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How to Nail Your In-Person Job Interview

Key Takeaways

  • Always research the company and interviewers beforehand.
  • Follow proper interview etiquette, such as keeping your hands above the table.
  • If you get an offer, find out how much industry peers are making and remember your professional worth.

By Osamase Ekhator | Citizens Bank Staff

What are you doing after graduation?

For some, this is a dreaded question. But you’ve pushed off the answer long enough. It’s time to get your first job as an adult.

After applying for positions throughout your senior year, you’ll get some in-person interview requests. So how do you stand out from the pack? What can you do to sell the company on you and your abilities?

Here are some tips to help you turn your interviews into job offers.

1. Do your research

Before the day of the interview, log onto the company’s website to read about its mission, goals, history, and products or services. You could even check out its investor relation reports and press releases to see how the company is being portrayed in the media. Hopefully you did some of this research when you first applied or when crafting your cover letter. Still, it’s always good to refresh your memory and be aware of the latest information.

Do you know ahead of time who you’ll be interviewing with? If so, you’re in luck. Do some background research on that person or group of people.

Let’s say you’re interviewing with a person named Kendra Smith. What’s Kendra’s educational background? Does she do any volunteer work? What other companies did she work for before this one? Fortunately, LinkedIn lets you access this information in one place. (In fact, creating and maintaining a LinkedIn profile can build your personal brand for your job search.)

By the time the interview rolls around, you’ll walk in confident that you know as much as possible about who you’ll be speaking with. It’ll come in handy for another bit of advice coming up.

2. Act appropriately

Etiquette goes a long way in an interview. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep your hands above the table. That way you can use your hands more often during conversation. It makes your points more compelling, convincing, and animated.
  • Be aware of your overall body language. Crossed arms and legs can come across as closed-off or defensive. Always stand up when someone enters the room. When shaking hands, use the full hand and a firm grip. Make eye contact when speaking.
  • Turn off your phone. Even a phone on silent that buzzes can be an interruption. If you have good reason to leave it on (an emergency situation), alert your interviewer at the start so they aren’t taken by surprise that you didn’t follow typical interview etiquette.
  • Dress appropriately for your industry. Even jobs with a more causal work environment will expect you to dress up a bit more for the interview. Be clean and polished, with a touch of your own personality.

Overall, remember to relax. Practice answering questions so you’re prepared for those on interview day, and be authentic in your responses. Employers aren’t looking to hire a robot. (Robots might rule the world one day, but now is not the time.) This is your time — own it!

Always remain respectful and remember your manners, but don’t be a stiff. Speak to your résumé and experiences. Remain true to yourself and don’t pretend to be someone you’re not; employers will either notice immediately, or find out soon enough.

3. Ask questions

OK, so you’ve gotten to the end of the interview. Kendra, your interviewer, asks, “So do you have any questions for me?”

Your first instinct may be to say “no.” After all, you want to seem smart and all-knowing about the company and job, right? Wrong.

Smart questions asked by an applicant can make or break an interview. Remember, interviews aren’t just the company deciding if you’re a good fit for them; they need to be a good fit for you, too. You’re interviewing the company, too. Hence, your questions have to be thought out and concise. These shouldn't be questions with answers you already know. Your goal is to learn and interact on a personal level with the interviewer.

Go off-script and really hit home that you’re interested, paying attention, and can think on your feet. Here are some good examples:

  • “What’s the company culture?”
  • “What originally made you want to work for this company?”
  • “Do you have any advice for someone like me who’s early in their career?”

Since you researched Kendra on LinkedIn — you did, right? — your questions can be even more customized to the interviewer to connect on a more personal level.

  • “Kendra, I noticed you worked at [company name] and [company name] previously. I’ve heard great things about both places. What makes this company better?”
  • “I see you’ve done some volunteer work at [organization name]. What does volunteerism mean to this company? Is it something the company is big on?”

Note: Don’t ask questions that are TOO personable. If you learn that Kendra has cats, don’t bring it up directly. You can, however, mention that you have a pet cat and that could lead to an organic cat-bonding conversation.

And remember: just because the interview is over doesn’t mean the conversation has to be. Ask for Kendra’s business card before you leave. Shortly after, send her an email and thank her for the opportunity to interview. You could even go the extra mile and write a handwritten note to separate yourself even more. It’s the small things that go a long way and leave a lasting impression on the interviewer.

Next steps

Hopefully you’ll find out within a few weeks if you’ve moved to the next stage of the application process. If you're fortunate enough to get the job, the next task is negotiation. (Don’t start rubbing your hands together just yet.) These two factors will help:

  • Average industry salary: Find out what your peers are making. For example, if your new role is a project manager, find out what other project managers in your industry make. Glassdoor is a great place to find such information, as are industry organizations. You can determine from this research where your offer stands amongst others in the field. If you’re planning to counter with a higher salary proposal, present your research to HR. It’s always good to support your pitch with facts and exact numbers.
  • Your value: This should go without saying, but it’s important: know your worth. If you feel like the offer doesn’t accurately reflect what you bring to the table, express your concern. Re-affirm your value to HR, citing the following evidence:
      • Educational background
      • Prior experience
      • Skill set

If you don’t get past the first interview, that’s fine. It’s not the end of the world. Email Kendra, not only thank her again for the opportunity, but also to learn how you can improve. This insight could come in handy for future interviews.

Now that you know all the tips to land a job, you’re a force to be reckoned with. Good luck!

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