I’ll say it: Most candidates shoot themselves in the foot by making easy mistakes every time they walk into an interview.
Throughout my career, I’ve seen it all. Within the first 5 minutes of an interview, I already have a pretty good idea of the outcome. From the clothes they wear to how they answer pointed interview questions, it doesn’t take long for most hiring managers to make their decision.
In fact, a Career Builder study found that over half of hiring managers know within the first five minutes of an interview if a candidate will be hired. Believe it or not, it’s easy to set yourself apart from everyone else.
11 interview tips to ace your next interview
The next time you find yourself in an interview, keeping these 11 easy (but crucial) tips in mind will help you blow your competition out of the water, and it all starts with the basics.
1. Dress the part
It’s stupid how often I’ve seen job candidates walk in with jeans or a t-shirt.
Remember when I said that I knew within the first five minutes if a candidate would be hired? Before the interview begins, I’ve moved on if you’re wearing a t-shirt. If you can’t dress up for one hour for an interview, you’re not working with my team or me.
Does this mean you need to wear formal attire like business suits to interviews? Not necessarily. But, understand that it’s always better to overdress than underdress.
Seriously. That’s it. I cannot count the number of candidates who never smiled during the interview.
- They were tired
- They never smiled
- They looked angry
Yes, an interview is serious business. But smiling immediately gives you the upper hand in a sea of normal candidates who always look depressed.
3. Carry a notebook
Even if you don’t write in it, just carry a notebook with you. It’s professional. And, it means you’re prepared to jot down notes or anything important. It also implies you’re organized, and companies like organized workers.
4. Talk about job requirements
Know the specific demands of the job and speak to those as you give your answers. If the job requires experience with specific “things” like software applications or development processes, confidently talk about your experience with those things.
- Microsoft Office
- Agile Development Process
- Cisco Telephone Systems
Whenever possible, use the words of what the organization is looking for. Also, don’t forget to include these keywords on your tailored resume too. For instance, let’s assume you’re applying for a position that requires experience with the Agile software development process.
Instead of saying that you have 12 years of development experience, say, “I have 12 years of experience leading Agile development teams through the full software development lifecycle”.
5. Research the company
Look beyond the perks of the job. Know the company’s leaders. Understand its business model. Memorize its mission statement. Even the slightest bit of research will help you answer questions correctly.
Then, tailor your answers based on the company’s mission. This works.
6. Always ask a question at the end
“Do you have any questions for us?” is typically the last question of the interview. Have a question prepared. Never say “Nope” or, “I think you already answered all my questions.” Those are bad answers.
Ask questions, like:
- Are there opportunities for a promotion in this position?
- What is the culture like at this organization?
- What does a typical day look like for this position?
7. Answer “Why us”?
I would ask this question a lot. The answer told me all I needed to know about the candidate.
- Why did you apply for the job?
- Why do you want to work here?
Specific answers are best. Generic answers mean you didn’t prepare. Know your answer.
8. Admit to real weaknesses
I’ve had candidates say, “I’m equally strong in all areas.” Or, “I care too much,” yada yada. Wrong answer. It’s nonsense, and your interviewers know it.
We all have weaknesses, and this question helps hiring managers get a feel for how honest the candidate is. So just be honest with this question. I’ve hired people based on their answers to this question alone.
9. Lay off the cologne/perfume
I remember one candidate who bathed in clove oil before the interview. You could literally smell it down the hall. It was way, way too much.https://e18ff62ba3d92b0bfe1ae0d7e404a32a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Be conservative when it comes to smells, jewelry, or other distractions. Remember, you want the interviewers to focus on you and your answers first and foremost.
Keep it simple.
10. Don’t bring your cell phone into the interview (or turn it off)
Notifications are distracting. It interrupts the entire flow of the discussion even if you don’t look at your phone (never look at your phone).
Leave your phone in the car or remember to turn it off. No exceptions.
11. Write a personalized “Thank you” note
Most people don’t do this.
But, it makes a difference. Not every hiring manager will care, but a thank you note is never a bad thing. I got very few thank you notes throughout my career. But the ones I did get instantly put that candidate back into my mind. I’ve been known to re-look at resumes I previously tossed in the trash because of a well-written thank-you note.
Most candidates who send thank you notes use email. If you have a mailing address for the hiring manager, a hand-written and mailed thank you note could make all the difference.
Tip: Write a single Thank You template, then tweak it for each job interview.
I have hired hundreds of people for jobs throughout my career. Most hiring managers can distinguish between good candidates and bad ones almost instantly.
These 11 tips help ensure you come across confident, reliable, and motivated in the interview.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
Steve Adcock is an early retiree who writes about mental toughness, financial independence and how to get the most out of your life and career. As a regular contributor to The Ladders, CBS MarketWatch and CNBC, Adcock maintains a rare and exclusive voice as a career expert, consistently offering actionable counseling to thousands of readers who want to level-up their lives, careers, and freedom. Adcock's main areas of coverage include money, personal finance, lifestyle, and digital nomad advice. Steve lives in a 100% off-grid solar home in the middle of the Arizona desert and writes on his own website at SteveAdcock.us.