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Tips to thrive in any interview

October 3, 2019

By Rachel Lynds

Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by an interview!

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Let me tell you, I’ve been intimidated by my fair share of interviews, ominous waiting rooms and poker-faced interviewers. But all of this worry and anxiety is for naught! After reading this article and practicing the included advice, you will be an expert interviewee (or at least not a total wreck).

Arrive early

Being on time is very important; it allows you to relax, avoid rushing around, and it also contributes to the first impression that you make. 

Know where you’re going. If you aren’t familiar with the area where the interview will be held, try to visit before the day of the interview or at the very least give it a thorough Google. The more you know the area the less stressful it will be to get there on the day of.  Double check your transit options and the available times.

Know the people

Know who you’re meeting; this is really helpful for you and the person who you’ll be speaking with on arrival. If the name of the person interviewing you isn’t mentioned when you’re offered the interview, don’t be afraid to ask (sometimes they won’t know either, in that case they will give you instructions for when you arrive).

PRO TIP: First impressions aren’t only with your interviewers. First impressions are on the staff you meet in the lobby/elevator, the security guard and the receptionist. At one of my summer jobs I met the CEO of the company in the lobby and we chatted briefly about the company and the position to which I was applying for before he went on his way. He never said who he was, and only afterwards did I find out who I spoke with. My point is that if I was flustered and unprepared I would have missed the opportunity to have that important discussion. 

Know about the company

It’s REALLY important to research the company before your interview. Like, very important. The employer will want to know that you understand their values, beliefs and business model (if applicable).

If the company has values, KNOW THEM. You should be able to give examples that tie their values to your everyday life. 

If you know people who work with the company, seek them out and take them for coffee to pick their brains. You can ask about the culture at the company, what the day-to-day work looks like and ask for any advice they may have to offer. Trust me, it will be the best $3.00 you’ve spent. 

Knowing quick facts can be helpful in a behavioural interview to segway into information you’d like to share. E.g. “I know that your company uses a POS system to process and complete sales throughout the organization, I think that my experience at Walmart as an IT person lends to that very well. During my time as an IT person, I was trained on the POS system extensively. I successfully provided complete solutions to over 250 complex problems in a timely fashion." For more examples, read this tip sheet about communicating transferrable skills created by our Career Centre.

Know your buzzwords

Buzzwords are the easiest way to make a clear and concise point while avoiding sounding like you’ve over-rehearsed your responses. While being prepared is key, you don’t want to sound like a robot. 

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Common buzzwords are;

Dress for success

Now there’s the question of “what to wear?” 

First things first, if ever in doubt dress business casual. It’s always better to be OVER-dressed rather than underdressed. 

For reference business casual suggestions and guidelines can be found on Indeed.

Comfort is very important. The last thing you want to be worrying about is whether or not your body parts are properly covered and contained. Especially if it’s an afternoon interview and you have a post-lunch food baby. You’ll want to pick pieces that limit the possibility of a wardrobe malfunction.

I’d love to say that the type of clothing that one wears to an interview doesn’t matter, but unfortunately society just isn’t quite there yet. So to play it as safe as possible and avoid any unintended judgement, your best bet is to cover up and tone it down. 

This being said, self-expression can be a great way to break down barriers between you and your interviewers. For example, bonding over a trendy jacket, cool shoes or unique jewelry.

Remember they’re just people 

It’s very easy to feel as though your interviewers are in the room to interrogate you rather than get to know you. You’re not alone if you’ve ever felt the “me vs. them” dichotomy develop. 

Your interviewers want to get a sense of who you are and what kind of skills you bring to the table. An employer needs to know how a new hire will add value to the team and the company. Think of it as less of an interrogation and more of a meet and greet.

An easy way to help make yourself and the interview(s) to feel more comfortable is to find a common ground that you share. Even things as simple as wearing glasses, writing with the same hand or having similarities in appearance. 

Know your worth; don’t stress for nothing

Just remember, if you’ve been selected for an interview you’re probably among the top 10-15% of candidates so give yourself a pat on the back. 

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You’ve obviously done something right to get this far, so keep being yourself and trusting that you’re the best person for this position.

Confidence is 🔑

Practice with other people 

Just talk about the position and why you think you’re the best candidate! Informal conversation is a great tool that helps you practice wording and formulating simple answers with less pressure. Talk to your parents, friends, and siblings about the position. Figure out a way to explain why you’re a good fit for the job in a minute or so (trust me that’s a long time). This will help you come up with those buzz words we talked about. 

If others are willing, have them ask you a few commonly asked interview questions so that you can formulate parts of answers and get used to answering questions on the spot. You could also set up an appointment with the Career Centre for a mock interview.

Bring a copy of your documents 

I know that in this ever-evolving digital world, no one thinks to PRINT documents and bring them to the interview but it can be very helpful. 

Many interviewers use hardcopies of resumes to mark up and write notes on, If they so happen to forget to print one, you my friend will save the day (and demonstrate that you’re an organized and forward-thinking individual).

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Bring your resume, cover letter and references. Even if they didn’t ask for any of these explicitly, they may spring it on you, and you want to be prepared.

Bring samples 

This shows major initiative and commitment. If this position allows you to create or develop anything, see if you can put together a primitive project or piece to bring along to your interview. This is SUPER impressive and shows that you’re not only interested, but that you took the time to make sure you left a lasting impression

Example: I interviewed for a social media position that had been newly created. A week before my interview, I took a few hours and assembled a crude posting schedule with 4 or 5 sample posts that the office could use (stuff like “Attend this conference”, “Read this cool article”). It wasn't much and had limited details but it really impressed my interviewers. I was offered the job within an hour of the interview. Moral of this story: if you’re already thinking of amazing ways to contribute to the position, the interviewers will have no choice but to be impressed. 

Ask them questions

After you’ve spent the better part of an hour talking about yourself it can be nice to let your interviewers talk for a while. 

Asking questions allows you to do two important things;

  1. It allows you to hear current employees speak about the company; you get a feel for how they enjoy it and what the culture is really like
  2. You impart a better impression by asking to learn more about certain aspects of the company

Don’t ask obvious things. This would include information that is listed on the website or included in the top results of a quick Google search.

Good question vs. not so good question

Not so Good Question

Better Question

What does your company do to interact with/support the local community?

I saw, while reading about your company, that you do annual charity fundraising for the local community. What other ways do you support the community and what opportunity would I have to get involved?

BOUNS: employers LOVE employees who are involved in the workplace. 

Send a Thank You Letter

If you only retain on piece of advice from this article, let it be this one.

A Thank You letter will reinforce the wonderful impression that you gave during your interview. It will also remind the interviewers of your name again. It doesn’t have to be long, just enough to thank them for the opportunity and to remind them why you’re the best candidate for the position. 

If you’ve never written a Thank You letter, check out this helpful guide to make sure that you’re highlighting yourself in the best ways. 

Be prepared

To sum it all up, here’s the vaguest blanket statement used, but being prepared includes, but is not limited to, being on time, knowing where you’re heading and who you’re meeting with… really, being prepared is everything on this list. If you’re starting your interview prep by reading this post, you’re on the right track. 

All said, you’re amazing and you’re going to love your new job. Don’t forget to have fun! You can thank me later.

Related Resources:

Ontario Tech Career Centre