Nail Your Next Job Interview

“Besides getting several paper cuts in the same day or receiving the news that someone in your family has betrayed you to your enemies, one of the most unpleasant experiences in life is a job interview.”
― Lemony Snicket, The Carnivorous Carnival

Years ago, a boss told me that I interview well. I didn’t know if I should feel complimented. It reminded me when an acquaintance, looking at a photo of me, said: “You photograph well–looks nothing like you.”  We should all be great employees. Nailing an interview is all about communicating that you are.

I’ve only been interviewed a few times as I’ve been offered a job nearly every time. BUT as a manager, I’ve interviewed numerous candidates and been saddened at what should be fun, a voyage of discovery, and an opportunity to meet someone new turns into a painful, paper-cut experience.

What is the secret of a successful interview?  Here’s my take:

  1. Your first priority is putting your interviewer at ease.  You read that right.  Most interviewers have more at stake in the job interview than you do.  Usually they can only hire one candidate for the position. Choosing the wrong one could potentially open the company to losing customers for shoddy work, penalties for missing deliveries, and future litigation if they must terminate the employee. Putting the interviewer at ease by immediately establishing rapport with a warm handshake, a friendly smile, and an attitude of anticipating an enjoyable experience will start the interview on the right note.  Throughout the interview, show interest and look them in the eye.
  2. In a herd of candidates, stand out as the dream employee.  First–hopefully you are that dream employee.  Managers want workers who do their job well, on-time, and within budget.  Managers want people who work well with their customers, vendors, supervisors and colleagues.  Managers want to engage with employees that have a can-do attitude and a passion for excellence.  Your responses should reflect your work ethic and your ability to collaborate.  Brief anecdotes can be helpful.  Your body language throughout the interview should reflect enthusiasm for your work and confidence in being your interviewer’s dream employee.
  3. Experience is over-rated.  Within reason of course. While I rate experience high for filling a position, I rate innovation, passion and work ethic even higher.  For example: Candidate A says: “You can see by my resume that I have the requisite skills, certifications, and years of producing that product.  I could do this job in my sleep.” Candidate B says: “While I haven’t worked on product X, I have worked on product Z which is similar.  We delivered product Z on schedule, and our customer was so thrilled with the result, they ordered another run. Product Z was new to my previous company, but we did our due diligence and the project proved a resounding success. I’m hoping my new job will provide similar opportunities to learn new technologies.”  No question–I’d hire Candidate B.
  4. End as you began. Communicate your interest in the position and the company in specific ways–do your homework. Your own questions and comments about the company should reflect your willingness to invest your future in this job. At the end of the interview, thank them for their time and the opportunity to meet.  Remember to smile, look them in the eye, and offer another warm handshake.

Good resumes, recommendations and/or recruiters may open doors but 9 times out of 10, I’ve recommended candidates by how they nailed their interview.  I hope this helps in landing your next job. Good luck!

About mlknowlden

In 2011, I left engineering to write full-time. Between the years 1992 and 2011, I’ve published 14 stories with Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine that have featured the hypochondriac detective Micky Cardex and two stories that did not. The 1998 story “No, Thank You, John” was nominated for a Shamus award. Many of these stories have been included in anthologies and translated in multiple languages. With Neal Shusterman, I’ve also published a science fiction story for the More Amazing Stories anthology (Tor) published in 1998 and co-authored with Neal Shusterman an X-Files Young Adult novel (DARK MATTER) for HarperCollins in 1999 under the name Easton Royce. For Simon & Schuster in July 2012, we published an e-novella UNSTRUNG in Neal's UNWIND world. I have graduate degrees in English and Electrical Engineering.
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4 Responses to Nail Your Next Job Interview

  1. Kaye Klem says:

    Michelle, a really good blog about job interviews. Glad I don’t have to do them any more. Always flying blind… I had an e-mail to your private addy kicked back to me today saying it had the wrong address. Checked and re-checked what I sent. Could you e-mail me privately if you’ve changed your provider? Kaye

  2. Rebecca Lang says:

    The title made me sit up and want to read. I really liked the first point, making your interviewer feel at home. I think it’s easy to focus on yourself and forget the other person.

    When I read these points, I thought about adapting it to a query letter. Like n interview, you’re trying to make a good impression and get yourself “hired.” Since I’m writing queries, this is very timely for me.

  3. mlknowlden says:

    Thank you for the kind words. Might help in preparing your ‘elevator pitch’ too!

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