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20 Interview Best Practices

By Erica Woods, Manager of Contractor and Community Relations

Let’s be honest. One can never be too good at interviewing, and there is always room for improvement. As the 2nd largest IT staffing and services firm in the U.S., Apex has prepared many potential candidates for interviews and been “interviewed” by clients on what we can offer them. Based on our experience, we’ve compiled a list of 20 interviewing best practices for before, during, and after an interview.

Best Practice #1. Familiarize yourself with your past
Before going in for your interview, re-read your own resume and review highlights from your past positions. Make a list of your achievements, strengths, improvement areas, learning experiences, and potential concerns about the role, so you’re prepared when these questions arise.

Best Practice #2. Visualize success
Getting your mind set straight before entering your interview is essential to success. Think about your last positive interview and remind yourself what parts of the job description most applied to your skills and strengths. Be confident!

Best Practice #3. Research the company and your interviewer(s)
Prior to setting foot in a new company, you’ll want to have done your research. Look at the company’s website and social media profiles. Check out their online reviews, and ask any contacts you may have there about their experiences. Also, research who you’ll be interviewing with, and be prepared to answer questions about your research, such as why you want to work here or how familiar you are with the organization.

Best Practice #4. Prepare questions
Always walk into an interview with questions you’ve prepared for your interviewers, such as what the company culture is like, and what the goals are for the department.

Best Practice #5: Prepare your elevator pitch
Walk into your interview with a 15 – 30 second “elevator pitch” centered on your personal brand, what your focus areas are, and why you should be hired over other applicants.

Best Practice #6: Research the unknown & overcome “skills gaps”
Are there aspects of the job description you’re not familiar with? Do your research and be able to speak to those areas and your plan for attaining any skills your missing.

Best Practice #7: Consult with a Recruiter and/or Account Representative
Seeking out the assistance of a recruiter or account representative can be helpful in preparing for your interview as well. They can offer a variety of resources, including interview prep resources, post interview thank you templates, and technical assessments. They may also have additional insight on who you’ll be interviewing with, what the team is like, our track record with them, etc.

Best Practice #8: Prepare for unique questions
Be prepared for questions outside the norm. Interviewers sometimes like to throw in unique questions to reveal more of your personality and see if you’re a good match for the company’s culture.

Best Practice #9: Focus on improving your mood
Remind yourself before going into your interview why you’re qualified and keep your mood positive. Start strong – the mood/tone of an interview is often set in the first two minutes!

During the Interview:
Best Practice #10: Communicate your qualifications
Practice communicating your skills, contributions, and interests well, and explain how your experience will be beneficial. Concentrate on the employer’s needs, not yours.

Best Practice #11: Ask the questions you prepared
Make sure each of your questions is for a specific audience (manager, team member, client, etc.) and ask 2-3 of them during the interview. Asking questions shows that you’re interested in the company long-term.

Best Practice #12: Demonstrate your interest
Create a list of why you’re interested in the position and the company prior to your interview, and weave them into your responses to questions. Express passion and excitement for the role!

Best Practice #13: Establish rapports
Find a way to connect and relate to those who are interviewing you. Reacting and relating to comments and establishing a common interest is a quick way to potentially establish credibility and set you apart!

Best Practice #14: Share successes
The more you can put your career experience into story form, the easier it is to envision it. Adding relevant detail and color to the situations you’re describing will bring your experiences to life for those listening. Follow the PAR Format: Problem, Action, and Result.

Best Practice #15: Minimize “tangent talking”
Keep your direction with every response and avoid unnecessary tangents. Most questions can be answered within 20 – 60 seconds. Stay focused and clear and evaluate your audience’s body language for tips that you’re being too long-winded.

Best Practice #17: Focus on your non-verbal communication
Remember that the majority of perceived communication is based on non-verbal cues. Focus on giving a firm handshake, making eye contact, and having good posture throughout the interview.

During/Post Interview:
Best Practice #18: Offer additional “candidate sales ammo”
Proactively offer additional items like references, work samples, your portfolio, a link to your website or LinkedIn profile, and technical assessment scores.

Post Interview:
Best Practice #19: Send a follow up “thank you”
Sending a brief thank you email in a timely fashion can make a great impression with an employer. Avoid being generic in your message. If you can, mention a common interest or piece of information unique to you that was discussed in the interview. Show appreciation for their time and reiterate your qualifications and interest level.

Best Practice #20: Follow up protocol
After the interview, understand that some decision processes may take longer than others. Request a weekly status update, and share your timeline of other opportunities and offers. It’s ok to ask for a decision timeframe.

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