15 Interview Tips and Tricks

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Job interviews can be nerve-wracking. Keep in mind some interview tips and tricks to help the process go more smoothly.

1. Schedule for the Interviewer's Optimal Time

If you're offered some flexibility in scheduling an interview, choose mid-morning on a Tuesday. That's when a hiring manager is likely to be most relaxed. During an early morning meeting, the interviewer may be somewhat preoccupied with thoughts of all that needs to be accomplished during the day. By the time late afternoon rolls around, an interviewer may be tired or stressed from the day's activities.

2. Do Your Homework

Many job candidates have been stumped by the question: "What do you know about what we do here?" Explore an organization's website. Familiarize yourself with the mission statement, products and services. Use the library or the Internet to find out whether the organization has recently been in the news.

3. Prepare Your Answers

There are many questions that all interviews have in common. You can find lists of such questions on the Internet. Minimize opportunities to be caught off-guard by mentally preparing answers to common questions ahead of time. Some standard questions include the following.

Basic Questions:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What attracted you to this company?
  • Why should we hire you?

Behavioral Questions:

  • Tell me about a time you had to deal with conflict on the job.
  • Have you ever worked on a team project when someone didn't do their part? How did you deal with it?
  • Can you describe a time your work was criticized?
  • What has been your greatest failure and how did you learn from it?
  • How do you handle a situation in which you can't possibly meet a deadline?

Salary Questions:

  • What salary are you looking for?
  • What is your salary history?

Questions About You:

  • How would you describe your work style?
  • What are you proudest of?
  • What is your ideal working environment?
  • What are five words that describe your character?
  • What negative things might your last boss say about you?

4. Select Your Interview Clothing

Plan your outfit ahead of time. Don't wait until the morning of the interview before deciding what to wear.

Clothing should be appropriate to the job you're seeking. If you're interviewing for a professional or managerial position, a good-quality suit is essential. Make sure it fits well and that you accessorize properly. For men, that means a white or light blue shirt, conservative tie and dress shoes. Women should select a blouse with a modest neckline, neutral hose and plain pumps with a closed toe and heel.

When interviewing in a casual environment, such as a warehouse or fast food establishment, your interview attire can be less formal. For men, a long-sleeved dress shirt with khakis is an acceptable look. Women can wear a simple dress or pair a collared blouse with a skirt or pants.

If you're not sure what to wear, it's better to err on the side of being overdressed. You will probably have more flexibility once you're hired, but job seekers should look polished, professional and ready to go to work.

5. Send the Right Message with Color

Hiring managers and Human Resources professionals surveyed by the jobs website CareerBuilder agreed that different clothing colors convey distinct impressions. There was general agreement of colors and their associated traits:

  • Black: leadership
  • Blue: a team player
  • Brown: dependable
  • Gray: logical/analytical
  • Orange: unprofessional
  • Red: power

6. Get Directions

Make sure you have clear directions for the location of the interview. If you're unfamiliar with the area, you can make a test run ahead of time so you know exactly where you're going. Plan to give yourself enough time to allow for traffic or possible delays with public transportation.

7. The Night Before the Interview

Get a good night's sleep. Avoid alcohol. If you typically have a hard time getting up in the morning, set a second alarm so that you be sure to wake with plenty of time to get ready.

8. The Day of the Interview

Consume breakfast foods and beverages before getting dressed for the interview. Strive for a neat, professional appearance with hair, nails and any makeup. Jewelry pieces should be small and kept to a minimum. Avoid perfumes and aftershave, as you may encounter people with a sensitivity to fragrance.

9. What to Bring

Plan to bring a copy of your resume to the interview, in case the person you'll be speaking with doesn't have it handy. If appropriate, bring work samples as well as copies of relevant awards, certificates and diplomas. You can put your documents in a slim briefcase, portfolio or binder. Avoid clutter by leaving unnecessary papers at home. If you carry a purse, make sure it does not detract from your overall professional appearance. Clear out extraneous items before the morning of the interview.

10. Arrive Early

But not too early. Human Resources professionals suggest you arrive about 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment. Stop at the restroom and give your appearance a final check. Pop a breath mint. Get rid of your chewing gum. Turn off your cell phone and keep it stowed while waiting and during the interview.

11. Make a Great First Impression

Whether you know it or not, you're going to be judged from the moment you walk into the building where your interview takes place. Be friendly and courteous with everyone you meet. You may find that the person you opened a door for or rode the elevator with is the person who interviews you. Give everyone from the receptionist to the custodian a smile and polite greeting.

11. Use Basic Interview Etiquette

When you meet the person who is going to interview you, introduce yourself by name and offer a firm handshake. After being invited in for the interview, wait until the other person is seated before seating yourself. Be sure to make eye contact during introductions and throughout the interview.

12. Consider the Interviewer's Age

Values differ depending on the generation in which your interviewer came of age. Tailor your answers to interview questions to underscore what the interviewer is likely to value most:

  • GenY interviewers, between the ages of 20 and 30, typically respond to visuals. Bring samples of your work. Highlight your abilities to multi-task.
  • GenX interviewers (between the ages of 30 and 50) seek creative employees who can talk about how work/life balance contributes to their success.
  • Baby Boomer interviewers (between 50 and 70) want you to demonstrate your capacity to work hard.
  • Silent generation interviewers (over 70) are interested in your loyalty and commitment to previous jobs.

13. Use Body Language Effectively

Your mother was right about sitting up straight. Don't slouch or relax too far back into the chair. Limit the use of hand gestures, which can be distracting. Subtly mirroring the interviewer's body language, such as leaning forward slightly at the same time, helps establish rapport.

14. End the Interview

The interviewer will probably let you know when the interview is at an end. Often, an interview will conclude with an opportunity to ask questions. Some typical questions include "Where do you see the company in five years?" and "What do you think is more important for an employee to be successful here?"

Make plans for follow-up. Ask the interviewer when a hiring decision will be made. It's perfectly acceptable to say, "I know the workplace can be very busy. If I don't hear from you by then, is it okay if I give your office a call?"

15. Say Thank You

Thank the interviewer with a handshake, a smile and a verbal "thank you." Be sure to say thank you to everyone you met as part of the interview process, including the receptionist and other office support staff. When you get home, send a short, unique thank you email to everyone who took part in the interview. If you really want to make a strong impression, send a thank you note by mail. Few job candidates remember to send a thank-you note. By doing so, especially with a handwritten note, you can set yourself apart from the pack.

These are not just interview tips and tricks for students or first-time job seekers. Even if you have been in the workforce for a number of years, it's good to reflect on the interview process and how you can prepare to put your best foot forward.