Career Advice

Best Practices to Help Maximize Your Strengths during Interviews

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 By Adam G. Staton

There is a constellation of schools of thought about excelling in your interview. No two interviews are the same. However, here are some practices to alleviate the unknowns and allow you to play to your strengths.


Do Your Homework

Research the team ahead of time. Focus on the specific group and the greater organization to speak intelligently about public goings-on at the company. This communicates your knowledge of the landscape, and enables you to formulate your strategy, questions and conversation topics.

Prepare your “Party Favors”

Whether you’re hosting a large event or a quaint soiree’, the same modus operandi holds true: If you’re expecting 20 people to attend, plan for 30. While the interviewer should have a copy of your resume on hand, you still should be ready with a few copies. And, you never know who else may ‘pop in’ during your interview. So, be prepared with a copy for them. Most importantly, don’t forget your copy that you’ll use to take notes during the interview to draw correlations and conversational topics aligning with your background. Your formula for the number of copies to bring should be: # of interviewers + 2 extras + 2 personal.

Set the Stage – Appearance & Interaction

Albeit tricky, dress to match the company/group culture, if you can obtain that level of detail early on. If the group is business casual, aim for the ‘professional end’ of business casual without overdressing. This holds true for business professional attire. Ensure you’re well-groomed, and not going too heavy on the fragrances as this can be distracting and even off-putting to the interviewer. Seem insignificant? This highlights your interview preparation, acumen, and respect for the interview process.

Opt for a Phone Interview (if it’s an option)

Are you being offered to do a phone interview? Great! In a phone interview, YOU control the environment – you can have as many resources at your fingertips as necessary (resume, LinkedIn profile, company website, etc.). However, you need to ensure privacy and eliminate distractions and background noises. Nevertheless, you should still be prepared for a potential web conference, where appearance tips also apply.

Finish Strong

Most interviewers close by asking you if you have any (further) questions. THIS IS YOUR 2ND CHANCE TO SHINE. Prepare 5-7 questions that you can ask during and at the end of the interview. This propagates further dialogue and asserts preparation-based interest in the role. Do not waste the interviewer’s time with empty questions like “What is the vacation policy?” Have some impactful questions (e.g., “I recall there being interest in candidates having the chance to contribute to ‘project x’. This is a keen interest of mine. Is there still an opportunity within this role to work that project?”). MOST IMPORTANTLY, don’t ask a question already addressed in the interview. This is perceived as asking a question for the sake of asking a question: a BIG no-no.

Are these sure-fire, guaranteed ways to ace your interview? Nope. Sorry, there’s no magic formula. But realistic preparation increases the probability of both high performance and advancing to next steps in landing your dream job.

Do you have any career-related questions for our recruiters? Drop a comment below and we will be in touch.

Adam is a recruitment account Manager for IBM in North America.

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