With the job market looking brighter, some seasoned professionals are resurrecting their jobs search across the nation. It’s vital to prepare not only your résumé but hone your interview presentation skills as well.

Too often candidates spend hours reworking their résumés to secure the interview for a key position and neglect the due diligence in preparing for the interview itself. If you are looking to impress the hiring manager for a coveted position in your next interview, keeping the following tips in mind might help you present yourself as a top candidate and secure a position.

Below are interview tips to help you sell yourself, prepare you for the things to remember and not to do during an interview.

How to Sell Yourself During a Job Interview

Your success in an interview is based on your ability to sell your background and experience, showing how you are right for the job, and showing what you can bring to the ultimate success of the company by possessing a genuine interest in the job and the company.

Your preparation in selling YOU will ultimately be the key.

Your goal is to present yourself as the kind of candidate the employer is looking for: someone with good knowledge of self, capabilities and with a clear vision of goals and opportunities.

The first 5 minutes of the interview are vital!

This is where the interviewer makes some very important perceptions about you. Project a favorable image by arriving early, dressing appropriately, and behaving in a courteous manner. Be poised and enthusiastic about your opportunities with the employer, and confident in your abilities.

In your advanced preparation, determine three key skill sets you can bring to the position based on your background. You are selling yourself, so even if the question is not specifically asked, make sure you add these points at some point in the conversation.

It is important to be honest. Employers do not like surprises. Be upfront about your education, employment and background. Today’s companies are savvy and check this vital information. Too often candidates try to embellish criteria in an effort to secure a position, but in reality, it backfires. Always be honest. If you have not acquired a certain certification, be open about it and express willingness to get additional training.

Always listen closely to the question and stay on the subject.

The hiring manager has some key points they are trying to evaluate for each candidate and has chosen specific questions in which to do so. Too often candidates come in the room and do all the talking, not allowing the interviewer to get a word in edgewise. Breathe. Relax. Most importantly…Listen. Let the interviewer ask the question then succinctly answer that specific question to the best of your ability. Referencing real situations or experiences proves your response, and is much more effective than generalizations. Elaborate on questions instead of giving a simple yes or no answer.

Volunteering an example of a real situation is key in effectively selling yourself as it provides validity to your response, but be careful not to go off on tangents.This is a key complaint from many interviewers. If the interviewer asks you what time it is, do not tell him how to make the watch. If the employer does not feel like you are giving pointed answers to his questions in a clear and concise manner, they may come to the conclusion that you will not follow directions. Just answer the questions you have been asked. More isn’t always better, especially in an interview with the hiring manager has little time and is looking for an efficient, effective addition to his team.

Remember that you are there to find out if this is a company that you can love.

Feel free to write out questions ahead of time that you can ask to get a feel for the direction of the company, along with whether the position will give you the growth and development you desire. Asking questions like, “why the position is available,” and asking to meet the manager or team you will be working with, are very acceptable and help you to decide if this is the right opportunity for you.

Be sure to focus your questions 60/40 on what you can add to the company’s growth and what the company can add to your growth, respectively. Avoid questions about benefits and compensation in your first interview unless they are asked by the interviewer.

15 Interview Tips to Remember During Your Conversation with the Interviewer

  1. Dress professionally (Minimal jewelry, no perfume/cologne, and make sure your shoes are shined)
  2. Arrive on time, preferably a little early and leave your cell phone in your car.
  3. Ensure you confirm correct address and location (some companies have multiple locations in the same market)
  4. Firm handshake, smile and maintain direct eye contact
  5. Show a genuine interest and enthusiasm in the company. It is perfectly acceptable to take notes.
  6. Do your homework on the company and interviewer prior to the first interview. (review their website, financial information/annual report, LinkedIn profiles, etc.)
  7. Make sure your social presence represents you in the right way because they will likely do their research on you too.
  8. Have questions prepared or be able to formulate meaningful questions during the interview to demonstrate knowledge and interest in the position. Listed below are some examples of potential interview questions to ask an employer.
  9. Anticipate the interviewer’s productive questions. Ask yourself why they might not want to hire you and prepare a defense. Maybe you don’t have the right hard skill, but soft skills are just as important.
  10. Think positive. Don’t complain about negative experiences during an interview. Even if the interviewer asks emotional intelligence questions.
  11. Be aware of your body language – (do not fold your arms – appear relaxed, yet poised and confident)
  12. Thank the interviewer for their time at the end of the interview and ask about next steps if they were not discussed.
  13. Ask for a business card(s) from interviewer(s).
  14. Send an email or handwritten thank you note to the interviewer.
  15. Call your recruiter and let him/her know how the interview went.

