So your application impressed the hiring manager, and now you have an interview for your dream job — congratulations! Now you need to focus on hitting the ball out of the park during the interview. The key to success is pre-interview preparation, since this will give you the confidence you need to shine, no matter how tough the questions are.
Research company inside and out: No doubt you've already researched the business to some extent, but with the interview coming up, you should step up your homework efforts. It's especially important to stay on top of news about the company (you don't want to be taken off guard when your interviewer brings up last week's merger). Check out the business' Company Page on LinkedIn, and follow the company so you don't miss any updates. Visit related LinkedIn groups to find out the latest buzz on new product launches, expansion efforts, etc.
Check out your interviewer's LinkedIn profile: Review the recruiter's or hiring manager's LinkedIn profile, particularly recent updates. You may uncover some interesting conversation starters that you can bring up during the interview — for instance, maybe the hiring professional has posted a new industry survey that you can discuss.
Prepare your questions: You want your interview to be a two-way conversation — not just a one-way discussion with you on the firing line. Draw up a list of questions that will serve the dual purpose of letting you discover more about the opportunity, while also showing the interviewer that you're an engaged and interested candidate.
For example, ask your interviewer about training and professional development programs for employees, or the expected impact of a recent merger with a competitor. Don't ask obvious questions for which the answers are readily available on the company website.
Practice answering interview questions — and develop supporting stories: Get a friend to help you rehearse answers to common interview questions. For instance, interviewers will generally ask some variation of the question, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
When practicing your responses, build in some real-world examples from your previous job experiences to illustrate your points. If you are explaining that one of your weak spots is dealing with budgets, talk about the related projects you've worked on or training you've undergone to strengthen your expertise in that area.
Show your passion for the job: Playing hard-to-get may work for dating, but it's not a great approach for job interviews. Hiring professionals want to know that the person they're interviewing is excited about the opportunity. Clearly communicate that you want the job, and explain why ? for instance, share that the company's recent patents or product innovations make it the best place to be for talented, enthusiastic employees.
Show what you can do for the company — not just what the company can do for you: Interviewers expect candidates to highlight their own reasons for wanting a job ? such as advancing their careers and learning new skills. However, they also expect candidates to explain how they would contribute to the company's success. Stress the value that you would bring to the business ? for example, how your multilingual skills and design background will help make the company's branding campaign in Mexico a smash hit.
Follow up with more than a “thank you”: Yes, a prompt ?thanks for your time? is essential (and sending the note via email or InMail is fine), but take it a step further by driving home some of the points you made during the interview ? especially the ones that you sensed were a hit with the interviewer. If you had a lively discussion about your experience with a startup company, emphasize your willingness to address new business challenges.
And, of course, highlight once again why you think you're the best person for the job ? reiterate the specific experiences and skills that make you the front-runner. Finally, in case you forgot to bring up a particular strength during the interview, the thank-you note is your last chance to tell the interviewer about it.
For more advice on managing a successful job search, visit the LinkedIn blog.