1. Research the Company
It seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many interviewees don’t do the necessary research on a prospective company before heading into an interview. One time in particular, I remember an applicant responding during the interview to a straightforward question with, “Sorry, I didn’t have time to take a look at the website beforehand.” Needless to say, she did not get the job. If you can’t take 15 minutes to do some basic background research on the company you’re trying to convince to hire you, it will become quickly evident that you don’t want it badly enough. Doing your due diligence to familiarize yourself with a company, and in particular their clients, services, staff, and history, will show that you’re actually taking the process and opportunity seriously. Otherwise, how can you expect anyone to take you seriously?
2. Ask Thoughtful Questions
At the end of the interview, the worst thing you can say when an interviewer asks if you have any questions is “no.” You should always have thoughtful questions prepared that challenge (in a good way) the interviewers and show that you are genuinely invested in being a part of the company and team. This is also a critical opportunity to better uncover whether a company is a good fit for you. Some common, but effective, questions I’ve heard from prospective employees include:
- What does your ideal candidate for this position look like?
- How do you determine success in this role?
- What is your favorite part about working here?
- What does the typical day-to-day look like for this position?
- What is the projected growth potential of this position?
3. Don’t Ask About Salary in the First Interview
While I just covered the importance of asking thoughtful questions in an interview, there is one question that I would stay away from at this stage in the hiring process: “What does the job pay?” Ending an otherwise great interview with this question can be a turnoff to employers and can also work to your disadvantage.
Whether you’re the top candidate or not, you typically have no leverage at this stage in the hiring process because you will have little to no solid evidence indicating where you stand relative to other applicants. If you ask about salary prematurely, an employer can easily turn it around to ask you what salary you are seeking before revealing what they had in mind or what was budgeted for. If you say a number or range that is lower than the allowable salary, why would an employer willingly overpay you when they know you would accept less?
On the flipside, if you aim for an outlandish or unrealistic number to try and give yourself the edge (even if you would settle for less), it can be detrimental to your chances of moving forward. Sometimes salaries won’t align, and that’s ok, but bringing it up and being the first to show your cards can easily do more harm than good. It’s better to determine these things once you have a real offer. At that point, you know that they want you badly enough and can–and almost always should–negotiate from there if needed.
4. Follow-Up After the Interview
A follow-up email can be the difference between getting the job and not. It may sound insignificant, but when there are multiple qualified applicants and it’s already a tight race, following up can really be a key differentiator–and this is something I’ve seen firsthand. Not only does following up emphasize interest in the job, but it shows initiative, professionalism, and communication skills. Sending a brief and personalized note that reiterates the reasons you’re excited about the company and position shows that you were attentive and engaged during the interview as well.
5. Have Specific and Relevant Examples On-Hand
It’s inevitable that in any well-constructed job interview, that the employer will ask situational questions similar to, “Tell me about a time when….” or “What would you do if…” It’s important to have several examples on hand that are as relevant as possible to the job you’re applying for as a way to showcase your work ethic, skills, and problem-solving abilities. It can be stressful to try and think of these examples on the spot in what is already a high-pressure situation, so keep a few different ones in your back pocket that you can leverage for potential scenarios and questions.
6. Show Up Early
If you’re on time, you’re late. That saying doesn’t ring more true than when it comes to job interviews. When an applicant is cutting it close, or is even right on time, the perception might be that they aren’t prepared for unknown situations. How would they know how easy—or difficult—parking would be? How would they know the exact state of traffic, especially is something unexpected were to cause a delay? It says a lot about an applicant when they are cutting it so close to their interview start time that they barely make it. If you do happen to be late, it can often be a detrimental mistake that costs you the job.
Arriving early can also be a great opportunity to observe a workplace and its culture. You’ll likely get a small glimpse into the natural office setting, which could help provide valuable insight that you would otherwise not have.
7. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
This obviously goes without saying for any writing samples, resumes, cover letters, etc (sadly, I have still seen plenty) but also for any email correspondence with potential employers throughout the interviewing process. If this isn’t a strong suit of yours, ask someone else to proofread any materials being sent over. Grammatical errors—especially more obvious ones—can show a level of carelessness and a lack of attention to detail that is detrimental to many positions.
8. Bring Hard Copies of any Relevant Docs
While many companies are able pull up the necessary info on their computers, I still find it useful and important to come prepared with hard copies of any relevant documents—including resumes, cover letters and any relevant work samples, if applicable. This can be helpful in the event that additional interviewers jump into an interview last minute and want a quick point of reference.
What other interview tips do you think applicants should be aware of? I always love getting feedback from both interviewees and interviewers on what works (and what doesn’t), so feel free to reach out via email or comment below with your thoughts!
Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team. Graduating with honors in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of clients. She has been published in media outlets like PR Daily, Meltwater, and Entrepreneur.