Earlier this year I had the interview of a lifetime. It was time to supplement my free time and income with a job after having relied on entrepreneurial revenue streams for over a decade. I was excited but of course very nervous. What if I, the guy who blogs about jobs, couldn't manage to land a job? Like everyone else, I went online to look up some last-minute interview tips.
My recent job search success story is like a Cinderella story. My interviews were comical, though. I unnecessarily spent hundreds of dollars on a suit that I wouldn't wear to an interview. I over prepared (I looked up last-minute interview tips), and even then I was still nervous I was missing something. But, I landed the job, so that makes me more qualified than I have been in the last 12 years of writing about job search and job interviews to write this post.
Here are some of my last-minute interview tips to win the interview:
1. Dress the part
Look at pictures on social media and the company website to see what people wear to the office. Then, dress up a little better than that. But don't overdress.
2. Know the language
Look at other job descriptions for the same role and pick out key phrases that you should be able to talk comfortably about, and then study up on those.
3. Prepare your stories
Almost every question you are asked can be answered with a story. Are you ambitious? A poor answer would be "yes." A great answer would be "Yes, I'm ambitious. In my last job . . . " (and then share a short story that shows you are ambitious).
Editor's note: If you're still in the process of applying for jobs, you'll need to revamp your resume to meet the needs of the particulars in each job ad. You can use LiveCareer's free resume builder if you find yourself in need of help!
4. Research the interviewers
If you don't know who the interviewers are then ask the recruiter or the person who invited you to the interview for intel. There is plenty of information on LinkedIn to help you learn about the interviewers, where they went to school, other companies they worked at, etc.
5. Know the company
There is no excuse to go into an interview and ask general questions about a company. Doing so shows you didn't care enough about the opportunity to do any research.
You should have some questions prepared, ones that will show you did your research and dug deep. Hopefully, this is no-brainer information for you.
You should also be prepared to talk about company specifics (locations, size, revenue, goals, etc.). If the company is big, or hires a lot, a quick online search might surface some common interview questions you should be ready to answer.
6. Do industry research
What industry and competitor trends can you speak about? Who are the main competitors in this space? Again, smart questions and conversation about this will show you cared enough to do your research.
7. Find employees or past employees on LinkedIn and ask them for interviewing advice
You will learn different things from current or past employees. Past employees are likely more open about company issues and team dynamics while current employees might share information about the interview process. Either way, you are making new network connections and gathering information to help in your interview.
8. Let your personality out
The interview is a time to impress others. Make sure you are not so guarded and careful in what you say and how you sit that you come across as too reserved. It's not just about whether or not you can do the job—the interviewers want to know whether they want to work with you. They want to get a feel for your personality.
Your ability to fit into the team is as important as whether you have the skills they are looking for.
I know it's a stressful, potentially life-changing time, but relax a little!
9. Reign in your quirks
When I say to let your personality out I don't mean you get a blank check to let them know everything about you. I've interviewed people who said the right things but for one reason or another I picked up on signs that indicated they would not be fun to work with, or they might be too overbearing. Once I get to the point where I get that you can do the job, I'm evaluating whether I want to work closely with you, or whether you would add to or take away from the team culture I'm building.
10. Arrive at the interview 30 minutes early
My personal rule has been to get to the interview location at least 30 minutes early. This allows for any time that might be lost due to bad traffic or getting a little lost. GPS is great but sometimes you find yourself in a parking garage configuration that is confusing enough that you might waste time driving around. I should note that I don't go into the office 30 minutes early. I definitely don't recommend checking into the interview too early. If you arrive rather early, just sit in your car (or a nearby coffee shop) and relax. This gives you time to wind down, focus solely on your interview coming up, and maybe even look up last-minute interview tips.
11. Make a solid first impression
Smile, and make eye contact with your interviewers. Extend a firm handshake to everyone you sit down with. Not to make you feel self-conscious, but realize that everything you do is scrutinized by the interviewers.
12. Know how you are going to nail the "tell me about yourself" question
You know they are going to ask a question introducing yourself. Why not script out a great answer and practice delivering it? What can you say that will help you stand out from other interviewers and put your best foot forward as the right person for this role?
PS: LiveCareer has resources to help you answer all sorts of interview questions, from common to not-so-common.
13. Have a solid exit strategy
When the interview is over think about how you will make your exit. This includes a "do you have anything else" opportunity to give your final pitch, or to ask a really insightful question. You might also ask, "When should I expect to hear back from you?" or "When are you making a decision for this role?" Any of these questions further express your interest in the role. Be sure you reiterate your interest in the role, and note your preferred method of contact.
14. Take advantage of every second you get to show off your best self
Your interview is not the time to ask for coffee, go to the bathroom, or do anything else that might distract from the precious time you get with your interviewers. I know it's ridiculous to even suggest that someone might need to go to the bathroom during an interview but it happens. Imagine that you need to be physically prepared for a meeting for about an hour, and do what you need to before the interview so you don't introduce any personal distractions.
15. Follow Up
Want to stand out? Follow up. Want to say one more thing, or reiterate a point? Follow up. Do you really want the job? Follow up! Do know, however, that there's an art to following up. Check out this article on follow-up etiquette.
I get that you are nervous. Everyone that goes into an interview is nervous, sometimes even the interviewers (even interviewers look up last-minute interview tips). It's okay to be nervous. I'm nervous every time I get on stage, even though I've done it hundreds of times. But don't let your nerves dictate your ability to perform in the interview. Prepare, practice, and show up on time, and you'll do great. The more you interview, the better you get. So go out there and get started with acing interviews!