I had the chance to interview Vicky Oliver, a job interview coach and bestselling author of five career development books, including 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions. Oliver is a sought-after speaker on all matters of professional etiquette, and has been widely featured in the business media. As she points out, acing an interview requires some serious due diligence.
What’s the best way to stand out when you know you’ll be among several qualified candidates?
You need to really figure out what the company is looking for and how to position yourself as the perfect fit. Don’t rush your homework. Spend the time it takes to suss out the corporate culture, then show how you will blend right in. Read everything you can about the company as well as the person interviewing you. Come with a few well thought-out questions. And resolve to shine.
What tips do you have for candidates with little experience who are just entering the job market?
Candidates with little experience need to emphasize the ability to learn quickly. It helps to have some proof points, too. Show that you pick up new ideas speedily and that you’re adept with technology. If you can afford to compete on price, mention it.
Any tips for calming the interview nerves?
Study for your interview as if your future happiness depends on it. Do that for about five to seven business days, until you really know your material. Then, eat a light dinner the night before. Do not drink alcohol or even coffee that night. Get a good night’s sleep. Then, on the day of, make an extra effort to really look your best. Sleeping well and dressing appropriately will add a veneer of confidence. Don’t forget to smile when you shake your interviewer’s hand. Smiling helps calm interview jitters.
What’s the best way to follow-up after the interview?
I believe that the candidate should write the interviewer a Thank You email. If the interview took place in the morning, send it that same day. If the interview took place in the afternoon, the candidate can wait to send it until the following day.
Is it better to write something short, sweet and general, or get more in detail?
The follow-up should not be generic. Use it to either continue the conversation, or to defend a particular point that arose where you feel you may have been weak on the answer. Reiterate how much you want the job, and why you deserve it. If the interviewer said something to indicate when you might be hearing back from him or her, you might use that to close your note: “I look forward to hearing back from you within the next three weeks.”
If you used a headhunter to secure the interview, be sure to call that person to thank him or her and to provide a snapshot of how you feel the interview went. It’s always nice when your version of the meeting matches the interviewer’s version. Work out a timetable with your recruiter for when you will next reach out to the interviewer again, and when the recruiter should.