Potential Interview Questions to Ask an Employer

  • What is the largest single problem facing your staff/department right now?
  • What kinds of assignments might I expect during the first six months on the job?
  • Are salary adjustments geared to the cost of living or job performance?
  • In what ways is a career with your company better than one with your competitors?
  • Please describe the duties of the job for me.
  • Does your company encourage further education?
  • How often are performance reviews given?
  • How do you feel about creativity and individuality?
  • What is the usual promotional time frame?
  • What do you like best about your job/company?
  • Have there been many turnovers in this job area?
  • Is there a lot of team/project work?
  • What characteristics do the achievers in this company seem to share?
  • Where does this position fit into the organization structure?
  • Do you fill positions from the outside or promote from within first?
  • What skills are especially important for someone in this position?
  • What qualities are you looking for in the candidate who fills this position?
  • Will I have the opportunity to work on special projects?
  • What is the next course of action? When should I expect to hear from you, or should I contact you?

Answering Challenging Interview Questions

These common interview questions can trip up the most accomplished executives. In my years as a recruiter, I have watched many candidates stumble with the following questions and as a result, they were not hired.

Tell me about yourself?

So. . . is the interviewer really wanting to know about my employment history or something more personally memorable – like when I went skydiving? The answer: it depends!

Depending on the decision maker, they may want to know different things. Some may place a stronger focus on wanting to know about your experience and accomplishments to understand how you can affect their bottom line. They might want to know you’re a “hands-on manager,” the “go-to financial reporting expert,” etc.

Others may want to know about you personally to determine if you “fit” with the company’s culture. In this case, you will want to show more of your personality. Showing personality doesn’t mean you should give testimony of what happened in your life since birth! It could be sharing something about your hobbies, interests or goals.

The best way to answer is to ask, “personally or professionally? Where would you like to start?” Let the employer guide your response.

Either way, you need to think of the answer as your introduction or “elevator pitch.”

  • Give yourself about 30 seconds to talk about who you are.
  • Craft an elevator pitch for both a personal and professional response.
  • It should be a very concise presentation of the personal and professional “you.”
  • The ideal response might be a short blend of the two.
  • Be careful not to be long-winded.
  • It’s important to show you can deliver a succinct message.
  • If you do not have a lot of experience, such as a new grad, talk about an academic accomplishment or an important internship project.

Take time to think about how you will answer this question the next time an interviewer asks you to talk about yourself – ensure your first impression is personable and professional.

What are your weaknesses?

I have heard an accountant answer this question by saying he was not detail oriented, an operations manager answer that she lacked strong communication skills and an information technology professional answer that he is not good at being a team player.

Let’s face it. We all have weaknesses and we have to answer this question with some transparency. If you don’t, the interviewer will feel like you are just trying to say what you think that they want to hear and they won’t trust you.

The best approach is to give a transparent answer that is honest. However, do not choose a weakness that is a “must have” quality for the position. Mention an area that you have not been as successful as you would like and how you have improved or are improving in this area. They want to see that you are going to be honest with them, you are self-aware and you are taking steps to improve in your areas of weakness.

This is all Great, But How Do I Get an Interview?

Before you impress the hiring manager with your interview skills, you have to actually get the interview. Here are a few quick tips to help you pre-interview.

  1. Update your résumé. Your résumé needs to be two pages or less and needs to account for all of your working years after you graduated high school or college. You also need to account for the years that you were out of the workforce, whether it is because you were a stay-at-home parent, took time off to travel or for other reasons. Employers want to know this, but keep it brief.
  2. Create or update your LinkedIn profile. If you do not already have a LinkedIn profile, you need to create one. This will allow you to set up a profile and list all of your experience or update your experience if you are already a member. Most importantly, it will allow you to connect with people from your past who may lead you to your next position.
  3. Make a list of everyone who you know in your city, both professionally and personally. Start with past co-workers and former supervisors and then work your way down the list to include those individuals who you know from church, your community, friends, neighbors and family. Begin to connect with these individuals on LinkedIn and let them know that you are looking and would be grateful if they kept you in mind as they hear of job opportunities in your field.
  4. Contact your professional references. As you interview for positions, you will need to provide at least two professional references. These need to be individuals who have supervised your work in the past. It is better for you to dust off the professional references that you have used in the past, reach out to them to get their permission to use them as a reference again and have their contact information ready to send versus waiting until you are far along in the interview process to reconnect with your references. It may take a while for you to find their current information and hear back from them, so start this process now. Who knows? They may want to hire you again.
  5. Be realistic about your salary expectations. If you have been out of the workforce for more than a couple of years, you need to be realistic about your salary expectations. Most fields constantly change. If you haven’t worked in your chosen field for a few years, your worth to the market has decreased. Don’t let this discourage you. Just understand that you are probably not going to get paid what you were making when you left your field, and set your expectations accordingly.

