8 Subtle Ways to Ace the Interview

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By Vicki Salemi

Want to land the job? Who doesn't, right? You go on an interview in your Sunday finest, being the consummate professional. Well, hiring managers strive to hire the candidate who is best suited for the job in terms of their skills and experience, but they're also looking to identify the best fit. Who did their hiring team like the best? Who would fit in well with the culture?

This boils down to several subtle ways a candidate can shine during the interview:

1. Be punctual. If you're running late, call the recruiter to let him or her know you're caught in traffic. That is better than just nonchalantly showing up late, looking like you disrespect that person's time (and ultimately yours, too).

There's really no reason why you should not be punctual, though. Leave plenty of time, and aim to arrive at least 15 minutes early. The worst that can happen is you get stuck in traffic and – you guessed it – end up arriving on time.

2. Be courteous. Now that you've arrived in the lobby with time to spare, let's say you're sitting there for five ... ten ... fifteen minutes. Don't look miffed. The interviewers may have a frenetic day packed with meetings. The worst thing you can do is look annoyed. Yes, your time is a commodity, and so is theirs. How many times have you had important meetings on your calendar, only to get pulled in several directions?

Remind yourself that their tardiness is no reflection on lack of interest of you as a candidate. They're doing their best, so the best thing you can do is shrug it off when they're late to greet you and start the interview process. It's technically no big deal.

3. Be nice to everyone you meet. This goes without saying. From the very first conversation you have with a recruiter, to the courtesies with the receptionist, to the friendly banter in an elevator – all eyes are on you.

Yes, if you're rude to the receptionist or anyone else for that matter, it will get back to the recruiter. And when two candidates with nearly identical résumés need to be evaluated, you can bet any rudeness in the lobby or elevator will make its way to the boardroom.

4. Make small talk. This is particularly important if your interview involves a meal. School yourself on current events and popular movies and books to keep the conversation going. Be sure to steer clear from controversy, too.

Sometimes we're so immersed in technology and the job search process that we forget to be ourselves. This is your chance to shine! Talk about a hobby or favorite vacation spot. Give them every reason to like you.

If you're rusty, practice your small talk. Identify an event with coffee and conversation, perhaps through MeetUp or a local religious service, and strike up a conversation to brush up. Most candidates overlook this part of interview prep, and it's one of the most important pieces to ace!

5. Ask questions. A common pet peeve of interviewers is when candidates don't ask any questions. Really? You don't have one single question about the role, the company, the future of the role or anything else? There's no excuse. It's OK to repeat questions or ask them in a slightly different way to different interviewers. Plus, as conversations develop within the interviews themselves, you may be curious about certain aspects of the role or company.

This is your opportunity to interview employers the same way they're evaluating you. Go ahead and ask questions! Does a new project mean there will be additional travel in the role? Why is the job open? How long has he or she worked there? If you're at a loss, ask about the interviewer's career. You can't go wrong.

6. Send a thank-you note or email. This is a must! Again, when there are countless qualified candidates vying for the same role, every detail counts. It's not unlike losing weight – sure the overall goal may be a smaller number on the scale, but replacing potato chips with crunchy celery will do a body good. The same applies here in that every move matters. Your thank-you note can be succinct, but it also must be error-free!

7. Don't pester. When the interview comes to a close, pay close attention to the timing, and remind yourself it's not on your clock. (If that was the case, you would have been hired a few months ago!) Most offers and salaries need to get a few levels of approval, so take a deep breath. Ask about next steps, where they are in wrapping up interviews and when you can expect to hear back. Yes, you should be diligent in following up, but please don't be that guy or gal who emails every single morning for a status update.

8. Be a tactful negotiator. Sometimes offers get reneged due to how the candidate behaved during the negotiation process. Hold your ground, but remain professional at all times. Hiring managers often wonder if the candidate operates this way right now, how will he or she operate in front of clients?
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