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What are Your Greatest S̶t̶r̶e̶n̶g̶t̶h̶s̶, W̶e̶a̶k̶n̶e̶s̶s̶e̶s̶, Interview Tips?

You’ve landed the interview, well done! You now have the opportunity to bring your resume to life.

Interviews can be daunting and nerve wracking. Try to cast these feelings aside and instead think of the interview as an opportunity for the interviewer to get to know you better as well as a chance for you to develop a clearer understanding of what it might be like to spend 40+ waking hours per week at the organization you have applied to work.

To get the most out of your interview and increase your chances of receiving the offer, utilize these interview tips.

Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail

It should go without saying that you need to prepare for your interview. Much of the basic investigation into the workplace should be completed by the point that you reach the interview stage. As you have most likely already prepared and submitted a resume and cover letter, you should have already thoroughly reviewed the job posting/description, the product or services provided by the organization, what the company specializes in, as well as the company’s culture. You should not be asking any questions in the interview that are answered by a Google search of the company or by simply scrolling through the organization’s website.

For the interview, take your preparation one step further and investigate how you are uniquely qualified for the position and how you personally align with the mission, goals, and values of the organization. Being familiar with the organization is one thing, being able to demonstrate how you fit into the organization and are an asset to them with specific examples that align with their values and mission is another.

Reach Out to Employees

It is helpful to speak with current and/or previous employees of the organization prior to interviewing. You will likely learn a lot about the company that isn’t necessarily printed in black and white on its LinkedIn profile. Reach out to a few current and/or past employees that worked in the area you are interested in and ask to speak with them about the company generally and the specific role you have applied for. In speaking with an employee who is not responsible for recruiting new hires, you will be able to ask questions about the organization that you may not feel comfortable asking the interviewer(s) and the employee will likely provide more honest answers than those who are responsible for hiring.

During your interview, mention that you had an opportunity to speak with Employee A and Employee B about their experiences with the organization. It is likely that the interviewer(s) will reach out to Employee A and Employee B to discuss you. By meeting with current and/or past employees, not only have you gotten a first hand account of what it is like to work for the company, but you have also effectively expanded your interview time with the company two or three fold and similarly enhanced your opportunity to make a good impression.

Before the First Question

Don’t wait until you are sitting with the interviewer to turn on your interview magic. It is likely that several people with the organization will have input as to whether or not you are a good candidate or someone they would like to see around the office. As such, your interview begins as soon as you step foot in the building – enter with your best foot forward. Navigate with confidence and poise and be kind and respectful to everyone you encounter within the organization whether they are the CEO, a receptionist, a mid-level associate, or the managing partner’s favourite grandchild who works there after school Monday-Wednesday. Each of these people may have input as to whether or not you receive a job offer.

Body Language

Let’s imagine best case scenario: every answer you have provided throughout your interview has been flawless (thanks to all that preparation you did). Based on your answers to their questions alone, you are the interviewer’s dream candidate. Unfortunately there is something that is souring how the interviewer is feeling about you. Although your verbal communication was spot on, you could be sending the wrong message with your body language. From your facial expressions to your movements, the things that you don’t say can sometimes convey more than your words.

Research has found that 74-93% of communication is non-verbal. As such, it is important to be aware of what you may be saying through your body language. If you are interested in the role, it is important to know how you can express your interest non-verbally to bolster your verbal enthusiasm about the position. Studies have found that to indicate interest and engagement, you should:

  • Sit up straight, on the edge of your chair, and lean slightly forward;

  • Maintain eye contact when being spoken to and when providing answers to questions;

  • Mirror the interviewer’s body posture in a subtle way to indicate an alignment of views, as well as comfort and connection; and

  • Plant both feet firmly on the floor.

  • Not only does this eliminate shifting your weight from side to side which can communicate nervousness and dishonesty, having both feet firmly planted on the ground better enables your brain to go back and forth between creative thought and complex rational thought.

The following have been shown to communicate disinterest, dishonesty, nervousness, and a lack of confidence and should be avoided:

  • Crossed arms;

  • Crossed legs/shifting weight from side to side;

  • Touching your face;

  • Slouching; and

  • Fidgeting.

Prior to your interview, try to rid yourself of movements or habits that communicate discomfort, disinterest, are distracting, or just plain impolite. For example, cracking your knuckles, playing with your hair, fidgeting with your hands by clicking a pen or tapping the table, or bouncing your legs. Many of these types of movements are habitual and done without thought, making them difficult to avoid. I suggest recording yourself having a conversation with a friend (with their permission of course) so that you can watch yourself back and identify any nervous ticks or distracting habits you have. Once you have identified your problematic body language, you can begin to work on eliminating it.

Be Yourself

There is a lot of pressure to try to fit the mould; especially when you find yourself vying for limited positions amongst a large pool of applicants. You may think that the only way to have a fighting chance is to tell the interviewer exactly what you think he or she wants to hear, regardless of whether or not those answers align with you, your values, priorities, or true self. Resist this urge.

