It’s no wonder job interviews are so nerve-racking – there’s so much room for error. Before your next big sit-down, take these alphabetical pointers to heart.
A is for ... Ask as many questions as possible.
Asking intelligent questions helps you learn more about how qualified you are for the position. Smart questions also send a message about your interest in the job. Remember that you shouldn’t ask something you could find on a simple Web search.
B is for ... Be specific.
“Yes” or “No” are not suitable responses to any question you’re asked. Even if asked if you want a glass of water, you should stretch the answer out to “Yes, please” or “No, thank you.” For heavy-hitter questions, you should give examples to support your answers. For instance, explain why you’re a good fit for the position. Tell a story of a time you overcame an obstacle.
C is for ... Carry several pens and a notepad.
Your interviewer is unaware of and disinterested in your elephant memory, so bring what’s needed to take notes even if note-taking isn’t normally your style. It’s another way to relay your interest in the job and your engagement in the conversation, plus the notes will give you specifics to refer to in your thank-you email as well as in a second- or third-round interview.
D is for ... Develop a strategy for discussing tricky subjects.
“Why are you leaving your old job?” “Why do you have a seven-year employment gap on your résumé?” “What are you most concerned about with this job?” Count on fielding awkward questions like these and rehearse so that you won’t struggle and stutter when the time comes.
E is for ... Enunciate.
Take a deep breath before answering each question, and remember to speak slow enough so that you don’t trip over your words. You’ll probably find the quality of your answers will improve by doing so, plus you’ll lower the chances of rambling.
F is for ... Follow the interviewer’s lead.
Tiptoe around topics like salary and leave policies until you’ve judged the hiring manager’s receptiveness to discussing them. You’re entitled to ask about these things, of course, but introducing those subjects too soon could give just that impression – that you’re entitled.
G is for ... Get to the interview site early.
But not too early. It’s good to arrive five to 10 minutes before the start time. Any earlier than that will make the hiring manager feel ambushed, while anything later doesn’t leave room for any mistakes.
H is for ... Have a snack.
It’s uncertain what’s worse: The stomach growls that are accompanying your explanation of your qualifications, or your low-blood-sugared droopy demeanor. Either way, an empty stomach could embarrass and betray you, so have something light to eat to hold you over. Just remember to reserve enough time to eat, brush your teeth and arrive as scheduled.
I is for ... Iron your clothes.
Even if you’re applying for a super cool, super casual job with a super cool and casual office, you should still concern yourself with presentation. Dress slightly better than the office’s standard – and no matter what you’re wearing, from business suit to a nice pair of jeans – make sure it’s wrinkle-free.
J is for ... Jot down the names of everyone you meet.
Interviewers are accustomed to polished candidates asking for business cards at the end of interviews, and these business cards are a way to ensure you don’t misspell the names of your interviewers on thank-you notes. But also jot names to go with notes in the interview to have some context of the conversations you’ve had. Plus, you’ll need something to take notes on with the pen and pad you’re carrying.
K is for ... Keep an interview log.
Write down the dates of interviews, whom you met with at each interview, plus a few things you learned each time. Active job seekers may go on a lot of interviews with various employers, and it’s easy to get confused. An interview log helps you stay organized as to whom you met, when and in what context.
L is for ... Leave a positive impression with everyone you meet.
The interview starts when you walk into the lobby of the building. Be pleasant to every security guard and receptionist you meet. Don’t avert your eyes from a passersby – establish eye contact and smile. You never know who you might encounter during this stage, or what role these seemingly incidental people have in your hiring.
M is for ... Mirror the body language of your interviewer.
Many report that it subconsciously puts people at ease to see their actions mirrored, or replicated. If your interviewer crosses her legs, do the same. If she talks with her hands, use more gestures yourself. Has she leaned in for a point you’re making? Lean in just the same.
N is for ... Nod in agreement.
Nodding signals that you’re listening, but be careful. You shouldn’t overdo it nor should you nod when the conversation doesn’t require it – that makes you look like you aren’t paying attention (perhaps because you aren’t?).
O is for ... Own your shortcomings.
You’ll most likely be asked about your weaknesses, and when you are, don’t irritate the interviewer with a backhanded attribute like, “I’m a perfectionist” or “I just care too much about the work.” Pinpoint your weak spots, be candid about those things when asked and explain what you’re doing to improve.
P is for ... Practice, practice, practice.
You already knew that’s what “P” would be for, right? So let’s say again: practice, and not just your interview answers and questions. Put on your interview outfit, and examine yourself in the mirror from all angles. (Now is the time to find that hole in your pants you didn’t know was there.) Map out the route you’ll take to the interview site, then test and time it.
Q is for ... Quell your nerves.
Employers expect you to be somewhat anxious. The key is not to show it. Your shaky hands and trembling voice foreshadow how you’d perform under pressure once hired. The best way to soothe your nerves for game time is to practice. Also take a few composing breaths before sitting down in the hot seat.
R is for ... Research the company thoroughly.
Start by browsing the company’s website and commit its mission (long- and short-term), goals and history to memory. Then take to Glassdoor.com, Vault.com, Hoovers.com, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and, of course, Google, to find out what others have to say. Broaden your search to find out tidbits about your interviewer as well.
S is for ... Send a thank-you note promptly.
Some hiring managers may sour on working with you strictly because you failed to observe proper interview etiquette. A full 24 hours shouldn’t pass before they’ve heard from you, so before you take off your interview suit, you should sit down at your computer and compose an individual thank-you email for every person you interviewed with. It should be short, and you should reiterate your interest in the position. It’s also a good idea to mention something specific that happened during the conversation.
T is for ... Tell them you’re interested.
You might think your presence at the interview implies your interest in the position, but to an interviewer, it doesn’t. Show your enthusiasm for the position by plainly stating that you’re interested and asking about the next steps in the process.
U is for ... Understand a question before you answer it.
Sometimes you don’t hear all of what was asked. Or the interviewer’s question was convoluted and hard to follow. Whatever the circumstance, your attempting to form a response will only make you look bad, not him or her. It’s OK and preferable to ask him to repeat the question first.
V is for ... Voice your opinion. Really.
Good employers value independent thinkers, so if the interviewer asks “What do you think?” it’s OK to share it. Exercise tact and be respectful, but you don’t have to sacrifice either to be honest.
W is for ... Warn your references.
A hiring manager may decide to check your references at any stage in the interviewing process, so be courteous and give those references a heads-up that they could receive a phone call or email. It gives them time to prepare a quality reference.
X is for ... Xerox everything.
Ask your interviewer in advance whom you’ll speak with, then make copies of your résumé, cover letter and work samples for each person you’ll meet. Even then, you should still bring spare copies for the unexpected.
Y is for ... You have to be the expert on all things concerning you.
Go to interviews playing offense; if on an interview, the hiring manager spends a lot of time asking you to explain and clarify your skills, that isn’t always a good sign. Learning how to sell yourself can be tough for new job seekers, and particularly introverted job seekers, to master. But you should be eager to boast your accomplishments and explain your qualifications thoroughly.
Z is for ... Zero in on the needs of the organization.
Memorize the job description and know just how well you fit what the employer is looking for. During the interview, you should make a clear connection between your expertise and the job requirements.
-Chief Administrative Officer.