5 Tips to Acing An Interview
Before I embarked on my new life as a freelancer, I had both feet firmly planted in the Corporate World.
With my DayPlanner in one hand and my resume in the other, I had big visions of the corner office, the corporate expense account, and business cards with some impressive executive title. Needless to say, I have had more than my share of interviews. And although the whole process can get a little nerve-wracking at times, I did learn some useful tips along the way.
1. Be Unique
This is by far, the biggest tip I can give anyone who's looking for a job and I'll tell you why it works: Everyone looks the same on paper. Anyone reviewing your resume has also reviewed hundreds of other resumes, both in relation to the job you're applying for as well as any other positions they might have open. As a result, they've seen the words "Objective" and "Work Experience" more times than they can count and honestly, it all becomes a haze after a while.
So here's what you do — you stand out. You don't look like everyone else. Maybe you accomplish this with a not-so-standard kind of paper or something equally as subtle. As for me? I went all out. I created a website with a fun "10 Reasons You Should Hire Me" quiz and turned my resume into a full-color tri-fold brochure.
Yes, there were times when someone else was just clearly more qualified than I was for the job but I'll tell you this — I ALWAYS got a call-back for that coveted interview and even in the instances where I didn't get the job, I almost always got offered a different position in the company. Why? Because they liked me too much to just let me go somewhere else.
2. Learn the Art of Resume B.S.
There is truly an art to writing a resume, and if you're not sure of where the line between fact and fiction lies, here it is: While you should never blatantly lie on your resume, it is acceptable and even expected to make your previous positions sound absolutely amazing.
It doesn't matter how menial, how common or entry-level that position might have been — you were an expert at it and turned it into an important component of the company.
I once reviewed a resume for a girl who had a position that sounded something like this:
"...responsible for managing all corporate duplication equipment and overseeing document distribution for Fortune 500 firm..."
Her job? She was a copy clerk. And I knew that when I read her resume. But she obviously took her job very seriously and anyone who can make something that impressive out of a copy clerk position was worth another look. Incidentally, I hired her.
3. Never Say Can't
Along the same lines as Rule #2, while you don't want to commit yourself to skills you truly don't have, there are ways to diffuse a lack of knowledge in a particular area.
Instead of saying "I don't know how to do that" or "I don't have that skill" say something like "I haven't used that particular software/system but I have used X, Y, and Z so I'm sure I'll have no problem." The point is to replace "can't" with something more positive such as "I can learn it," "I can do it," "I can figure it out."
4. Look 'Em In The Eye
During one of my stints in Corporate America, our CEO ordered every employee to attend an on-site course on Business Communication. Most of the seminar revolved around identifying personality types and learning to match your conversation to the other person's natural type. It was interesting, but what really stood out for me was the coach's tip to always look people in the eye. It conveys the trustworthiness and confidence that prospective employers look for.
This is actually harder than it sounds, especially when you're nervously trying to close a big deal or in this case, make it through an interview. So here's the tip I learned, one that has served me well: If looking them in the eye makes you uncomfortable, look at the bridge of their nose instead. They can't tell the difference and you'll come across as being direct, honest and confident.
And while you're staring at the bridge of their nose, lean in (conveys interest in the conversation) and be animated. Smile, show concentration, even surprise if they tell a story that calls for it. The goal here is to turn your interview into an enjoyable, invigorating "meeting."
5. Use a Strength as Your Weakness
It's not unusual for your interview to include some probing questions, such as "What is your biggest strength?" and the more dreaded "What is your biggest weakness?"
Most people have an easy time talking about their strengths but what on Earth should you say about your weakness? The answer? Pick a strength and talk about its downside.
For example, if one of your strengths is that you take pride in your work, then you could say perfectionism is your weakness. Likewise with being detail oriented — perfectionism is a perfect weakness to compliment that strength. Then you go on to say how you're able to "manage it" really well and have actually been able to turn it into a bit of a strength by using that higher standard of yours to produce stellar work.
My choice typically revolved around my pet peeve — that's not my job. This always made the interviewer smile (because it was their pet peeve too) and ask, "well, how is that a weakness?"
I responded by telling them how it was my instinct to "go the extra mile" and help someone with whatever it was when I knew it was something I could do. It just made more sense to me than to pass the buck to someone else. Of course (and here's the weakness part), in the Corporate World, there are departments and divisions so you have to be careful that you don't step on someone else's toes or disrupt the normal accepted process for getting that certain something done.
And viola! I've just given them a weakness — something I strive to work on — that basically says I'm a "team player" and do "whatever it takes" to get the job done.
The bottom line is that you want to be the person they don't soon forget. The person who stands out — the one who they can see themselves working with on a daily basis. To do that, you have to be more than just another resume...
As in love, you don't want to be the one they can live with...you want to be the one they can't live without.