By being your authentic self in an interview, you will be less likely fade into the sea of other applicants. Most importantly, you will not land a job based on who the employer thinks you are. It would be unhealthy and exhausting to continue the facade of the “perfect” candidate you presented in your interview 8-5, Monday to Friday. Your true self will eventually show, as it should, and your employer may be disappointed that they did not get what they had anticipated. Even worse, you will have landed a position at a workplace that maybe isn’t the best fit for you, making your work experience less than ideal. Be yourself in your interview so that you can determine whether or not you are a good fit for that particular workplace before you have to be there day in and day out and also so that the employer knows what they are getting. Being your authentic self in an interview will likely make for a longer and more content term of employment.

Be Vulnerable

You aren’t a superhero. And to be honest, it would be a bit wearing to have to work alongside one every day. We all have fears and weaknesses, your interviewer included, and it is a sign of maturity and self-awareness to recognize those. Being open about them (without oversharing, of course) forges connections that foster trust – something a potential employer needs in his or her employees.

Acknowledging your shortcomings allows for growth, which is important at every stage of ones career. There are few careers that don’t require continual learning. Expressing that you have areas that you wish to improve upon or attempt for the first time and conveying that you are interested in learning to become more knowledgable or more efficient in your profession is likely music to your interviewers ears. You don’t have all the answers and you aren’t expected to. What is important is the willingness and desire to seek out answers that you do not have. An openness to learning is essential to your success as an individual as well as with any organization you choose to join.

Questions to Ask the Interviewer at the End of Your Interview

At the conclusion of the interview, it is likely that the interviewer will give you the floor to ask any questions that you have. Don’t forego this invitation as it is an opportunity to further communicate what is important to you as a potential future employee as well as develop a deeper understanding of the tangible and intangible aspects of the workplace you are interviewing for. Here is a list of questions that you may want to ask at the conclusion of your interview, dependent upon where you are at in your career and what is important to you.

  • What kind of support would I have in this role?

  • What are the biggest strengths that have led to success in this role?

  • I reviewed the company values you have listed on your website. How are those embedded into your business model?

  • You have worked here for X years. What attracted you to this organization and what has made you want to stay here?

  • What are the organization’s highest prioritized goals over the next year?

  • What is the biggest challenge this organization currently faces?

  • When you are with your friends and family, what do you say about your job/this organization?

  • How would you describe the management style at this organization?

  • What steps are taken to ensure pay equity for women and people of colour?

  • How would you describe the culture here?

  • What steps does this organization take to prevent employee burnout and turnover?

  • How did this role open up?

  • What is the retention rate of employees in this role?

  • What is the average or mean vacation days taken by employees here over the past 24 months?

  • How will my success be measured in this role and in what manner and how often will that be communicated to me?

  • *Specific to private law firms* Women are leaving private practice at far greater rates than men. What targets does this organization have in place to retain female talent and what strategies are in place to achieve those targets?

  • Is there anything I can do to further show my interest in this role?

  • Is there anything that you think is missing from my skill set or experience as outlined in my resume that I can address?

  • What are the next steps after this interview?

Be sure to ask any questions that you pose to the interviewer(s) to the employee(s) you meet with in preparation for your interview. If there are significant discrepancies in their answers (for example, their descriptions of the culture of the organization), this is a red flag and will require you to carefully consider whether or not this is an organization you wish to work for, should an offer be extended.

The Obvious Things

There are a number of things that are obvious when it comes to interviewing well. They likely do not need to be mentioned but I would feel negligent if I did not include them so here they are, rapid fire:

  • Arrive early;

  • Turn your phone off;

  • Bring extra copies of your resume and cover letter to offer to the interviewer(s);

  • Bring paper and a pen to take notes;

  • Attend interview by yourself;

  • Know where you are interviewing, how to get there, and have a plan for parking;

  • Dress appropriately for the type of interview and choose your outfit ahead of time, ensuring you have everything you need;

  • Leave your coffee/water bottle behind;

  • Use the washroom beforehand so that you do not need to excuse yourself during the interview;

  • Breathe and remain calm. When we are nervous, we tend to speak quickly and feel obligated to fill silence/pauses. Do not feel pressure to answer questions quickly. Take your time to think through your responses before providing them.

Post Interview Etiquette

Following your interview, send the interviewer(s) an email to thank them for their time, the opportunity to interview with them, and let them know that you look forward to hearing back from them about the role. Also mention something specific about the interview or topics discussed so that it does not come across as a copy/paste or impersonal thank you note. Research suggests that an 80-150 word thank you email is the optimal length. If a number of candidates were interviewed after you, your email will keep you fresh in the mind(s) of the interviewer(s) once they return to their computer and check their inbox.

If you are not the successful candidate and do not receive an offer, email the interviewer(s) to ask them what you can improve upon. If a crucial misstep was made during the interview, it will be helpful to know this and correct it before repeating the same mistake in interviews to come. Don’t let an unsuccessful interview go to waste – use it as a learning experience.

Good luck on your upcoming interview!

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