By Shan Lebowitz
Business Insider, March 27, 2019.
- Heading to a job interview?
- No matter the company or industry, these 10 expert- and science-backed tips will help you land the role of your dreams.
For the more anxiety-prone among us, job interviews can be a total nightmare.
You’re sitting across from the hiring manager, trying desperately to convince her that, despite your sweaty palms, shaky knees, and palpitating heart, you are in fact the perfect person for this position.
Most experts will tell you that it comes down to preparation — knowing in advance how you’ll answer tricky questions and reflecting on the direction you want your career to take.
Below, we’ve listed some of the best advice we’ve ever heard on wowing your interviewer, no matter how nervous you feel.
Career advice expert Amanda Augustine: Do some research to figure out how to address your cover letter
So the hiring manager’s name isn’t listed in the job posting. Don’t panic.
According to Augustine, career expert at TopReseme, you just need to do some sleuthing. One strategy is to use the email address provided to search for a name. You can also look for the person who created the posting if it’s on a site like LinkedIn.
Augustine said you’ll always want to direct your cover letter to a specific individual (unless the posting is anonymous). Otherwise, you might give the impression that you didn’t put any effort into your application or you don’t pay attention to detail.
Harvard Business School professors Ovul Sezer, Francesca Gino, and Michael Norton: Avoid humblebragging at all costs
HBS research suggests that “humblebragging” — aka boasting concealed by a complaint — is actually a turn-off.
In one experiment, more than three-quarters of participants humblebragged when asked to write down how they’d answer a question about their biggest weakness in a job interview. The most common humblebrags included being a perfectionist, working too hard, being too nice, and being too honest.
But research assistants said they’d be more likely to hire the participants who answered honestly. Candid responses included sentences like, “I’m not always the best at staying organized,” and “Sometimes I overreact to situations.”
Meanwhile, “Ask a Manager” columnist Alison Green wrote on The Cut that you should speak candidly about your weaknesses.
Before you head into the interview, she wrote, you should reflect on your work-related weaknesses and what you’ve done to address them so they don’t affect your work as much. That way, you’ll be prepared to answer thoughtfully and honestly if and when the question comes up.
The Muse HR exec Toni Thompson: Explain that you’re leaving your current job because you want to grow in a different direction
Staying positive gets tricky when the hiring manager asks why you’re leaving your current job. But Thompson gave an example of how to answer this question honestly, without badmouthing:
“Let’s say that to get where you need to be, you need really great social media skills and you just aren’t given the opportunity to do that in your current role because someone else is doing that … That is a perfectly valid reason as to why you might be looking for another opportunity at another company.”
You can replace “social media skills” with “technical skills,” or “editing skills,” or whatever it is that you’re hoping to develop. Above all, you want to explain why the job isn’t giving you the chance to grow or to take your career in the direction you’d like.
Former Starbucks HR exec Traci Wilk: Flaunt your growth mindset
Wilk, who is now senior vice president of people at The Learning Experience, likes to ask job candidates to “tell me about the most challenging work experience that you had and what you learned from it.”
She’s looking specifically for evidence of a “growth mindset.” She said that if the candidate naturally talks about “things that they would have done differently,” that’s a good sign because it shows a “high degree of self-awareness.”
Wilk especially wants to see the candidate share some “reflection or a postmortem that they may have done after the situation, how they’ve taken that and applied it into future situations.”
Former Google exec Lexi Reese: Show that you’re interested in making an impact on others
More than one HR exec has said they steer clear of candidates who seem egotistical.
To detect signs of an inflated ego, Reese likes to ask candidates, “If your life is a book, tell me about the chapters of that book.”
She’s interested in why you made the choices you did.”You can suss out things like ego,” she said. “Is your ego focused on, ‘I’m proud of doing the right thing in a way that’s going to impact lots of people?’ Or is your ego placed on, ‘I did this and I did that and I am so great?'”
Specifically, Reese is listening for a ton of “I” statements, which don’t suggest a desire to serve others.
The Muse HR exec Lillian Landrum: Ask questions about opportunities for professional development
Landrum recommends that candidates ask the hiring manager about opportunities for professional development.
“When people start asking those questions around how do we invest in growing our employees here, that gets me excited,” she said. For example, you might ask about attending industry conferences or getting reimbursed for further-education programs.
Why are these questions so impressive? Landrum said, “One, it shows that they’re dedicated and they want to be committed to the company. But two, they’re thinking about bettering themselves.”
Wharton professor Maurice Schweitzer and Columbia Business School professor Adam Galinsky: Be confident and deferential
In their 2015 book, “ Friend and Foe,” Schweitzer and Galinsky argue that success — in business and in life — is a matter of competing and cooperating with others, often at the same time.
In the case of the job interview, demonstrating confidence is a form of competition, while showing deference to the employer is a form of cooperation. Employing both tactics simultaneously is usually a winning strategy.
For example, Galinsky told Business Insider that when he was being interviewed by professors for jobs at universities, he would say something like, “I loved your research on ____. It reminds me of my research on ____.”
The Muse HR exec Lillian Landrum: Ask the interviewers questions about their careers
Don’t worry about coming off as creepy: Your interviewers want you to research their careers and ask about them.
Landrum recommended asking about an interviewer’s work history and how the person got to his or her role. “It just shows that they’re interested, they’re dedicated, and they’re going beyond what is expected of them to make sure they’re fully set up properly for the interview,” she said.
The Muse founders Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew: Put some effort into your thank-you note
As you’re writing your thank-you note after the interview, consider showing — not telling — the hiring manager that you’re a fit for the role.
In their 2017 book, “ The New Rules of Work,” Cavoulacos and Minshew recommend submitting a sample project with your job application. More specifically, follow up on one of the points you addressed in your interview and prepare some research related to that topic.
Say you met with a few people at the organization and they talked about the challenges they’re facing. You could use comScore to do some research on their competitors and put together a graph with relevant statistics. In your email, you could say: “I think there’s opportunity; I’d love to talk about it.”
“That shows initiative,” Cavoulacos said. “If you’re picking the right competitors, it shows judgment.”
Workplace expert Lynn Taylor: Check in a couple of days after the company said you’d hear from them
The thank-you note shouldn’t be the last time the hiring manager hears from you. Taylor recommended checking in a couple of days after you were supposed to hear back from the company.
The next time you can follow up is when they ask you to. For example, their last email might have said, “We are still interviewing candidates and should be making a decision soon. If you don’t hear from me by Thursday, please feel free to follow up.” Don’t forget to do so!