Top 5 Interviewing Skills for "Newbies"

By Ryan Rhodes

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Job interviews are stressful for everyone from recent college grads to seasoned employees. Don’t let anxiety get in the way of getting hired. Read these tips to master the interview and land that dream job.

After applying for countless jobs, it’s rewarding to receive a phone call or email requesting an in-person interview. However, those first moments of excitement are often quickly followed by panicked concerns: What should I wear? Should I bring anything with me? How should I act? Is there anything I should study?

Landing a job in today’s economy requires a combination of finesse, confidence and practice. While interviews commonly feel like interrogations, they’re really designed to serve as conversations between candidates and their potential employers. The recruiter or hiring manager is evaluating the knowledge, enthusiasm and professionalism of the candidate in order to gauge whether that person will be a good fit within the organization.

When it comes to tackling an interview, preparation is half the battle. Researching the potential employer, practicing common interview questions and planning travel and clothing ahead of time can help candidates handle the interview with confidence.

Here are five interview skills to master before the big day:

1. Arrive Prepared

Candidates should take the time to research their potential employer’s history and current activity. Knowledge of general company functions, recent product launches or other news will help candidates come across as well-informed and resourceful to hiring managers.

Always have an answer for why the company or position is the right fit. If an interviewee can’t explain why he or she is right for the job, it isn’t a good sign for the interviewer.

It’s also important to arrive at the interview with the correct documents and materials. Candidates should bring along a printed copy of their research, a few copies of their résumés printed on formal resume paper, a small writing pad to take notes and identification to present when entering the company offices.

2. Look the Part

Gone are the days when candidates wore business suits or dresses to every job interview. While some industries still require business formal wear, many of today’s organizations take a more casual approach to office attire. It’s not uncommon for interviewees to arrive at an office to find employees have swapped ties for baseball caps and slacks for cargo shorts.

Whether they’re interviewing at a tech start-up or Fortune 500 company, candidates should dress to reflect the company culture while also looking clean-cut and professional. Don’t underdress, but don’t go overboard trying to fit in just yet either.

Many hiring managers believe that those who dress appropriately for an interview are more likely to be successful in their desired role. Properly dressed candidates will appear more eager to make a strong first impression, demonstrate they value the opportunity and show respect to the interviewer.

Hiring managers will notice appearance before a word is spoken and typically form a first impression within 30 seconds, says Brenda Ferguson Hodges, a California-based image consultant and career coach, to Forbes.

Candidates should select “power outfits” that are both comfortable and help them feel good about themselves. Bright pieces or accessories, when chosen tastefully, can help convey a fun sense of personality.

3. Speak Carefully

Because job interviews are intended to be more conversational than one-sided interrogation, it’s important to maintain a balance between the two speakers. When a question is asked, the candidate’s response should be thorough - but not ridden with unnecessary detail. If the interviewer wants to know more information, they will ask a follow-up question.

Of course, nonverbal communication is just as important as spoken language. In addition to dressing appropriately, candidates should be careful to sit up straight, make direct eye contact and maintain a respectful amount of personal space between themselves and the interviewer.

4. Ask (Almost) Anything

Preparing a list of interesting and thought-provoking questions before an interview can help candidates build a better dialogue and evaluate whether they truly want the job. Questions about the company, and the specific position, will emphasize a genuine interest in the role and provide valuable insight.

For example, candidates could benefit from asking about organizational structure, training opportunities, the most and least enjoyable aspects of the role, corporate culture or important issues currently facing the organization. It’s best to avoid questions that are too open-ended or involve an answer that could be easily found on the company website.

5. Follow-Up

After an interview, it’s common to feel a mix of relief, excitement and anxiety. While it’s easy to believe that the process is complete, there is one more step towards solidifying a strong impression: follow up with the interviewer.

This step is critical to convey interest in a job and demonstrate the value derived from the interview. In doing this, it’s important to take a strategic approach and avoid becoming a burden to the hiring team. A polite email that contains details from the interview, or recent company news, indicates that the candidate enjoyed their conversation and has a genuine interest in the business. When sending a message, contact the recruiter using the email or mailing address that was last used to contact them, and avoid using their personal contact information.

Timing is the key to a good follow-up. Begin to develop a strategy for follow-up contact by asking about the timeline for a hiring decision after the interview is over. Send an initial email within the next day or two. A week after their deadline, send one more tasteful note to see where they are in the hiring process.

The Key to Success

For interview candidates across all ages and industries, the most important step in the interview process is preparation. Those who take the time to study the company, prepare answers and work on appropriate discussion topics can have a distinct advantage in landing the job. 


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