratulations! You landed the job interview. What now?
Many job candidates assume that their résumés will speak for them and that all they need to do is show up for the interview. This assumption is doubly dangerous if the candidates are working through a staffing or search firm, because they assume the intermediary (the staffing or search firm representative) has already sold them to the employer. As a matter of fact, the interview is where the candidate needs to really start working!
To improve your interview experience and increase your chances of becoming the preferred candidate:
Research. The number one deal breaker recruiters and hiring managers have identified is whether the candidate has taken the time to learn about the hiring company. With the abundance of information on the Internet today, employers believe candidates should be able to develop a basic understanding about the company, the market, and the company’s values and cultures before ever walking into the interview. Using the excuse that you’re “just” an accountant, graphic designer, janitor, etc. doesn’t work. To learn more about a company, do an Internet search and review the news coverage, as well as the company’s public Web site (including annual reports and the About Us section, as applicable). You can also ask your friends and colleagues what they know about the company.
Adjust your attitude. A very close second is having a good attitude. Some employers have even said this is more important to them than the skill level of the individual. They are willing to invest in training if the candidate’s attitude is stellar and a good fit for the company. To demonstrate a good attitude, always smile. Practice answering your interview questions in front of a mirror and check to see if you have a relaxed, approachable (and smiling) visage. Also, avoid using the interview as a platform for voicing your displeasure over your last job or boss. No matter what the truth is, always formulate your answers to be positive and forward-looking. The past is just that. Learn from it and move on.
Create value. Of course, employers want to know you have the basic required skill set to do the job. However, all that gets you is consideration as a candidate along with several others. To separate yourself from the pack, you need to demonstrate how you can help the company do the same. When you talk about your skills and experience, do it in the manner that demonstrates how what you have done has added value to your past employer. Use quantifiable information, discuss efficiencies you’ve introduced and revenue or savings you’ve generated. Simply reiterating your job description only proves you met the basic job requirements.