Well done! You’ve landed an interview with a company you would die to work for. Now it’s time to do your homework to master your first meeting. Getting anxious already? If yes, relax! Employers usually aim to answer only three basic questions about the prospective candidates: Can they do the job and will they add value to their skills pool? Will they fit in with and enrich their company culture from a personality standpoint? And last but not least: Are they trustworthy, motivated and will they go the extra mile?
Obviously, there’s the standard preparation checklist that everyone has heard a million times: Research their homepage and their corporate values, bring two copies of your resume, make arrangements to be there 5 minutes early (but not more!), make sure your dress code meets expectations, practice how to best present your strengths and weaknesses, prepare intelligent questions – the list goes on and on. All of this is very important, but in the end you will only truly convince through one thing: A strong and immediate connection with your interviewer!
It’s hard to prepare for this, but here are five pieces of advice to help make this connection more effective.
- Focus on the first 5 minutes! Breaking the ice will be essential, so make sure you are on your A game before you walk in. Do a mini meditation while you wait at the front desk by concentrating on your breath! Place your hands on your pants or skirt to make sure they stay warm and dry. Warm smile, firm handshake, confident eye contact, tall posture, calm voice – even the speed of your movements will determine your interviewer’s first impression of you. If you can, practice the first five minutes with a friend or your partner, and even better, record it with your phone and analyze your body language to determine where to make adjustments.
- Research your interview partner thoroughly! The LinkedIn page is usually a good place to start. Find out about their background and expertise, but also try to get a sense for them as a person. Is their profile picture rather traditional or does it have an unusual twist? What other organizations do they invest time in? Are they a board member for any non-profits? What school did they go to? Do they write for a blog? Do you have a common contact that could tell you a little more about them? All of this will not only make you feel more comfortable walking in but will also allow you to have more personalized conversations and give you a chance to prove that you did your homework!
- Practice your pitches! “Tell me about yourself” or “walk me through your resume” opens the door to rambling and loss of focus. Ask the interviewer if they would like you to follow a certain agenda! A successful presentation of your background will not only depend on highlighting your expertise, but also on showcasing your ability to focus on the important items and connect the pieces! Make a list of the required skills and job tasks, and for all of them, find a skill or experience that mirrors it! Talk about real-life examples of how you applied them in your day-to-day and how this added value for your last employer. Also, make sure you condense your pitch to 10 minutes! Record it, once you have found your perfect version, so you can listen to it multiple times and find your rhythm with it.
- Take some time to get reacquainted with the most important person – yourself! You will need to assess the job just as much as your potential next employer will assess you. Take a long walk or exercise the night before! Ask yourself what you are truly looking for in this next step, and where your long-term journey is headed. Recall professional situations that you felt great in! Not only will this help you come across as calm, confident and professional, but it will also calibrate your radar to make the best call in deciding if the job is right for you. Generally, make sure you do everything to feel positive and strong – put on your favorite song, smile even when you’re alone, and keep moving throughout the day. Believe me, it makes a difference!
- Include a summary of your findings and afterthoughts in your thank you note! While a thank you email is a given, many candidates concentrate too much on appearing “thankful” for the meeting instead of branding themselves in the right way. Remember, it is not only about the gesture, but it’s another chance to prove that you’re focused, considerate and that you listened to your interviewer. Good content on top of the “thank you” will be: Reflecting on and adding some more perspective to an interesting question that was asked during the interview (don’t go too long though!), pointing out a key moment or realization that was a true take-away for you, including a favorite quote or the link to an article that sums up one of the points the interviewer was making.
Interviewing well is a skill that can’t be overestimated. It’s about making a solid connection instead of simply repeating the content of your resume and answering questions. Your resume has opened the door, now it’s your personality that needs to walk through it. Make it as easy as possible for them to look beyond the surface and see your value and true self shine through! And don’t forget, it’s not only the company that interviews you, it’s also you that assesses a potential employer.