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7 Tips For A Winning Job Interview

7TipsToPrepareJobInterview_KennedyExecutiveCareerBlog

Congratulations! With the invitation to your first job interview, you have taken the first step in finding a new job.

Based on the skills in your resume, your potential new Manager has decided that you should be able to do the job. Good news: it is now “only” about the personal impression you will make.

Here are 7 tips for a winning job interview:

  1. You only get one chance to make a first impression: be on time, dress accordingly to your industry codes. Be likable, dynamic and positive. Show 120% of your personality and not only 80%. Apply a firm handshake (as if you hold a tennis racket) and maintain straight eye contact. Be authentic and show your utmost best. You are the only one suitable for this position!
  2. Go into the meeting with a pen and a writing pad (I am often asked “can I take notes?”). You would do that for any other important meeting with your boss too, right? Take notes during the interview (rule of thumb: write down all figures and data). Not taking notes will be interpreted as a lack of interest in 9 out of 10 cases.
  3. Read the homepage carefully and maybe print out some pages. Everyone will recognize the logo of his/ her company and notice you have come prepared. Google the firm. You should have every accessible information before going into the interview (market, history, number of employees, revenues). One of the first questions may be “what do you know about us?” and you have to be able to give a qualified response. Also investigate the people you will meet with. Do they have a profile on LinkedIn or even Facebook? Print it and put it to the other print-outs and you will impress your opposite.
  4. Your meeting will usually take 60 minutes and has 3 parts: 1) your opposite will present his/ her company, department and values, 2) You present yourself, 3) You both go into the job specifics and define the next steps. Be very attentive in the first part! You will get a lot of valuable information which you should focus on when it’s your turn. Focus on similarities as this is all about similarities (tasks and values). Confirm when you agree, listen actively (such as “that matters to me too”, “I know this from…”, “Yes, when I was at ABC, we had a similiar challenge and I did this and that”).
  5. Never say “what are my tasks” but “what would the tasks be”? Use “would” instead of “will”.
  6. You will prove your competence with the questions you ask – or your incompetence! Ask the exact tasks, the status quo of the department, the biggest challenges, what they are looking for in a candidate or simply what kind of person is successful in this company. Do NOT ask for salary, benefits, canteen or else (in almost 15 years in this industry, I have heard all of this). What is the purpose of this first meeting? To define if you want to see each other again. Don’t use all your questions today and let them ask you about salary etc. (however, DON’T ask for the canteen unless you apply as a chef…).
  7. Positive ending: give positive feedback at the end of the interview if you would like to have the job. Choose your own words and something like “Thanks for the pleasant meeting. I like what I heard and saw and I am confident I could fill the role. I am very interested in this job and would be pleased to meet you again soon. What is the next step?”

 

Be natural and honest. There should be no surprise on the technical side if your resume is written properly. Be yourself and the the result will be a good one – whatever it will be.

Conclusion:

The first step in getting a new job is taken. You should now pay attention at:

  • The first impression: a firm hand-shake, steady eye contact, professional outfit and manners as well as a good preparation
  • The second impression: clever questions, notes, active listening, soft skills
  • The third impression: a conclusion with your commitment to take this job as well as your confidence to be successful

 

Good luck!

PS: when choosing a job, match the art and the science. The science will tell you if you can do the job, if the salary is OK etc. The art will tell you if you like the culture and the people you met. And my experience is: we can discuss the science but never the art! Trust your guts as they will never cheat you: if your guts tell you “yes”, it is yes, “no” is no and “I have to think about it” – is no as well!

 

Jorg Stegemann
Jorg Stegemann - Headhunter, Certified Coach and Business Writer - is head of Kennedy Executive Search. Apart from running Kennedy's company blog, he writes for Forbes, BBC and other media.
  1. Sarah Reply

    Thanks great posting. This can also apply to any meeting preparation.
    Looking forward to the next posting.
    Anything about retention?

    • Jorg
      Jorg Reply

      Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for your comment. Talent management and retention are two of the hottest topics for proactive HR departments at the moment. Stay tuned for a posting on these.

  2. Steve Reply

    It’s impossible to show more than 100% of your personality. It would violate the Laws of Thermodynamics (which everyone should learn, of course). And intuition has been shown to be wrong more often than not (read Thinking, Fast and Slow by Kahneman). Moods and emotions usually make intuition unreliable. And why not discuss the culture? You’re going to be spending your life with these people. Alas, I did find the concluding paragraph to be useful.

    • Jorg Stegemann
      Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Thanks, Steve. I like your comment and did not mean to violate the law. My point: 80% = too timid, 120% = overdo it, be unnatural.

  3. Sharon Reply

    I went on an interview yesterday, I was given a sheet of what my duties would be, and was then told of the benefits that the company offers. NOTE: I never asked about any benefits. Does this employer sound desperate? How should I look at this?

    • Jorg Stegemann
      Jorg Stegemann Reply

      I understand you. But then, maybe your interviewer has no experience? I remember one client I presented candidates to in my function as headhunter who asked me “interview your candidates? Okay, but how does that go?”

  4. Tricia Reply

    I like your article, I have been to so many interviews now and do well, have the experience and skill to do the job, but walk out knowing I will be rejected. Even applying for the same jobs I applied for 18 months earlier. Ever time I apply for a Hr job in my area I expect to be rejected, as it is not what you know but who you know.
    These tips are great for a interview but I have found some people in my area do not know how to interview. Also if they have already chosen a internal or external person, why bother wasting my and their time.

  5. Andrew Reply

    Great post, some very useful tips. Planning for the interview is so crucial to the outcome. I encourage my clients to map out previous examples from their career history that can be linked back to the duties in the position that is being applied for.

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