While it’s important to give a good account of yourself during the interview, your chances of success will depend largely on actions you take before the actual interview. With the right preparation and political maneuvering, you can nail the interview long before you even set foot in the interview room.
Of course, these tactics won’t guarantee you a job — but they will definitely give you a massive head start over equally qualified – and even more qualified candidates – who haven’t deployed them.
1. The Early Bird Catches the Worm
This is more than just a saying. Research shows that candidates who are interviewed in the early part of the day tend to score higher than those interviewed later in the day. Make sure you do everything in your power to score an earlier interview slot, and you will automatically put yourself ahead of a lot of the competition.
2. Get a Recommendation or Referral
The interview process is not entirely objective, nor is it terribly meritocratic. Research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that candidates who have been referred to a job are twice as likely to be invited to interview and 40 percent more likely to land the job.
It matters whom you know, and being referred by an influential contact will put you ahead of equally qualified candidates who aren’t recommended. Try to land a good recommendation before any interview, which you can do by mining your network or simply applying for jobs at companies where you have contacts.
3. Find Out What You Have in Common With the Interviewer(s)
A study by Lauren A. Rivera of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management confirms that hiring managers often select candidates with whom they share interests and with whom they believe they can be friends. In fact, these criteria seem to be more important than job-related skills or abilities.
Before any interview, you should carefully research your interviewer. Try to uncover their likes, dislikes, hobbies, and interests. Find out if you have anything in common that you can use to build a rapport and demonstrate your social compatibility.
4. Make a Good First Impression When You Meet Your Interviewer(s)
Interviewers can make up their minds about candidates within the first 30 seconds of meeting them. Candidates who make strong first impressions will have significant head starts in their interviews over candidates who make poor first impressions outside the interview room. A good first impression consists of a handshake that matches the power of the other shaker, good eye contact, and a warm smile.
5. Be Prepared.
Before you even enter the interview room, you need to be prepared for the following questions and scenarios:
- If you walk into an interview room and can’t demonstrate that you are have a deep knowledge of the business, you will come across as disengaged. The interviewers will likely dismiss you from consideration very quickly. Do thorough research on the business in advance so you can appear like a devoted fan when asked to explain what you know about the business.
- You’ll also want to prepare several pertinent questions about the business in advance. Candidates who ask more stimulating and pertinent questions — which can’t always be summoned on the spot — come across as far more engaged than candidates who ask generic, boring questions or no questions at all.
- Be ready to respond to behavioral questions in which you demonstrate your skills by describing real-life work scenarios. Make sure you practice answering questions using the SBI (Situation-Behavior-Impact) technique: describe the situation, describe your behavior, and describe the impact you had.
These advanced preparation techniques will prime you to outperform other candidates who have not taken the time to consider their questions and answers beforehand.