I’ve said that finding a job is a sales process. The interview is your sales call. You’ve worked hard to get there. You want to excel and wow the hiring company. Let’s talk about how to do that.

This is a very deep topic. You can get wrapped up in so many “what ifs” and “how tos” that you become overwhelmed and nervous. So I am going to give you two actionable lists: what to do and what not to do. Later I’ll provide you with an interviewing guide if you want to go deeper.

10 Keys to Successful Interviewing

1. Prepare.

Learn everything you can about the company and the people you are interviewing with. Check out their website. Ask your contacts (if you know people at the company) about the prospective boss and others. What are they like? What are their goals, priorities, style, etc.?

Research the position – from their web site, recruiter and/or your contacts. Prepare smart questions for them. Prepare answers to questions you will likely get. Prepare your skills, value proposition and business benefits for the employer. Role play the interview with a career consultant, if you have one.

2. Look good.

Wear the right attire. Dress how the interviewer will likely dress. If you are unsure, ask the administrative assistant; if still not clear, dress up – better to err on the side of too dressy. No distracting clothing, hair styles or jewelry.

3. Talk about accomplishments.

As I discussed in the Resume writing section, employers want to see accomplishments, not just activities. It’s important to describe what you did and how you did it, but more important to talk about business benefits you produced. Use the CAR formula:

  • Challenge you faced
  • Action(s) you took
  • Results (business benefits) you produced

4. Be ready to answer behavioral interviewing questions using the STAR formula:

  • Situation: provide succinct overview of the circumstances
  • Task: what needed to be done or accomplished
  • Action: what action you took
  • Result: outcome of your actions, in terms of business benefits

5. Handle compensation questions properly.

Don’t reveal compensation requirements before the employer makes an offer, if possible. If pressed for numbers, provide a range, based on your research and careful consideration, giving you negotiating flexibility. See Negotiating.

6. Be enthusiastic!

If all other things are equal, e.g. skills and experience, as a hiring manager I have always wanted the person with the best attitude. People like to work with positive, enthusiastic people. Tell the interviewer why you are excited about the job and the company. If you aren’t, maybe you shouldn’t do the interview.

7. Be aware of non-verbal communication.

Some experts say that this is more than 75% of human communication. It’s a two-way process. Make eye contact with the interviewer. Smile, pay attention, convey interest with your non-verbal signals. Read the interviewer. Are they getting impatient or not paying attention to you? Are you talking too long? If you aren’t attuned to non-verbal communication, read about it and try to be more conscious of it. There are tons of articles on the web about it.

8. Be yourself.

Remember that the interview is a two-way process. It must be a fit for you also. You will need to fit with the company and your new boss and work group. If they don’t like you for who you are, it won’t work and vice versa. Relax and be yourself.

9. Close like a good sales person.

Many interviewees don’t go for any type of close at the end of the interview. Often, the employer will let you know their next steps, e.g. “we are interviewing other candidates and will get back to you in two weeks.” If the employer doesn’t do this, be proactive and ask:

  • What are your next steps?
  • What is your timing to make a hiring decision?
  • Is there anything else you’d like from me, e.g. references?

Watch for buying signals. Examples:

  • The interview runs longer than scheduled.
  • They ask: When can you start? What are your salary requirements?  Are you considering other employers at this time? If yes, where are you with them?

If you are getting buying signals, you might be more aggressive and ask for a specific time to talk or meet again.

10. Send thank you notes.

Send a thank you note to each person who interviewed you. During the interview, you should ask for business cards from each person who interviewed you.  If they didn’t provide that, reach out to the recruiter or admin person who coordinated your interview(s) and ask for it. Send a good old fashioned, handwritten thank you card in the mail, ideally to each interviewer. This will differentiate you from other candidates. In the thank you, cite something specific from the interview(s) that was a positive or personal connection point. Express your enthusiasm for the potential to work there and why you think you are a good fit with them.

10 Ways to Bomb the Interview

        1. Arrive late.
        2. Take too long with your answers; don’t be succinct, complete and to the point.
        3. Lie.
        4. Discuss salary too soon.
        5. Ask about benefits or vacation before getting an offer.
        6. Don’t listen carefully.
        7. Interrupt the interviewer or dominate the conversation.
        8. Make negative statements about former employers.
        9. Dress or look unprofessional.
        10. Smoke, eat, chew gum or spray jalapeno pepper juice at the interviewer.

You might think I am kidding about the last item on the list, but it actually happened. When I was in college about to graduate with my MBA, I had an interview with AT&T. After a role play and a grueling series of interviews in the morning, their sales manager took me to lunch. I ordered a beef sandwich with jalapeno peppers on the side. Rather than swallow the whole pepper in one bite, I decided I would be “professional,” so I picked it up with my fingers and bit it in half. Predictably, the juice sprayed across the table and hit the manager’s fine suit smack on the lapel. I apologized profusely. Several days later I received my rejection letter. On my next interview with a different company, I ordered a salad, ate only with a fork and knife, and got an offer.

More Interviewing Insights:

Two Minute Crash Course on Interviewing by Richard Bolles.

Go to the Next Article: Negotiating