Quick-wins to make the difference in your job interview
Over the course of several years I’ve been interviewing tens of people for jobs. This has ranged from interns looking for a job, to senior-level applicants. The majority of the job interviews have been ‘just fine’. Applicants did well. The interview followed a standard structure. However, there have only been a few cases where I have been impressed with the applicant. Let me share some insights that will help you to prepare for your next job interview.
Bring a hard-copy of your resume
When you interview with me for a job this is one of the items on my schedule for that day. More often than not I forget to print the resume of the candidate. Or — if I print it — I might have left it at my desk. Bringing a hard-copy of your resume to the meeting shows me that you are fully prepared to facilitate the discussion as good as possible.
You might argue that I’m ill-prepared as an interviewer if I don’t bring your resume. Although I would naturally disagree to that (I prepare every candidate thoroughly upfront), you can also consider this as an opportunity to make a difference. You may be able to tell me that you are precise and well-organized. But once you hand me a hard-copy at the point that I’m looking for one, you’ve demonstrated it. I’m convinced! Also, bringing a hard-copy of your resume is small effort, and it is physical evidence that you have actually prepared yourself for the meeting.
(As a bonus: if you bring your resume in printed form you prevent me from opening my laptop in order to pull up your resume. Laptops are a distraction in any job interview)
Bring as many concrete examples as you can
Job interviews can go many-many ways. Yet, one thing that you can be certain about is that we will be talking about you. When I interview someone I want to hear how they deal with specifics. I’m not looking for ‘general‘ descriptions of a person. If you tell me that you are a person that is a team-player, I want to know how that shows in your daily work. If your resume says that you meet deadline, then give me examples of the sacrifices you had to make to meet deadlines (not self-imposed deadlines).
The best recommendation I can give is to prepare examples, or better yet, bring the results of an example project of which you are proud. Make sure that you can give a brief overview of the project and your role in it. Have the key moments in the project at hand, and how you acted and delivered results in those moments. It’s much easier to talk about a real-life example of some work that you have actually done. (Again: if you can actually bring physical examples it’s the easiest way to talk about this — and avoid messing around with computers that need to be hooked up to PC’s, getting access to WiFi, etcetera).
The best job interview I’ve had was with someone that actually prepared a presentation of work she had done. The presentation took us through the basic project (1. This was the question, 2. Here’s how we handled it, 3. This was the result). It was to-the-point and convincing.
Why is it worth your time to prepare some example? It puts you in control. You can guide the conversation through topics that you are comfortable with. You can highlight aspects that you enjoyed doing and that you are good at. If you leave everything open to the interviewer they could ask you anything. They might go into subjects that you are less comfortable with. Ask questions on topics that you don’t have experience with. Refer to skills that were request in the job description that you don’t have. Put yourself in the driving seat!
(You know what: running a job interview is hard work. We also have to make up the questions as we go and as the conversation proceed. We can both benefit if you guide the conversation as well)
Show genuine interest in the job
This may be a difficult item to achieve. However, I expect everyone that interviews with our company to at least have a look at our website. It may be difficult to figure out the exact products that we are selling, and what you will be working on. However, you can be genuinely interested in what we do. If there are things that surprise you —just ask them!
One of the key moments in a job interview is where you as applicant will have the opportunity to ask questions to the interviewer. Take this moment seriously. After all — you may be speaking to your future employer. I cannot imagine that you don’t have any questions about specific products, customers, ways of working. I’ve been in many job interviews where applicants politely ‘waive’ the opportunity to ask question. “My questions have already been addressed in the conversation before,” is typically the response we get. Really?! I find that hard to imagine.
In order to prepare imagine you would have already been hired. You would get to the first day of work. What are the things you want to know? I can imagine that you want to know what project will you get started on? When does the company consider your contribution successful? You have to get yourself into a mindset where you get past the job application and start thinking about the job.
Put a conversation starter on your resume
Your resume is the marketing leaflet for you. Essentially you are trying to convince someone that you are the most suitable candidate for the job. Therefore it is important that you show you are qualified for the position that you apply to. Many, many articles have been written about how to do that.
On the other hand: people also need something to remember you by. If you’ve been looking at multiple resumes it’s difficult to remember exactly which role and function someone had. And whether they had experience with process X or software package Y. But I typically do remember things that stand out on the resume that are not standard.
What could that be? Well, actually it could be anything. I would recommend putting 1 interesting personal details about yourself on your resume. Make sure this is something that you can talk about in the job interview. What I would put on my resume? Either “Survived a train crash”, “Author of more than 50 patents” or “Spent a day in a maximum security prison”.
If those sentences don’t make for great conversations in a job interview…
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