6 tips to make the best impression in your next interview

An overwhelming 92% of Americans have said they get anxious during job interviews, which means nearly everyone finds at least one element of the process daunting.

Research has even shown that a higher percentage of people find looking for a new job more stressful than moving house or planning a wedding. In the same study, interviews were ranked as the most stressful part of the job search, sharing first place with ‘starting in a new role’.

It’s no surprise, then, that the internet is overflowing with articles offering tips and advice on how best to prepare for job interviews. There are many great resources out there, but I would like to add my two cents, based on the insights I’ve gained from the latest research and the thousands of interviews I’ve conducted during my career.

While I specialize in recruiting for cyber security jobs in NY, these tips are designed to help candidates across all sectors, disciplines and seniorities.

Before the interview

You will no doubt have heard Benjamin Franklin’s well-worn quote: “By failing to prepare, you prepare to fail.” The phrase may have become a bit of a cliché, but the underlying message is still relevant when it comes to preparing for interviews.

1. Don’t just research the company, research yourself

Most candidates know they need to research the organization and role they are interviewing for. You should also be reviewing the job description, as well as reading through the interviewer’s profile and background, if these are readily available. After all, an informed candidate is a quality candidate, according to 88% of hiring managers.

But don’t forget to perform due diligence on yourself. By this I mean you should thoroughly scrutinize the copy of your resume sent to the hiring manager and check your social media profiles. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? Can you talk confidently about every job or role that you’ve included? Are there any inconsistencies to explain?

The time you’ve spent learning everything about the organization could be for nothing if you can’t speak to your own background and experience.

2. Confirm the dress code beforehand

More than a third (35%) of interviewers make a hiring decision within the first five minutes of meeting an applicant, Workopolis research revealed. Nevertheless, only 2% of candidates in a Harris Interactive study said the thought of dressing inappropriately caused them stress ahead of interviews, suggesting people may be underestimating the impact of first impressions. 

Candidates dress to fit the work environment they hope to be joining. At many international banks, for example, formal business attire is still the standard. On the other hand, technology companies, fintech start-ups or consultancies may prefer smart casual – it’s possible that a suit and tie could be seen as stuffy to hiring managers in these industry segments.

As such, you should always check with your recruiter about the dress code for a particular employer, but – in my opinion – opt for business formal if you’re ever in doubt.

3. Consider interview logistics

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of recruiters say three or four interviews is typical before a candidate receives a job offer. That means you’ll likely have both phone and face-to-face interviews. Here are some quick-fire tips:

Phone interviews

  • Choose a quiet area where you won’t be disturbed. Avoid busy streets, coffee shops or restrooms.
  • Schedule a meeting room if you’re only available during working hours at your current job. You should book a slot for longer than you expect the interview to last in case of unforeseen problems, such as the interviewer being late.
  • Prepare adequate time to set up necessary technology, such as video conferencing or microphones.

Face-to-face interviews

  • Try to travel to interviews from home, as this will serve as a useful dry run for your commute.
  • Prepare for the weather. Dressing to impress won’t matter if you forget an umbrella on a rainy day or wear too many layers when it’s hot.
  • Aim to arrive on-site about 5-10 minutes before the agreed interview time. Any earlier than that might be frowned upon by hiring managers who may not have scheduled time in their diaries to entertain an over-eager applicant. 

During the interview

We’ve covered the preparation stages, but what about the interview itself? To paraphrase Scottish poet Robert Burns, even the best-laid plans often go awry. In other words, you can’t prepare for every eventuality. But having the right interview strategy can help you overcome any speed bumps.

1. Avoid lengthy monologues

One study found that 76% of hiring managers rated ‘being interesting’ as an important attribute when making recruitment decisions. Over a fifth (22%) said it was ‘very important’. The upshot? Avoid boring your interviewer. 

Candidates sometimes have a tendency to ramble when they are asked to discuss their background. A good way to check whether your interviewer is still engaged is to ask questions at natural conversation breaks: “Does this make sense?”, “Am I being clear?”, “How does this resonate with you?”

Overall, people tend to think a conversation has gone well if they are doing their fair share of the talking. It’s therefore in your best interests to ask enough leading questions to open up a dialogue. Speaking of which …

2. Ask forward-thinking questions 

Try to frame your questions in a way that encourages your interviewer to already envisage you working in that role. These are what I call ‘forward-thinking’ questions. Instead of asking about the day-to-day duties of a particular position, consider taking a broader view:

“What is the overall goal of this position within the first 6, 12 or 18 months? And how can I achieve this?”

This approach allows you to discuss the role in greater depth and gives the hiring manager a chance to expand on the conversation beyond the short term. More generally, I often advise candidates to ask questions across three core areas:

  1. The business: What is the company’s direction from the CEO down?
  2. The team: How will my division operate and what are its growth plans?
  3. The interviewer: Why did they join the company? How can you help them grow their vision? 

Avoid raising the topic of compensation. However, confer with your recruiter ahead of the interview to formulate a strategy for the best response when interviewers bring it up themselves. Also, stay tuned because I’ll be offering more salary negotiation advice for interviews in my next blog.

3. Always close strong

The Workopolis survey found that roughly 23% of hiring managers still haven’t made a decision on a candidate by the end of an interview and need further time to decide. ‘Closing’ is largely a sales term, but it definitely applies here. You’ll need to close strong and ensure the interviewer’s last impression of you is positive.

Try “I think this was an excellent chat. How should we move forward, and when can I expect to hear feedback?” or “Do you have any concerns or questions based on our interview today?”

The second approach is a great way of getting immediate feedback, which can be very beneficial (and hopefully not too awkward!). The best outcome is when they say it went well and it did. This naturally opens the door to discussing the next steps. If they provide constructive criticism, you’ll also have a second chance to clarify any confusion. There’s a chance the interviewer will say it went well, even if it didn’t. In which case, you’ll probably hear the bad news from your recruiter at a later date.

Taking the next step in your career

The search for a new job can be stressful and long-winded, but I hope some of these tips will help you strengthen your interview technique and raise your confidence.

If you have any questions about the information in this article, or would like to discuss your career more generally, I would love to hear from you. Please contact me on +1 646 578 8951 or via email at ga@barclaysimpson.com.

Image credit: Tim Gouw via Unsplash