The perfect interview is every job seeker's dream. A great interview also gets the recruiting or hiring manager excited about a great candidate. How can you become that ideal candidate who is a slam dunk for the job? It's probably not as tough as you think. Unfortunately, when you talk to hiring managers and recruiters, you find that many interviewees are unprepared and unimpressive. They make basic mistakes and often lose opportunities as a result.
When you are just a little more prepared to answer interview questions than the next candidate, you can come out smelling like a rose. Follow these tips to a perfect interview;
Apply for the right jobs.
This step happens before the interview. You need to make sure to apply for jobs that suit your skills and experience. Don't bother with a lot of jobs you are overqualified to do, and eliminate jobs where you can't prove that you have the majority of the skills they seek. This key step will help you save time in your job search, as you won't be spinning your wheels applying for positions you don't have a chance to land.
Research the organization and the people.
Do not go to an interview before you've done research that informs you about the company's major issues, also known as "point points." Scan all of the online information about the company, including what it says about itself as well as news mentions. Make a connection between the company's goals and what you offer. For example, if you read that the organization is working to improve its customer service focus, be prepared to explain how your background prepared you to contribute to this goal. Specifics regarding how you contributed to similar successful efforts in the past will help you stand out from the crowd.
You also should take advantage of the opportunity to learn about your interviewers. You can bet that you'll be able to find something out about anyone you'll meet online. Start with LinkedIn, and if you can't learn what you need there, Google the interviewer's name. You know they will do the same for you, so you might as well be on equal ground.
During the interview, feel free to bring up any information you found on LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+, as long as it is professional and seems like something the employer would want you to know. For example, "I see you also attended the University of Illinois!" Or, "I'm a big movie buff, too."
Use "Problem - Action - Result" stories and answer questions completely
You need to have several stories to demonstrate you can handle any challenge the job may bring. Each story should have three elements: 1) A problem. 2) The action you took to solve the problem. 3) The result: what happened and how did your actions affect that result? This is known as a "PAR" story; people who structure their responses to interview questions in this way will be sure to address all of the key points. Oftentimes, interviewees forget to describe the result of their actions, or they may forget to detail how they affected the results. When you have several "PAR" stories at the ready, you'll be prepared for most any interview question.
Think of times when you overcame a big challenge, worked with difficult people or had to make an unpopular choice. These are common interview questions you can answer with a PAR story. If you research the company well, you may be able to predict some of their questions and plan some good stories to tell.
Don't talk too much.
Sometimes, the best thing to say is as little as possible. Especially when asked something you don't want to talk much about, such as why were you fired, your best bet is to cut to the chase and move to the next question. Do not dwell on anything negative and always present things in the most favorable light possible.
If you really want the job, make sure to write a thank you note after the interview to each person you met. Comment on each meeting in individual notes; don't duplicate the same message to each interviewer. This is your chance to elaborate on something you want them to know and to remind the interviewers why you are a good choice. As long as you don't include any typos or other mistakes in your letter, it can only help you stand out in a crowd of candidates.
More from Miriam Salpeter
10 reasons you aren't getting hired
6 most revealing interview questions
Snap judgements hiring managers make