I've had the opportunity to interview quite a few people over the years. As an entrepreneur building a company from the ground up means hiring fast, making mistakes and learning along the way. During this time though, some candidates really stood out. If you want some key tips on how to set yourself up for success in that job interview, keep on reading.
- Display energy and personality. Some interviewees “phone it in.” Although they offer satisfactory answers to questions, their minds are hovering between Neptune and Pluto. Worse: they sometimes offer answers they think the employer wants to hear, regardless of their actual views. (Such answers usually come across as scripted or trite.) What can you do to really impress an interviewer? Display energy and personality (your personality, not one lifted from a “how-to” book). One of my biggest turn-offs is having to interview candidates who are unsmiling, enervated and devoid of personality. I’d rather interview a Mr. Potato Head doll. I understand you may be nervous. That’s fine. But at some point, show some energy – some enthusiasm and personality. If you demonstrate that you’re alert, engaged and really want the job, you’re a giant leap closer to landing the position.
- Explain who you are as a person. Talk about what you like to do and what you’re passionate about. Before the interview, you may not be passionate about the company. You may not even understand what the company does or the job description. Not to worry: passion can come later, as can on-the-job training. What’s more important for the interview is explaining who you are and, in general, what you like. That allows the interviewer to gauge whether you’d be a good fit for the company and its culture. It helps employers get to know you as an individual and not just a name. Job interviews are about building relationships – one person at a time. Would you rather build a long-term relationship with an individual or a resume?
- Learn something about the employer. I’ve lost count of how many candidates have sat across my desk knowing absolutely nothing about my company and the industry. Zilch. It’s hard to believe that someone would come to an interview without having glanced at our website, but it’s a routine occurrence. Needless to say, I’m far more impressed with people who’ve done a little homework – who’ve checked out my company via Google, Glassdoor or LinkedIn, who’ve read articles or watched videos about the company. This demonstrates intellectual curiosity and interest. Those are qualities that every company wants in an employee.
- Ask thoughtful questions. One thing I do during an interview is open up the floor by saying, “What are some of the questions you have for me about our company?” This isn’t just a pleasantry. I want to see whether the candidate can ask thoughtful questions that demonstrate interest or knowledge about the company. I also want to determine whether the person took time to perform a little research on the business and/or industry. In general, thoughtful questions reveal the degree to which a candidate really cares about the job.
- Dress appropriately. Believe it or not, I’ve interviewed many hopefuls who looked like they’d dressed for a beach party. Did they really expect to be taken seriously? I don’t care if the company has a business casual environment. That dress code is for existing employees – not prospective employees. As a job candidate, always wear professional business attire for an interview, no matter what. Dressing casually demonstrates disrespect for the interviewer and the company.
- Always arrive on time. My best estimate is that 20 percent of interviewees show up late for the main event. When this happens, they are immediately crossed off the list. If you can’t arrive on time for the job interview – where first impressions are paramount – you can hardly be expected to be punctual after getting the job. Don’t be late to an interview. It’s better to be a little early than late.
- Thank the interviewer. At the conclusion of the interview, always thank the interviewer for the opportunity to meet. At this point, you should also feel free to ask about next steps and/or the interview process – e.g., “When should I expect to hear back from you?” It’s also a great idea to follow-up with a thank-you email or “snail mail.” This demonstrates continuing interest in the job opportunity, as well as respect for the interviewer(s). When I receive thank-you emails or letters, I take a second look at that prospect because of their courtesy. Thank-you notes may seem old-fashioned, but they make a good impression. In addition, they’re a great way to remind the interviewer about you and what you had to say during the meeting. This is especially important when a company is interviewing a lot of people for the same position. The thank-you email can help you stand out from the crowd.
Ernie Bray is a high-energy, award-winning American entrepreneur, CEO, author and podcast host. Bray is a respected advisor in driving strategic impact in the areas of process improvement, strategy, management, social media, marketing and innovation.