I have watched a number of people go through the interview process over the years. For some, it's nerve-racking. Often, the process is mysterious: How do you know what the interviewer is looking for in a candidate? Do they want someone to fit seamlessly into their culture or do they value skill, experience, or reputation above all else?
A few of my friends welcome the experience. Even if they really need the job and the stakes are high, they seem to manage the process effortlessly, making new friends along the way.
What protects them from the pressure of the interview process? In short, are there techniques that could help anyone negotiate their way through an interview more successfully no matter what the job is?
Here are some of the things I've noticed about the people I know that handle interviews well:
- They aren't nervous.
Whether they've been interviewed a few times or a hundred, they manage to keep their wits about them and feel calm. One long-time friend told me he recognizes that his job in the interview is to help the interviewer get to know him. “What could be easier?” he says. “I'm the expert in the situation! No one knows more about me than I do.” It made sense to me, and I could see how that perspective helps him relax.
- They educate themselves.
By the time they get to the interview, the more successful people have done their homework. They learn as much about the company they're interviewing with as they can, even going so far as to read the notes on its financial statements. They stay up to date on whatever news there is about the company. They get to know the people that will interview them before they ever even speak — where did the interviewer go to school, where else have they worked, do they have any common interests or friends. It can be very time-consuming to conduct such thorough research, but the people I know that go to these lengths consider it essential to their success.
- They follow up with a thank you note.
It's a simple thing to send an email after an interview; and in my experience, the successful candidates rarely miss that opportunity. They know it can really cement the good impression they worked hard to create. They thank the interviewer for the time they invested getting to know them, and it really sets them apart from other candidates. (Conversely, not sending a thank you note or email can also set a person apart from other candidates!)
How do you succeed in the interview process? What helps you relax? How do you distinguish yourself, and how much time do you spend preparing for an interview?