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5 strategies for impressing someone in a job interview

Recruiters want to know three basic things about you at the interview. Here’s how to make the best of it.

5 strategies for impressing someone in a job interview
[Photo: filadendron/Getty images]

Once you get to the phase of interviewing for a job, you have a reasonable shot at getting an offer. They have already narrowed a large applicant pool down to a few people who are being called in for a discussion.  

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Many of the things you need to do to ace the interview are not the same things you needed to get through the screening process that got you there. In particular, you have impressed the hiring committee with your credentials, so now it is time to address the concerns that will be top of mind for recruiters in the interview. As I have written in the past, recruiters want to know three things about you at the interview:

  • What will it be like to work with you?
  • Can you learn?
  • Do you take initiative?

Here are five things you can do to ensure you address these questions well at the interview. 

Study up

Find out as much as you can about the firm that is interviewing you. That includes checking out the company’s website to know what new strategic projects they are highlighting and looking at news reports about it. It is also useful to check out job websites to see reviews from other people who have worked there in the past. If you know anyone who has worked there (or currently works there), talk with them as well. 

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You want to enter the interview as someone who is knowledgeable about the company and can ask good questions about your job and the role it will play inside the organization. In addition, it is a great way of demonstrating your initiative. You are letting them know that you will be completely prepared for whatever comes at you after you’re hired. 

Be willing to listen

Undoubtedly, at some point during the interview, you will be asked a question where you get some feedback from the interviewer that they are not completely satisfied with your answer. There is a strong urge to double down on your answer and to continue to explain yourself. 

A better alternative is to listen to the criticism and to take a different approach based on what other people say. Better yet, ask some questions. For example, if the interviewer gave you a hypothetical situation, ask the interviewer how they would approach it. The aim is to demonstrate that you don’t believe that you already know everything you need to know in order to succeed at the job, but instead are willing to learn from your colleagues. 

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Converse, don’t monologue

At a job interview, you’re the center of attention, so it is tempting to let that take over and do all of the talking. But, you’d like to get to know your now-prospective colleagues a bit more. Plus, you’d like them to see that you’re able to learn from them as much as they learn about you. So, you want to make sure to create a conversation rather than just your own standup routine. 

One way to make that happen is to ask a lot of questions. After being asked a question about how you might handle a particular work situation, end with a question of your own, like, “How is that normally handled here?” or, “Tell me more about how decisions like this typically get made?” or, “What go-to strategies do you have for situations like this?” where you are also soliciting input from the interviewers.  

The more that the interview becomes a conversation, the more insight that the interviewers get into what it will be like to work with you. The rapport you create through conversation will have a positive impact on the overall evaluation you get from your interviewers. 

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Be yourself (mostly)

There is a tendency to want to project a version of yourself that is the one that you think your employer wants to hire. It is important for you to bring yourself to the interview. You want to give people a sense of who you are likely to be as a colleague. If they hire a version of you that is not really you, it is possible that you’re not going to be that happy when you actually start the job. 

That said, you do need to remember that the interview is a formal situation with people you probably don’t know that well. If you have an effective sense of humor, you can be funny, but you shouldn’t lean into it and you should avoid any risqué jokes. If you typically introduce yourself using your pronouns, you should do that in the interview. You want to be aware of issues of importance to you in the organization. 

Remember, you already impressed the committee enough to want to interview you. Now, you need to give them a sense that they want to have you around. 

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Show, don’t tell

A core part of your interview strategy is to give people to get a sense of what it is like to work with you from the way you act, rather than what you tell them. You could say you’re a self-starter, but if you take the initiative to learn about the company before the interview, you’re demonstrating it. You could say that you’re ready to learn, but if you take comments in the interview to heart, you’re showing the way you engage.  

You can highlight some of the things that demonstrate your capabilities. The goal is not to refrain from telling your interviewers anything about yourself. But the more that you demonstrate the truth of those assertions with your actions, the more successful that interview is going to be. 

 

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