The one-on-one interview is a good sign that a company is taking a genuine interest in you and is seriously considering your candidacy. Congratulate yourself for getting this far in the interview process.
Pre-interview preparation is vital for success. You will need to set aside time to practice and research how you want to be seen and what you want to say, so your answers flow easily and your nerves stay under control.
Research: Come prepared knowing everything you can about the role. Know the job description very well and try to talk to people who have held similar roles in other companies so you can have some deep knowledge of the position. Know which skills, values and traits the role requires as best you can before your interview.
Research the company to find out their mission, values, and whom they serve. Find out about the relevant products or services they offer. Read a few recent news articles about them if available. All of this information will give you confidence and help you come across as well-informed and knowledgeable.
Prepare Questions: Come prepared with questions for the interviewer. Your questions will be informed by your research about the company and the job, and knowledge you’ve gained in your past work experiences. Being curious and insightful during the interviews is a good thing, and asking smart questions is an excellent way to do that.
Rehearse Answers: Know which questions to expect during the interview. Create a list of common interview questions and also ones you can expect about the industry and for the role you are pursuing. If you are working with a coach, they will have tons of interview questions to share with you. Be prepared to talk about specific times in your career when you’ve handled a problem that’s listed on the job description. What was the situation, what was your role in resolving it, what actions did you take, what were the results, and what did you learn from it?
TIP: Practice answering with a camera, or with a friend or family member. I recommend this over using a mirror because you’re less natural when talking to a reflection of yourself. Videotaping yourself or practicing with a friend will give you better feedback about how you actually look when answering questions.
A large part of the pre-interview preparation is creating an easy flow of answers, so take your time and practice until you feel comfortable.
TIP: Keep your answers to under one minute. This may sound hard to do, but if you record yourself or have someone else time you, you’ll find that you can say a lot in 60 seconds.
Remember Names: You may be meeting one person or a few people during the interview. Do your best to find out whom you will be interviewing with so you can memorize their names and do a little research about them before you meet.
APPEARANCE AND PRESENCE
Interview Attire: How you dress for an interview sets the stage for the rest of the meeting and hiring process. You want to look like you belong in the company and will represent them well.
Interview attire should always be a notch above what the employees wear in the company. For example, if the company is business casual, wear a suit or “high-end” business casual, such as nice slacks and a jacket or a very nice pair of jeans with a button-down collared shirt.
Look at the company website or ask your recruiter about the dress code so you are sure you will have the right professional look. If you can’t get dress code information, I recommend driving by the office during morning or lunch hours to see what people are wearing. This kind of detective work goes a long way in making you feel comfortable and relaxed and also impresses your interviewer.
Women can wear slacks nowadays without thinking twice. Dresses or skirts for an interview are not necessary, but if you choose to wear one, be sure the hemline is below your fingertips when you are standing with your hands at your sides.
In most cases, the usual dress for men is a suit without a tie, or a tie without the suit. In the San Francisco Bay Area, long gone are the days of wearing the formal black suit and power tie to an interview. That said, some industries or metropolitan areas may still call for it (financial institutions, insurance companies, legal services…just to name a few), so know the environment you are working in.
Clean and polished shoes are a must for both men and women. As a former hiring manager and executive, I have seen many sharp outfits ruined by the shoes. If you don’t care enough to make your entire outfit look acceptable, what other details do you let slip through the cracks?
Here are a few additional things that will make a difference in your interview:
- Make good eye contact. Don’t avoid eye contact and don’t stare. Be natural.
- Great posture. Stand up straight when walking through the hall or sitting down. This will help you exude confidence.
- Body language. Don’t lean on the desk too hard or encroach on the interviewer’s personal space, and don’t sit way back in your chair away from the desk, which creates distance. Sit squarely in the chair with your arms lightly on the desk or in your lap.
- Control your voice to sound self-assured. Speak in a normal tone, don’t bellow or whisper because of nerves. Also, make sure you speak clearly and enunciate well. All too often, people talk too fast or let their voice trail off at the end of sentences. This comes across as a lack of confidence or disinterest in what you are saying.
- Everything Counts. Know that from the minute you walk through the door, they can see everything from how you treat the receptionist to how bored you look in the waiting room. All of your actions, along with your words tell a story. Make it the best story possible.
Compared to a video or phone interview, a one-on-one interview leaves you little room to control the environment. In the one-on-one interview, your “environment” is really your personal space and how you interact with others. There are a few things you can do to make sure you have terrific interactions with everyone on your interview, but here are a few things you can control:
Scent: Be careful to wear only a small amount of perfume or cologne, if any at all. You want your interviewer to remember your excellent answers, not your overwhelming signature scent.
Be Prepared: Have 2-3 copies of your resume printed on resume paper and ready for anyone who doesn’t have a copy. Carry a pen and paper in your dossier to take notes, if necessary. A mint is always good to have on hand before the interview.
TIP: If anyone offers you water – take it! You may not need it when they offer it, but you may want it later. There’s nothing worse than getting a dry mouth or starting a coughing fit in the middle of an interview, especially when water would have helped.
Open, genuine body language: Greet everyone with a warm smile and a firm handshake. Make sure you sit up, and look interested and engaged at all times.
One more word on one-on-one interviews: nerves. Getting nervous can cause even the best of interviews to go sideways. If you’re feeling nervous and you forget your well-prepared answers or start to talk too much, slow down and take a mental deep breath. You know that a big part of keeping your nerves under control is preparation and that preparation begets confidence. But if you’re “in the moment” and suddenly starting to sweat or stumble, take a mental moment before your next answer. To help give you a moment of pause, say something like “That’s a great question” or “I’m glad you asked that” before diving into your answer. Just those few extra seconds will help you collect your thoughts and recall the points you wanted to make.
Interviews are exciting, challenging, and the gateway to new beginnings. Preparation will build your confidence, and confidence will help you combat inevitable nervousness. If you do the “pre-work”, then you should be ready to “be present” in your next interview. So – get to work. You got this!
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Julia Holian of Holian Associates is a Career Strategist and Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach based in the Bay Area. She helps career-focused professionals pinpoint what that want to do with their career, then showcase their talents in order to move up in their chosen field or re-enter the job market. Julia leverages her extensive leadership experience in executive management, business development, team building and recruiting to help her clients navigate the nuances of asking for new projects or a promotion, networking, interviewing, creating a job search plan, negotiating compensation, and successfully assimilating into a new role. Learn more about Julia on our website and at www.LinkedIn.com/in/JuliaHolian.