Acing an interview isn’t just about showing up on time and presenting great work. Sometimes more subtle moves can help you distinguish yourself from the competition. When presented with two equally qualified candidates, employers will typically go with the person who seems the most enthusiastic and self-assured. The following tips can enhance your interview style:
Ask intelligent questions. Before you get to the interview, conduct research to come up with questions to ask about the company. Try to formulate open-ended ones that will provide you with a deeper understanding of the business. When appropriate, add your own insight based on what you’ve learned through your research. You’ll also want to request details about the department you’d be working in and your job responsibilities. You might ask, for instance, about the reporting structure of the group and how big a portion of your job would be dedicated to managing others or administrative details.
Demonstrate your experience. It’s especially important today to emphasize what you can bring to a project and how your efforts will save the company time and money. Talk about specific details of your previous work experience, such as how you helped improve a process that contributed to the firm’s bottom line.
Listen up. Pay close attention to the person interviewing you. Good listeners focus their full attention on the speaker and try to avoid thinking about what they’ll say next. Maintain eye contact and use nonverbal cues, such as occasional nodding, to show interest in what he or she is saying. Ask for clarification when anything is unclear, and paraphrase to ensure that you understand what was said.
Keep your cool when asked an off-the-wall question. These are becoming increasingly common in a competitive job market. The good news is that there typically isn’t one right answer for a question such as, "What famous person, living or dead, would you want to have dinner with and why?" Basically, the interviewer wants to see if you can think on your feet and gain some insight into your personality. Don’t let this type of question rattle you. Smile, take a deep breath and consider your response. Taking a little time to think is better than blurting out something like, "I don’t usually eat dinner." Other common questions you might encounter include, "What’s your favorite color?"; "If you could be any animal, what would you be?"; and "What’s the last book you read?"
Master multiple interviews. First impressions aren’t the only ones that count in interviews anymore—so do second and third. Forty-three percent of advertising and marketing executives polled by our company said candidates for staff positions typically participate in three job interviews before employment offers are extended. Be sure your message is consistent throughout all of your meetings; your interviewers will compare notes. At the same time, don’t stick to a script. You might talk about how you can help with big-picture initiatives with an executive and comment on your ability to meet deadlines with a project manager. Send a personal thank-you note to each person you meet, not just the hiring manager. Resist the urge to say the same thing to everyone—each note should be unique. (You are a creative professional, after all!)
Be prepared for group interviews. By nature, these meetings can make you feel anxious. In fact, the goal of them is often to see how you fare in stressful situations. Try to establish a connection with each person present in a group interview and address attendees by name. Keep in mind that just because someone’s talking a lot doesn’t mean that person is the decision-maker; don’t disregard anyone in the room, even if he or she doesn’t ask you one question. As in any interview, focus your responses on your background and qualifications for the position and why you’re a good fit for the job.
Be yourself. Let your personality shine through during the interview. If you’ve got a terrific sense of humor, don’t suppress it entirely; your interviewer wants to get to know you.
Landing a new job in a competitive market means fine-tuning your interview skills and preparing for any curve balls that may come your way. The more often you meet with potential employers, the more adept you’ll become at promoting yourself in any interview situation. Before you know it, you’ll be a master at these meetings.
The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and Web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.