Previously in the post “Getting Ready For Your Big Interview“, we discussed elements of interview preparation including what to wear, what to bring, what to do in the three days before the interview, and more. Here, we continue with advice on how to prepare for your big interview, and then go over what to do after the interview is done.
Special Considerations for Out-of-Town Interviews
While preparation for the actual interview is basically the same, there are several before and after aspects to consider when preparing for an out-of-town interview.
- There are several expenses involved in doing an out-of-town interview such as the plane ticket, hotel, meals, and transportation once you’re there. Communicate with the company to find out what will be paid for and how, and what you will have to cover. This varies from company to company, so make sure you are well informed with each interview you have. Be courteous with the company’s money and don’t spend excessively.
- Bring two possible outfits for your interview. If you are asked back for anything else after your interview, you will want to have another professional set of clothes ready.
- Don’t check your bag and run the risk of losing it. Take a carry on so you can be sure that all of the essentials are with you at all times.
- Get there early. If you have control over the timing, don’t go from the airport straight to the interview. Get there the day before or at least give yourself a little leeway in case your flight is delayed and so you can relax before the interview.
- If you have time while in town, look around a bit! Take the opportunity to see what the area is like and if it is a place that you would want to live.
Interviewing When You Work Full Time
When you work 40+ hours a week, it can be hard to job hunt and interview for a new job, especially when you don’t want your current employer to know about it. Here are a few thoughts to consider when in this situation.
- If you don’t want the company you currently work for to know you’re on the job hunt, don’t talk to anyone in the office about it. Keep it within your family, or word could get around.
- Be honest about the need to schedule around your current job hours. Try to interview during your lunch break or before or after regular business hours. It’s likely that the company you are interviewing with will be impressed by how you take your job seriously. If these are not options, take a vacation day for the interview. If you have multiple interviews to schedule, try scheduling them all on one vacation day.
- When the company you are interviewing with asks if your current employer knows you are interviewing, tell the truth and say no (if that’s the case). Say that your job search is confidential and ask for your previous employers to be contacted as references instead. You don’t want your manager to find out you are looking to leave because another company calls him as a reference.
- When asked in an interview why you want to leave your current job, avoid bad-mouthing your employer. This is never helpful. It only makes you look tacky and gives the impression that you would do the same to another company you work for in the future.
The STAR Technique of Answering Questions
One of the most common ways an interviewer judges the quality of a candidate’s future performance is through behavioral interviewing. In this approach, questions are asked concerning past experiences in order to evaluate one’s skills, abilities, and behaviors. For example, an interviewer may ask the following types of questions:
- Tell me about a time you had to…what did you do?
- Describe a situation in the past…
- Give me an example of a time when you…
When asked this type of question in an interview, make sure to listen carefully so that you clearly understand the question before answering. Take 5-8 seconds to plan your answer, and then give your response in 3 minutes or less. This should be long enough to answer thoroughly without dragging it out and losing the interviewer’s interest. The interviewer will likely ask more questions about your experience. Respond to these questions with brief, concise answers.
The STAR technique to answering questions is a way to form your response in a clear and organized manner.
Situation: First describe the background of the story. Give the context the interviewer needs to understand your experience.
Task: Tell about the challenge you were facing and what needed to be resolved.
Action: Explain the action you took to resolve the task at hand.
Results: Describe what you accomplished, how those around you responded, what you learned, etc. If applicable, use specific numbers and stats to illustrate your success.
- ‘S’ for Situation: “My first job after business school was to lead a product development team at Acme Corporation. One of my responsibilities involved weekly product planning meetings that chose product features. After the meeting, I would meet with my staff and delegate programming tasks. Since I am an experienced programmer, I would explain the approach to each feature to be programmed. I expected my staff to write the programs in C++, then test and debug them. We seemed to work very well as a team.”
- ‘T’ for Task: “Three months later, my manager collected feedback from my staff. In my performance review, my manager noted that I could improve my delegation skills. His comment surprised me. I thought I was good at delegating, as I would explain my expectations and all necessary steps to each staff member. I felt my staff was productive and consistently benefitted from my coaching. I thanked my manager for the feedback and promised to reflect on my delegating style and consider a change.”
- ‘A’ for Action: “Upon reflection, I noticed two issues with my delegation approach. Firstly, in assigning tasks to my staff I only described the steps they needed to take. I had habitually failed to describe the background of product features we wanted to develop and explain how their work would contribute to and improve the overall product. My staff would just do what I had asked of them without understanding the context of their efforts. Secondly, while explaining how to complete each assignment, I was micromanaging. This may have limited my staff’s initiative and reduced opportunities to advance their programming skills. During the next staff meeting, I thanked them for the feedback and acknowledged I would change. from that point forward, Then, each week, I explained each product feature’s unique context, described the task in terms of outcomes and asked my staff how we could approach each task.”
