I spent many years hiring technical staff in corporate America, and I have witnessed a wide variety of interviews. Some interviews were good. Unfortunately, most were not so good.
Despite the wide availability of basic interviewing tips and techniques, many job candidates still fail to prepare, ask questions, and act the part during the interview.
This means that smart job candidates always stand out from the crowd.
Among those interviews that went well in my hiring career, all of these candidates exhibited a common set of traits that got them a job offer.
Here are the top five things that smart candidates do during a job interview.
Always ask questions
Smart job candidates ask meaningful questions. Good questions indicate to the hiring manager that the job seeker spent the time doing research on the company and is invested in the job opportunity.
At the end of every job interview, I would routinely ask the candidate if they had any questions. A popular answer was, “No, I think you’ve answered all of my questions already”.
That’s the wrong answer.
Smart candidates come prepared with questions. These questions could relate to the job opportunity itself or the company as a whole. Always ask a question or two before you leave.
Talk about achievements
The best candidates do not just talk about what they know. Instead, they focus on their achievements and the things that they have done in the past.
Instead of describing all the different software applications that you know, describe your experience with them and how they help you to do your job. If you earned a major accomplishment with one of them, be sure to mention those things.
Hiring managers use your achievements to form a mental association between your skillset and your motivation to hit the ground running and to succeed in your role.
Instead of saying, “I know Technology X”, say, “I used Technology X to [mention achievement or accomplishment]”.
Dress for the part
You might be surprised at how many people still can’t get the dress part right.
Even in professional organizations, I have interviewed candidates who wore jeans to the interview. Or t-shirts. I can remember one candidate who smelled as if they poured an entire jar of clove oil on them. It was overwhelming and distracting.
Dress to impress. For a man, this usually means a nice button-down shirt, a tie, a pair of ironed slacks, and groomed facial hair. For ladies, a nice dress or skirt with hair that’s…”controlled” (pulled back, in a ponytail, straight down, etc).
Cologne or perfume is fine, but resist going overboard (like the candidate with the clove oil!). When in doubt, err on the side of over-dressing.
Prepared to answer any question from their resume
Anything that is on your resume is fair game in an interview. Anything.
I routinely asked questions about more obscure things included on the candidate’s resume because I wanted to hear more about them, and a remarkable number of candidates could not talk about them. Or, they claimed to have experience with those technologies, but clearly they didn’t. They lied on their resume.
Even if it’s not a technology that I cared about, the lie spoke to his or her character in a very negative way. This destroys trust during the interview.
Be prepared to talk intelligently about anything that is on your resume. If you cannot answer pointed questions about it, then do not include it.
Ask about next steps
Before leaving the interview, ask about the next steps. Inquire about their hiring schedule. Find out when they are looking to fill the position.
Asking questions like these is not being pushy. Instead, it shows the hiring manager that you are actively engaged in this opportunity and want to move forward. Always find out the next steps before walking out.