So you’re getting interviews. That’s great. It proves your resume is working effectively. Now it’s up to you to show your potential new employer that you’re ready to make the leap from job candidate to new hire. Here are a few easy ways to make a great first impression during and after an interview.
SEE OUR SLIDE SHOW: 7 Job Interviewer Pet Peeves (And How to Avoid Them)
During the Interview
Once you're face-to-face with a hiring manager, don't forget that this is your prime opportunity to leave him with a solid grasp of who you are and why he should hire you.
Be a know-it-all. As I often mention in the On the Job column, it's important to do as much advance research as possible on the company you’re interviewing with. Nothing stands out more to a recruiter than interviewing an applicant who knows the ins and outs of the company’s history, its big wins (and misses), as well as the latest industry trends. An interview is not just about you re-stating what’s already listed on your resume, but rather having a dialogue with one or more interviewers about how your skill set and knowledge base fits with the company’s needs.
Show them what you’ve got. Even if the interviewer doesn’t ask you for specific examples of workplace situations with previous employers, remember that you can answer practically any question with a story about how you excelled in a related situation. For example, if a hiring manager asks, “How good are you with Excel?” you can respond with, “Here’s a quick Excel story. One time, we were under the gun to deliver our sales-by-region report to the CEO and…” A story helps to better reinforce your proven track record.
Get the details. While most people don’t walk around their offices carrying their own business cards, you’ll want to have a notepad and a pen with you to take down each interviewer’s full name, title and contact details, and to write down key items from your discussions with each person. You’ll need this information later.
After the Interview
Demonstrating how much you want the gig doesn’t stop just because you’ve left a hiring manager’s office.
Say “Thank you.” Remember those names and conversation notes you jotted down for each interviewer? Now is when they’ll come in handy. You’ll want to write a thank-you note -- either handwritten or e-mail -- that’s personalized for each person you talked with no more than two days after your initial interview. Be sure to highlight any key talking points that might have come up.
Dear Mr. Whitaker,
I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me yesterday. Since I left your office, I’ve been thinking about the distribution issues you mentioned and am wondering what you’d think about simplifying the processes for inventory control and keeping the local warehouses stocked? I’d love to dig into that issue with you in our next conversation. When I was at Acme Products, we installed similar processes and training and cut our inventory carrying costs in half.
Thanks again for your time, and enjoy your weekend.
Prepare for Round 2. Once you’ve had a chance to digest everything that was discussed during the first interview, start preparing for the next round (assuming you’ve followed earlier advice, made a positive and lasting first impression, and are confident you’ll get a callback). The last thing you want to do is come home from an initial interview and think: “If they call me in for a second meeting, I’ll start to prepare for it then.” Keep in mind that being called in for a second in-person interview shows there is serious interest in potentially bringing you on board. You’ve got to be ready.
Using what you’ve already learned about the company and the specific requirements of the job, your next move should be to dig deeper. Ask yourself (and do some additional research, if needed):
-- Why did this hiring manager get approval to hire a new person when funds are tighter than they’ve ever been for this company?
You may find that the products the organization introduced in the previous year only generated two-thirds of the revenue projected. Now the department’s vice-president is in a position where he needs to figure out whether it’s a problem with the product or something else. Or you may find that the office is completely disorganized and they’re short on back-end office infrastructure.
-- What types of questions will the hiring manager or other interviewers ask during the second round?
If you found during the initial interview a constant point of discussion was that the company’s latest products are selling well below expectations, you can likely expect the sales and marketing VP to ask about your thoughts on how to help rectify the situation.
-- What is the key set of tasks a new hire will have to accomplish after six months on the job?
Many hiring managers won’t have thought about this question until you ask. Once you do, you’ll see them move the discussion into a more “top-level priority” focus. Doing this allows you to hear firsthand what the hiring manager expects from the person hired for the position. It also gives you an opportunity to share your experiences hitting similar milestones with previous employers and to discuss the approach you’d take to help the company meet those goals directly with your would-be boss.