For a lot people, the new year inspires the desire for a new job. If that’s you, you’ll likely have some job interviews in your future. As executive recruiters, we have unique insight into our clients’ interview processes, and interview a lot of people ourselves. Based on our experience, here are a few suggestions to help you present your best self in your next interview.
Resolution #1: Be Prepared
If you are taking the time to speak with a recruiter or have an in-person interview with a hiring manager, make the best use of that time by preparing in advance. Learn about the company. If it is a retailer, for example, visit the store and their website to learn more about their brand, products and customer experience. If it is a brand, see how their products are merchandised by their retail partners and online, and take the time to experience the products hands on. Read through the job description, think about your experience and have specific examples prepared to share. Even if you are just having an initial call with a recruiter to learn more about the role, spend a few minutes to review the position overview and prepare yourself for the discussion.
“Consider what questions the hiring manager might ask, and think in detail about how you’d answer and what examples you might use to illustrate your point. Using a narrative format is more memorable and and provides the opportunity to include meaningful details vs. spending time spinning your wheels during the interview.”
– Megan Overdorff, Executive Recruiter, Notogroup
Resolution #2: Ask Questions
Piggybacking on the first resolution, take time to think of questions. Whether speaking with a recruiter or a hiring manager, asking questions indicates that you have a true interest in learning more about the position, the company and the interviewer. Your questions tell us a lot about how you think, what is important to you and how engaged you might be in the role. Asking “when are they planning to make a decision” is perfectly acceptable, but never make this your first question, or your only question. It gives the impression that you are just looking for a paycheck.
“Not asking any questions could make you seem disinterested or unqualified so it’s important to come prepared with a handful of thoughtful questions. Not only is this an opportunity to impress the hiring manager with your knowledge and interest in the industry, but it’s a great way to determine if it’s the right fit for you.”
– Meredith Morrice, Executive Recruiter, Notogroup
Resolution #3: Know Your Purpose
Companies want to hire people that will make a true difference in the business. Particularly in the case of B-Corporations and other mission-driven organizations, the fit with culture and purpose are just as important as the functional expertise. Have a clear vision of what you are looking for in your next role and be able to articulate this to the interviewer. It’s fine if you are on the market and actively looking for a new role, but know what interests and inspires you about THIS particular position.
“We work with a lot of purpose-driven organizations, and a genuine connection to the mission and values of that particular company is something that I am always looking for in a candidate. It’s imperative that we find the right fit.”
– Gennevieve Emery, Partner and VP Recruiting, Notogroup
Resolution #4: Assess Your Environment
Presenting your best self includes non-verbal and environmental factors as well. If you are interviewing over the phone, make sure you have good cell reception and are somewhere quiet where you can focus on the conversation. As recruiters, we understand that sometimes you have to step out to take a call, but try to find as quiet a place as possible where you are able to sit down. At the same time, it can be hard for us to focus on what you are saying if there is too much background noise or distraction. If you have an in-person interview, take time to find out the appropriate attire. The days of suits for interviews are over in certain industries and being overdressed in a casual environment can send a signal to the interviewer that you might not be the right culture fit.
“A less-than-ideal environment is sometimes a necessity, but it can definitely be a distraction to both the candidate and the recruiter. We are happy to reschedule when needed or have a call outside of business hours, so candidates can be in a focused and quiet space.”
– Candie Fisher, Partner and VP Client Engagement, Notogroup
Resolution #5: Be Yourself
Yes, it’s trite, but authenticity is extremely important even in an interview situation. You are trying to present your best self, but make sure that it is still your true self. Companies are looking for genuine leaders that can drive culture and develop trust. Overselling yourself can come across as forced and high-ego. Focus on active listening, having a learning mindset and being honest about your developmental areas, as well as your strengths.
“There are many ways to achieve success and even more ways to fail. We shy away from candidates who feel that they need to have all the right answers or who give the impression that they have never had a career blunder. Communicating your strengths and weaknesses honestly, without selling yourself short, will help to ensure a good fit.”
– Roy Notowitz, Founder and President, Notogroup
Whether you are having an initial conversation with a recruiter or in the final stages of face to face meetings with a company’s executive team and board, presenting your best, prepared, authentic self, will both give you confidence in the process and ensure that the person you are interviewing with is left with a great impression.