How to Ace the Interview
January 01, 2010
An interview can make or break your job application. It is essential to prepare thoroughly, including research and practice.
Before the interview
Learn as much as you can about the organization and its industry, the job, the previous person who held that position, and the person or people who will be interviewing you. Although you may not necessarily use all this information in the interview, it will help inform your approach.
Also, practice how you will sell yourself in the interview. Don’t assume that your interviewer will have complete control – you, too, will have the opportunity to “spin” your experience and portray yourself in a positive way. Think of your “brand” message (i.e. an innovative manager who successfully shepherds through game-changing products) and examples from your work history that support it.
Make sure to know your weak points and how to package them in a positive way – typically, as a learning experience. Perhaps you made a big mistake, but that drove you to take a different approach for the future. Also be prepared to demonstrate how you have handled difficult situations in the past – break down your anecdote into problem, solution, and result.
Prepare some questions of your own, perhaps based on your reading about recent developments at the company. You’ll also want to know the key priorities for a person in this position – and if you get the job, keep those in mind so you can effectively manage upwards.
The day of the interview
- Dress appropriately
- Arrive on time, and preferably early
- Treat everyone (even the receptionist) courteously
- Be professional, but relaxed.
- Make sure to bring several copies of your resume in a hard-sided folder.
- Never criticize a former employer.
- Focus on your brand, and sell, sell, sell!
- Do not ask about salary, and try to avoid stating your preferred salary. It’s helpful to gather information, as on a salary-reporting website, on typical salaries for this role at this and other companies. If pressed, you can state a range, with the qualification that it would depend on the responsibilities of the job. Do not lie about your previous salary.
Don’t forget to follow up
Regardless of how you feel you performed on the interview, always follow up with a short note thanking your interviewer for their time. This can also be a good opportunity to follow up with an extra tidbit of information relevant to your conversation, or even fine-tune an unsatisfactory response to one of the questions from your interview.
E-mail is ubiquitous and easy, and preferred by many technology companies, but a conventional letter is more unusual in this day and age, and may help you stand out in certain sectors. Whichever method you choose, make sure to get the interviewer’s name right (asking for a business card during the interview is helpful).