As a non-profit organization, our mission is to help homeowners be successful. Part of being a successful homeowner is having a job that allows you to afford your everyday needs and your home. Whether you are currently employed or searching for employment, anyone can use some good interviewing techniques and tips. All jobs have some kind of interview component as part of the process. We talked to staff here at NeighborWorks of Western Vermont as well as professional hiring coaches to offer seven tips to help you ace an interview.
Do Your Research
Make sure you are aware of what the company does and the details of what you’re applying for. ALWAYS read the job description. So many people skim the description and miss crucial information, sometimes key things including how to apply and that will raise flags for those hiring if you don’t appear to have read the information provided. Some of the top things to know before your interview: the company’s mission and values, their competition, who they serve or who their customer base is, what the company culture is, and any important milestones or news-worthy accomplishments they have had. Knowing this background makes you seem knowledgable about the company and someone willing to do a little research.
Dress to Impress
After you’ve done your background research, you should have a pretty good idea of what the company culture is like. This should give you a clue as to what to wear for your interview. If it is a corporate company that deals with high-paying clients say for a law firm or energy company, most likely they are expecting you to come in a suit or business clothes. If it is a small company that works with solar installation or perhaps a position at a school, dress in business casual or workwear. No matter what the job, it is better to be slightly over-dressed than to show up in jeans. Overall, look presentable, wear clean and pressed clothes, dress for the job, and do not overuse cologne or perfume!
Make a Good First Impression
How to make a great first impression? Be 5-minutes early. Do not be late! But don’t show up too early either. As a rule, 5-minutes before the interview time is good. Do your homework and make sure you leave in plenty of time, know where you are going, and leave wiggle room for the unexpected like a traffic delay or getting lost. Another way to make a good impression is to have the right kind of handshake. Not too tight but not too loose. Hold on for a count of 2-3 pumps and make eye-contact. Brush your teeth or pop a mint (and either chew it or spit it out……NEVER chew gum during an interview!) before you go in.
Don’t go in empty-handed. Have a notebook, printed copies of your resume and reference (maybe your cover letter too) and a good pen. Don’t be afraid to take a few notes, but don’t be obsessive about writing things down. That can distract you from the interview questions.
Be nice to everyone, whether it’s a security guard, the secretary, or the person you ride the elevator with. One of our staff members remembered a situation where an interviewee didn’t hold the door for someone behind them and then discovered they were the person that was interviewing them! Oops! You just never know who might be part of the interview so always be on your best behavior, something you should do anyway.
It’s Okay to be Nervous
Most people are nervous during interviews, stay calm, and be yourself. Before you go in, take some slow, deep breaths. Try and be confident about who you are and your abilities, but don’t get cocky. You are there to represent your best self. Speak calmly, smile, don’t interrupt, and let your skills shine!
Most interviews start off with an overview of the company and the position. Then they ask you lots of questions and sometimes they even start off with something totally open-ended like “tell us about yourself.” Don’t get caught off guard. Read up on possible interview questions and practice! Ask a friend or relative if you can “tell them about yourself” to see how things sound. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will be no matter what question they ask. Some of the top questions asked might be:
What do you know about the company?
What are your greatest strengths?
Tell us about a time when you were asked to collaborate on a project.
What are the most challenging situations you’ve been in?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Why should we hire you?
Ask Your Own Questions
Almost every interview will end with something like “do you have any questions for us?” Don’t shy away from this. This is your opportunity to answer any questions you have about the position or the company. This may also be a way for them to see if you are engaged and really have an interest in working there. You shouldn’t ask too many questions but have at least 2-4 prepared so you sound sincere. Use this time to ask questions like “what would a typical day look like for this position?” or “I read that this company offers training for their employees, what training would be offered for this position?” If payment was not mentioned in the job description or during the interview, you can ask about the position compensation at this point.
At the end of the interview, thank them for their time and ask if there is anything else they need from you. Offer your sincere interest in the position and that you hope to hear from them soon. If you can, get the emails or business cards of everyone that interviewed you or ask the receptionist on your way out for that information. Use that information (either via email or snail mail) and follow up with a thank you note and express that you are very excited to move forward to the next steps if they believe you are a good choice.
Even if you “ace” your interview, it doesn’t always mean you will get the job, especially if there are lots of qualified candidates. Don’t get discouraged though, with these tips, you should feel confident in yourself and no interview is a waste, it is always valuable practice!
Authors: Bailey Aines, part-time NWWVT employee and Svea Howard, NWWVT Communications and Outreach Coordinator.