Often in life, it’s the small things that make a big difference — and this is especially true when it comes to job interviews. If a company is deciding between a few candidates that are similarly qualified, the little details they remember about you might be what helps you get the role.
Similarly, if there’s a candidate who may not have the exact qualifications, but they’re excited about the opportunity, have the core skills or traits required, and it’s clear they are prepared for the interview, that can also be a deciding factor in who gets offered the job.
So, what are these small things? We asked our resident interview expert Sourcing Specialist and Talent Strategist Jen Emmons, PHR about the tips she gives most often to candidates as they’re interviewing for new roles, and she gave us eleven:
1. Be clear about why you’re interested in the role.
Hopefully, you’re applying for a particular role at an organization because you’re excited about it! Jen says that it’s important to make that obvious from the beginning, and the best way to do that is to ask questions. “It’s one thing to look at the website, but when you’re interviewing, you have the chance to get your questions answered by the people who actually work there,” she says.
If you’re interviewing with the person who’d be your leader, don’t be afraid to ask them what they like about working for the company, what their leadership style is, and whether you’ll have the chance to meet the team during the interview process. A few other questions to consider: What is their background, and how did they decide this company was a fit for them? How does the position you’re interviewing for roll up to the department’s — and the overall company’s — strategic objectives? What systems and technology are used at the company? “Asking these kinds of questions shows that you’re interested, and you’ve done your homework,” Jen says.
2. Tap your network to learn more about the company.
A strong professional network is crucial to have, especially when you’re seeking a new role. When you’re applying for a new position, or going through the interview process, go through your connections on LinkedIn and who you know that works — or has a connection to — the company you’re considering.
Jen says that many people feel sheepish about asking someone in their network for help — but this is precisely why we have professional networks. She suggests nurturing your network by keeping in touch with connections, interacting with their LinkedIn posts and content, and paying it forward when it’s your turn. “If you take the time to regularly check in with the people in your network, it won’t feel uncomfortable.”
3. Ask about opportunities for growth.
“There isn’t an outline that someone will give you on how to grow in your role,” Jen says. “So, I always tell candidates that if you want future opportunities, ask about what’s available to you.” Many companies have career ladders or pathways when it comes to both leaders and individual contributors, professional development opportunities, and on-the-job training available. “Understanding what your options look like will show you’re interested in the company long-term,” Jen says.
4. Practice, practice, practice.
If it’s been a while since your last job interview — or if interviewing isn’t your favorite thing, make sure to practice. Jen suggests practicing in front of a mirror or recording yourself and watching it to become more aware of body language, posture, and any repetitive patterns of speech or mannerisms you may have. Awareness (and practice) will help you to show up differently and avoid distracting habits. “As uncomfortable as it can be, practicing and then being able to view it and give yourself constructive feedback is important,” Jen says. “But it’s also important not to beat yourself up over your practice performance, as it might influence your confidence level going into the actual interview.
Jen also adds that part of job interview practice is getting yourself ready mentally. “One of the shifts that’s healthy is to reframe the interview as a conversation,” she says. “Be you, and the best version of you. You’re learning about the company just as much as they’re learning about you, so when you make it more of a discussion and can be your authentic self, the people you’re interviewing with will feel more comfortable and relate to you — and people want to work with those they can relate to,” she says.
5. Be confident, but also be self-aware.
Confidence is the best accessory to wear to a job interview — and Jen stresses to be sure to balance that out with a healthy dose of self-awareness. “Look and listen for cues during your interview,” she says. “Is the interviewer trying to wrap up the question so they can go on to the next one, for example?” Being aware of the flow of the interview and picking up on those non-verbal cues can go a long way.
6. Nervous? Reframe it as excitement.
Being nervous before a job interview is natural, but too much agitation and anxiety narrow your ability to think on your feet. “This moves you into a sort of ‘fight or flight” response, which can put you on the defensive,” Jen says. “Instead of saying, ‘I’m nervous,” instead say, “I’m excited!” The positivity will increase your recall, creativity in answering questions and telling the story of your accomplishments, and overall poise.”
7. Research the company. Really research.
This shouldn’t be a long cumbersome process but “Gather a variety of data points,” says Jen, who suggests going to a potential company’s website, social media pages, Indeed, and Glassdoor page. And dig in even further. “Check out their CEO and leaders on LinkedIn, Google the company to get a better idea of what’s being said about them,” she says. If you limit your research to just their website or the company’s Glassdoor page, it’s tough to have a holistic view of who the company is and how it presents itself.
8. Use the SOAR method to provide specifics on your past or current work.
Behavioral interviewing — an interview style focused on learning about a candidate’s experience through how they’ve demonstrated certain behaviors, knowledge, skills, and abilities, is commonly utilized in many companies. Jen says an easy way to relay this information is through the SOAR (Situation, Opportunity, Action, and Result) method.
“As you’re reviewing the job description prior to the interview, pull out specifics on what the company is looking for and start to think about a situation that you found yourself in, what the opportunity was, what action you followed through on, and what the result was — whether those were project deliverables or data points,” Jen says.
9. Prepare a list of questions and remember to ask them.
How many times has this happened to you: You get to the end of a job interview, the interviewer asks you if you have any questions, and you say, “Nope, I don’t think so!” — only to come up with ten questions you wish you would have asked on the car ride home? “Many people have questions they want to ask, but they get so wrapped up in the interview, or they don’t write them out — so they forget to ask them,” Jen says. Questions show you’re engaged and asking them speaks volumes.
10. Always send a thank you and include a specific detail.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen two candidates that were neck and neck in the hiring process, and what pushed one over the top was the simple act of writing a thank you email,” Jen says. She also recommends putting a specific detail in the note based on your conversation. “For instance, if you spoke in your interview about an article you read recently, consider putting a link to the article in your thank you note. It can act as a natural continuation of your conversation and makes you even more memorable.”
11. Request information about next steps.
When the interview is close to wrapping up, Jen says to not be afraid in asking the interviewer what’s next. “Tell them you appreciate their time, you’ve learned so much, and you’re even more interested in this opportunity — and could they give you an idea of the next steps and timeline?” she says. This helps you understand if it’s a company that moves quickly — which is important if you have other opportunities you’re entertaining.
And that’s okay to mention, too. “If you’re excited about the role, it’s important to say that you have a few other opportunities, but this is your #1,” Jen says. “If they feel the same way about you, they might want to start fast-tracking your offer.”
Jen even has a bonus tip: Enjoy the job interview process and grow from every experience. “The job search — and interviewing — can be stressful,” she says. “If you can find ways to appreciate the process and learn from it, it’s easier to enjoy.” After all: Before you know it, you’ll be starting a new opportunity, and everything you have learned you’ll bring with you to the next stage of your career.
Looking to find your next adventure? We’re here to help with everything — including job interview prep. Connect with our Candidate Relations team here.