Seven Ways to Ace Any Interview

Looking for a job is a job, and a hard one. The good news is that you are an expert on the subject matter of every interview…you. You also face the challenges of preparation and logistics. Here are seven simple ways to ensure your interview is successful. I didn’t promise painless and easy, but it is simple.

1. Start Preparing a Week in Advance
One of the first questions many interviewers ask is “What do you know about us?” If you blow that one, you fail. Be prepared to discuss operations, locations, products and services, and why you are a fit.

Know the position and job description and be prepared to answer specific questions that will test your understanding of the requirements. Prepare for situational questions.

Know your immediate, 5-year and 10-year goals. How are they aligned with the job? How do they align with the company’s plans?

Review your own career history so you can easily recall examples of leadership from every job. Bring your memory of accomplishes, achievements and metrics from your long-term memory to your short-term memory.

2. Arrive Early and Dress Appropriately
During a blizzard I had a candidate arrive ten minutes late for an interview that was 30 minutes from his home and he gave himself 90 minutes to get there. He was rejected for being late. Harsh? Maybe. But it proves that you cannot recover from interview tardiness. You have to allow time for traffic, time to find parking, and unforeseen circumstances.

Dress well. Your shoes should shine like mirrors. A dress shirt or blouse should be completely free of wrinkles. Clothes should be tailored to fit, especially sleeves, waist, and chest. A suit jacket should drape when buttoned, not be tight or baggy. Gentlemen, don’t forget your collar stays and proper grooming.

3. Engage and Smile
Preparation allows for a clear mind so you can fully engage in the conversation instead of trying to remember what you think you need to say. Make eye contact. When fully engaged, your face will reflect the tone of the conversation. You’ll look sincere when listening intently. You’ll smile when something is humorous.

Leadership author Guy Kawasaki describes the two kinds of smiles pictured here in his latest book, Enchantment. The “Pan Am” smile is obviously fake and transparently insincere. The “Duchenne” smile is genuine and endearing.

Guy Kawasaki's Enchantment - The "Pan-Am" Smile

Guy Kawasaki's Enchantment - The "Duchenne" Smile

4. Proper Etiquette
For heaven’s sake, leave the cell phone in the car. There are recent reports of candidates answering calls or texts during an interview. That is a jailable offense.

Sit up straight, say “please” and “thank you,” and know how to conduct yourself in cocktail and dining situations. For details, I defer to the experts at Emily Post.

5. Quantify
Quantify your responses using numbers, percentages, and dollars to specifically explain results. Anyone can say they “lowered the overall cost of labor.” When you state that you “lowered labor by 11% by implementing three strategies” you bring your ability to lead to life by creating a detailed picture.

6. Be Motivated
It is heartbreaking when a client calls and tells me that a candidate is bright, experienced, and qualified, but they weren’t sure if she wants the job. An interview is more than a conversation. It is your opportunity to sell the hiring authority on your abilities and desire to work hard toward mutual goals.

Your energy and enthusiasm are conveyed through voice inflections, facial expressions, body posture and body language. This week an hotelier picked one of four candidates we presented to move forward because he was “the only one who was sitting on the edge of his seat, pitching ideas, demonstrating his understanding of our unique situation.”

If you want the job, say so. As you are escorted out, look the interviewer in the eye and express your eagerness to go to the next level and desire to work for the company. The last thing she will remember is how motivated you are.

7. Ask Questions
Almost all interviewers ask what questions you have at some point during the interview. Prepare a list of several good questions. Even if your questions were answered during the interview, be ready to ask at least two good, conversation-sparking questions.

• Ask about the team you would be joining, the division, and the company.
• How long has the team been together?
• What is the company’s vision for the next 10 years?
• What values drive the business?
• What are the values that drive the culture?
• What are the company’s expectations of you?
• What advancement opportunities are on the horizon?

Never ask questions about the amount of hours or days expected of you, or about salary, benefits or perks. All of that will be explained to you in due time. If those questions are top-of-mind for you, you will be considered a clock-watcher.

Entire books have been written on interviewing skills, but if you can nail these seven aspects, you will always have an edge over your competition!

Did this article remind you of a great interview experience? A horrible one? We’d love to hear about it.

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