Welcome to your first summer in the real world. You’re officially a young professional beginning your job search. And quite likely, you are preparing for a job interview.
Through my experience teaching and mentoring students at San Diego State University, I’ve learned a few things. Among them: preparing for a job interview causes anxiety. Real anxiety that begins well before graduation and continues until you land your first gig.
Perhaps you’re nervous because you’re still trying to figure out what exactly you want to do with your life, or maybe it’s because you really haven’t had to get out there, network, and sell your professional skills. Regardless of the circumstances, as someone who’s both a teacher and an entrepreneur, I can lend some unique advice that will help you ace your next job interview.
First Impressions Reign Supreme
Positive first impressions are pivotal to a successful job interview, and they have little to do with your résumé. Your credentials already got you in the door; now, it’s time to prove you’re a cultural fit.
Some studies say it only takes interviewers 90 seconds to decide whether a candidate is worth hiring. The second you walk through the door, they’re forming strong opinions based on non-verbal factors such as your clothing and posture.
Get Mentally Prepared
Before the interview, go to the company’s website and Facebook page for photos of what their employees wear on a day-to-day basis. Also, look for clues about the company’s culture. Some businesses — like Google — may even have an entire section of their website devoted to helping candidates prepare for job interviews.
Once you pass the interviewers’ “eye test”, you’ll need to wow them with your personality, knowledge, and career aspirations. I typically ask candidates questions that center around their work ethic, teamwork skills, past accomplishments and past failures — and I always ask them to identify what lessons they’ve learned along the way. Then, I dive into their short and long-term goals for both the position they’re applying for and their lives.
Candidates who come prepared with strong, thoughtful responses are the ones who shoot to the top of my mind when it comes time to make a hire.
Three Keys to an Outstanding Job Interview
Once you’ve made a great first impression and have built genuine confidence by coming prepared, following these three tips will help you ace your job interview:
Brush Up on Your Etiquette | Even if you’re the greatest candidate in the world, showing up late to an interview or having your phone ring in the middle of it could ruin any chance you have of getting the job. Arrive early, leave your phone in the car, begin the conversation with a firm handshake and maintain eye contact throughout the meeting.
Another piece of etiquette that often slips through the cracks? Making sure your résumé and LinkedIn profile are accurate. You were brought in for an interview because of these documents. If it turns out something wasn’t accurate, the interviewers will feel you’re trying to deceive them.
Focus on What Makes You Unique | Put your unique personality on display. Find creative ways to tell your story. Articulate your professional passions. After all, interviewers know when candidates simply recite generic lines, and there’s no quicker way to lose their interest. Let your true colors shine through, and show what a great cultural asset you could be for the company.
Another way to stand out is by writing a sincere thank-you note after the interview. Not nearly enough people do this, and a majority of employers consider it an important part of the interview process.
Take a Two-way Street | A job interview shouldn’t feel like a courtroom interrogation. Instead, it should be a free-flowing two-way discussion. Interviewers want you to ask questions, of course. So be prepared to answer. Then be ready to inquire about the day-to-day responsibilities of the position and the company culture.
You could also earn major brownie points by bringing up an article you found on the company’s blog and sparking a conversation around the topic. This will show you did your homework. It will also show you’re someone who will knock the responsibilities out of the park.
Master your first impression. Show you’ve done your research. Follow the three proven steps to acing your job interview. And you will stand out in your job interview.
Originally from Turkey, Zeynep Ilgaz and her husband co-founded Confirm Biosciences and TestCountry where Ilgaz serves as president and CEO. Confirm Biosciences is a national provider of diagnostic products for human and animal health and wellness testing. Mrs. Ilgaz received the Most Admired CEO Award in San Diego in 2016. Confirm Biosciences was recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in 2014 and 2015. Most recently, Mrs. Ilgaz has been honored as a finalist for EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2016 in San Diego.