I’ve interviewed hundreds of people — These are the 7 things that impress me the most

As a mid-level manager, I have been on the other side of the interview panel for many promotions and specialty detail selection processes. I currently supervise approximately 125 line-level employees and six supervisors. In addition to judging panelists, I have also been on the interview side, vying for promotions and specialty positions.

From my past seven years in management, I have found there are certain skills and techniques common among the top finalists during oral board interviews.

From experience, there are certain habits and actions that impress interviewers. Use these tips to help make a positive impression on the panel during your next interview.

1. Dress for the position you want

First impressions are extremely important. If you are interviewing for a business type position, be sure to wear a suit or comparable type of dress if you are female. Your attire should be professional and show you are serious about this process. 

Interviewing in jeans and a t-shirt is a good way to get disqualified immediately. If your job requires a uniform, make sure it is ironed and pressed. Remember, your dress should impress others. Use this first impression to make the best impact.

2. Shake hands with the board members (post COVID)

When you enter the room, shake the hand of each board member and thank them for giving you this opportunity. This is a great way to make a good impression and connect with each board member. If there is an active pandemic, you should skip this step. 

Making a statement such as, “normally I would shake hands” is a good way to show your intent but respect for the health situation.

3. Sit up straight

If you are seated at a table, sit up straight with your hands clasped in front of you on the table. Maintain good posture and avoid slouching or the appearance that you don’t care if you get the position or not. Looking too relaxed can be a sign that you are careless and not committed. Sit up straight, poised, and professional.

4. Make eye contact with all board members

If your interview consists of more than one board member, be sure to make eye contact with the person asking the question. As you answer the question, work your way down the line, making eye contact with each board member. Eye contact is extremely powerful in conveying your confidence and ability to connect with others.

5. Use examples in your answers

As an interviewer, nothing is worse than hearing five people give the same cookie-cutter answers. Most interviewees provide factual, quick, impersonal answers to questions asked of them. Instead of saying, “I would do this” to a scenario based question, answer the question and then follow up with a real world example of how you previously handled a similar situation.

Giving examples of your experience and how previous situations make you well suited to find solutions will put you head and shoulders above the competition. Don’t tell me why you are the best; give me examples that show you are.

6. Use a before-during-after answer template

If you are faced with an operational or personnel question, utilize the “before-during-after” answer template. For example, if one of your employees struggles to meet their goals, how would you handle this?

A normal answer would consist of a management plan on how to achieve success. The answer may detail how a performance plan or goal setting plan works and your knowledge of the process.

A great answer would utilize the before-during-after template. 

  1. As a leader, I understand the importance of setting clear goals and expectations of my employees. I would ensure each team member understands their job duties and responsibilities. (Before)
  2. To address the deficiency, I would make sure my supervisor is aware of the situation, and I would meet with the employee to find the source of the issue. If the employee is having personal issues at home, I will work with them and our Human Resources Department to assist. If there are other performance issues, I will serve the employee with a deficiency memorandum and a goal setting worksheet to do everything we can to make this employee successful. (During)
  3. Assuming the employee improved performance, I would check in with them every 30 days to ensure their performance continues to meet or exceed expectations. (After)

7. Shake hands at the end (post COVID)

Similar to the introduction, ending on a personal note is important. If we are not currently in a pandemic, shake each board member’s hand and thank them for their time. This solidifies the first impression with a lasting impact.

Put your best foot forward

During an interview, each board member wants you to succeed. When an interviewer is extremely uncomfortable and having trouble answering questions, the board members are comfortable as well.

Understand that everyone wants to see you do your best and no one is rooting for you to fail. Use these seven tips in your next interview to make yourself shine over the competition.