So all the networking, LinkedIn updating and connecting finally pans out and you have an interview! OMG! You haven’t interviewed since the ‘90s -- what on earth happens now?! We've gathered some tips and tricks for you to refresh your skills, and you do need to practice. Set up some time with friends who will listen to you and do some mock interviewing as well.
First - If the interviewer asks you to tell a little about yourself, have a short 1-2 minute description of yourself ready. Please don’t start at birth and move forward year by year. Here’s a great example: “As you can see from my resume, I am a CPA with over 20 years of accounting and finance experience in the pharmaceutical industry. I love getting numbers to tell a story that non-accountants can understand. Not all my experience will be relevant to your role, so can you tell me a little bit more about the situation at XXX Company and the role you are looking to fill? Then I can give you some examples of my experience that might be relevant.”
Research the interviewer (using LinkedIn) and the company before the call or meeting. Have two (or more) questions prepared ahead of time. Your interviewer wants to see you’re interested in the company and the role. It's best to interview in person when you can. Face-to-face is always the best way to present yourself, but not always possible now.
Answer each question and be concise. Remember: it’s an exchange of information. You should be talking the same amount or less than the interviewer. Don’t run on in your responses.
Have a response ready for when they ask you if you have experience with X and you don’t. Be honest and tell them you don’t, but have an answer ready that addresses your ability to pick things up quickly. For example, tell them about a time when you had to work with a process or a system you didn’t know and how you learned it quickly or studied at night.
If it’s a phone interview, have a mirror in front of you, look at it while interviewing and smile. That smile will come across in what you are saying.
If it’s a video meeting, make sure the view behind you is professional and well-lit. Test out the lighting beforehand and adjust it if necessary. Sometimes overhead lighting is great for daily work but casts too many shadows downward on camera. You can also look for YouTube videos on being more camera ready.
Don’t end the call/meeting without asking if they think you might be a fit for role or if they have any concerns that you haven’t addressed. If they have a concern (lack of experience, for instance), try to address it with another example of a skill you picked up but don’t argue. “I agree that my lack of SEC could be an issue, but I have 10 years of solid Financial Reporting and can research any issues…..”
Ask for the steps in the process and if you can, get a date on the calendar for a follow-up call. Or at least agree that you will check in on a certain date.
Prepare in advance for some basic behavioral interviewing questions (we’ll cover more on behavioral interviewing in next month’s blog):
“Tell me about a time you had to work with someone you didn’t like.”
“Describe a time when you were under a lot of pressure.”
“Describe a time when you saw some problem and took the initiative to correct it rather than waiting for someone else to do it.”
You can find many free resources online with examples of questions and answers. Practice.
This step is always underrated. Either people don’t think they need to follow up or they are too nervous to do so. But the interviewer will appreciate a follow-up as a demonstration of interest.
Have a list of references, phone numbers and emails ready. Make sure your contacts are okay with being a reference and that they will be a positive reference.
Send a thank you email within 24 hours. Reference something specific about the conversation you had and reiterate your enthusiasm for the role. Send card in snail mail if they are in an office.
Send something like Starbucks gift card/wine/Panera gift card to anyone that goes above and beyond to help you in the process.
It’s important to be prepared for your interviews and show your enthusiasm for the role. Interviewing can be nerve-wracking but these tips should help you take the edge off your anxiety.
“Confidence comes from being prepared.” -John Wooden