Today’s market is filled with qualified candidates. Take the time to prepare for your interview so you can present yourself and your abilities in the best light and secure a position.

Dressing for an Interview

Dressing for an interview is so important. I have seen many qualified candidates lose a valuable job opportunity in the first ten seconds of the interview simply because they didn’t dress appropriately and made an unfavorable first impression. To be fair, it is not entirely the fault of the interviewee.

There has been a subtle shift over the past decade to a less rigid attire policy in numerous companies across the country. This has caused some confusion on what might or might not be appropriate for an interview in today’s business casual environment. There are some basic elements that remain constant when you are dressing for an interview.

  • Men should wear a suit and tie or at least dress slacks and a jacket. It is always easier to take off a jacket to be more casual as the situation dictates than to be uncomfortable because you underdressed for the environment.
  • Women should wear suits, pantsuits, skirts and jacket or a dress. Same applies for the jacket listed above. Remember nothing low cut, too short or too tight.
  • Candidates should be discerning when selecting shoes for the interview outfit. Wear good shoes, nothing worn out, and no sneakers or flip-flops. Leave the stilettos for evening wear.
  • Do not wear a lot of jewelry that can lead to distraction. You want the hiring manager to focus on your answers and appear as crisp and clear in person as you do answering his/her questions.
  • The same applies to perfume or cologne. Less is more. Do not wear too much of either of these as it is another distraction.
  • Do not wear heavy makeup.
  • If you smoke, be aware that those fumes permeate your clothes, so make sure your interview outfit has been cleaned and smells fresh.

Appropriately dressing for an interview will start you off on the right foot. Your appearance is the first impression the hiring manager has of you. Dressing for an interview appropriately makes a lasting impression.

Now that you have mastered dressing for the interview, remember to sit up straight, make eye contact and have a strong interview handshake. Also, in today’s mobile environment, leave your cellphones off. If your call is more important than your interview, you have just lost the job.

The Importance of Thank You Notes

The simple but impactful way to set yourself apart.

You’ve just finished the interview, and you are excited about the opportunity. What can you do in the following 24 to 48 hours? Sending a thank you note is one of the easiest – yet most commonly overlooked – steps in the job search process. Taking the time to send a thank you after a job interview can set you apart from other candidates.

Thank you notes are short, simple, powerful tools that can help you land the job of your dreams. Take time to remind yourself who you talked to, what you talked about, and how you want to portray your interest in the job. Then send your objectives in a thank you email to ensure you are not overlooked. The waiting will be easier knowing you put your best foot forward and did everything you could to separate yourself from the pack.

When should you send a thank you note? Sending a thank you note within 24 hours of the interview is critical and for many hiring managers is expected. With time being so valuable in today’s economy, sending an email thank you is going to be better received. If you wait too long to send any correspondence, the interviewer(s) may assume you are not interested and eliminate you from consideration.

Why should you send a thank you note? Thanking the hiring manager helps set you apart from other applicants. Taking the time to write a note shows you are genuinely interested in the role and gives you the chance to reiterate your skillset. It shows you are committed, professional and can write. Interviewers appreciate thank you notes and in fact, when they don’t receive a thank you, they assume the candidate is not interested in the opportunity. We’ve had candidates lose out on jobs for failing to send a thank you note – don’t make that mistake.

What format should you use? The two primary vehicles for sending thank you notes are emails and handwritten notes. Sending a thank you note via email allows you to easily follow up in the preferred 24-hour timeframe while providing the recipient a simple, direct way to respond. A handwritten note adds a personal touch that many other applicants may not take the time to do but it loses the benefit of an email given that it takes longer to get to a recipient.

To whom should you send a thank you note? If you are meeting with multiple managers or executives, the best practice is to send an individual email to each manager or executive with whom you met. Often, your conversations with them will vary, so your follow-up points will be different. If you are meeting with team members, then it is perfectly acceptable to send a note to the manager and mention that you enjoyed meeting with the team members in the note.