- ‘R’ for Results: “My staff was very excited by the opportunity to propose ideas, brainstorm, and choose their own preferred method of going about their work. They were no longer working on my idea alone: they shared in its conception and approached it their own way. They were more enthusiastic about their work and realized they were an integral part of something bigger than they were. During the next quarterly meeting, my manager praised me for empowering my team.”
Using this technique will help you better impress employers by demonstrating your qualifications through clear, personal stories. Practice answering interview questions in this kind of format.
Write a Post-Interview Thank You Note
While the majority of job candidates do not write a post-interview thank you, writing a short but well-written thank you email could only help your chances. Worst-case scenario, the thank you is ignored and deleted. Best-case scenario, it impresses the employer, makes you stand out, and shows communication skills, courtesy, sincere interest, and enthusiasm.
What To Include
- Important information you forgot to mention during the interview
- A reference to something that you “connected” with the interviewer about (common interests, hobbies, sports, schools, etc.)
- Reiterate why you are the best candidate for the position
- Refer to specific parts of your conversation
- Enthusiasm about the possibility of attaining the job
- Readdress your answers to questions with which you were not satisfied
Make It Short But Well-Written
- The email should be no more than two to three paragraphs
- Be sure to proofread your email more than once! It is very important that there be no spelling or grammatical errors
- Even if the interview was informal, do not be casual in writing. Do not use emoticons or text-speak
Who And When
- Send the thank-you email within 24 hours of your interview while you are still fresh in his/her mind
- Send an email to each person you met with and personalize each one
- Consider sending a short thank you to anyone who was part of your interview experience, like the secretary or assistant—it never hurts to be kind to and appreciative of other employees as well
Here is a sample thank you email you can use as a template for your own:
Dear Mr. Johnson [Mr./Ms. Last Name],
Thank you for taking the time [yesterday/today] to speak with me about the third grade teacher opening [job title] and to interview me for the job. It was a pleasure meeting you and learning more about Lillie B. Haynes Elementary School [name of company/organization], and I am enthusiastic about the possibility of teaching there [enthusiasm about possibly obtaining the position].
After our conversation, I am confident that my previous teaching experience has qualified and prepared me with the classroom management skills, enthusiasm, and teamwork and collaboration skills that the LBH third grade team and students need [reiterate why you are the best candidate for the job]. As we discussed, I agree it is critical for teachers to collaborate and work well together in order for the students to receive the best education possible and for the school to be run smoothly with unnecessary obstacles. I am positive that I would be an asset to the third grade team and would work to help unify the staff and avoid unnecessary conflicts, as have unfortunately been an issue for you in the past [refer to something specific/important from your conversation].
I am very excited about this position and look forward to hearing back from you. Do not hesitate to contact me if you need further information. I hope you enjoy the Giants game this weekend—let’s hope Bumgarner throws twelve strikeouts again! [refer to something you “connected” with the interviewer about]
[LinkedIn Profile URL]
Following Up After the Interview
Don’t stress if you don’t hear back right away—employers are often delayed in the hiring process for reasons beyond the candidates. However, if you were told you’d hear back by Monday and you still haven’t heard anything by Wednesday, do a positive follow up with the employer. Make a quick phone call or send a polite email asking where they are in the hiring process (without sounding accusatory or pushy). If you don’t get a reply, try again in a few days.
What to Do if You Totally Messed Up
Doing poorly in an interview often leads to feelings of insecurity and negativity. Some mistakes might not be fixable. HOWEVER, trying can’t hurt. Sometimes interviewers are willing to overlook mistakes if you have skills and abilities that would be really valuable to the company.
If you totally mess up the interview, try to patch things up a little through the follow-up. When you get in contact with the employer again, founder of Career Confidential Peggy McKee says, “Tell them you’re going to provide them with additional resources,” such as references, further examples of your work, or documentation of your abilities.
You could also address your obvious blunders in your post-interview thank you note. If you were distracted because of a personal issue going on outside of work, let the interviewer know. Acknowledge your mistakes without making excuses, and possibly write a quick apology (use your judgment if your interview flaws merit saying sorry). However, only include the things the interviewer definitely noticed. You don’t want to bring up something small that could have gone unnoticed, only to bring that to the interviewer’s attention and lessen your chances even more. Click here to read 10 avoidable mistakes that could bomb an interview.
Most importantly, learn from your experience! No interview is a waste if you can take something away from it that will make your better. Jacquelyn Smith from Forbes.com says, “Don’t wallow in self-pity or allow the bad interview to be an excuse for not following-up or not interviewing for a while. Instead, ask yourself what you would do differently to prepare next time; figure out what information you should have had that you didn’t; and think about how you would handle a difficult question next time.”