3 Simple Tips to Supercharge Your Interview Skills

Some people like to interview and others definitely don't. And that’s okay. I’m one of those rare birds who enjoys interviewing–I like to learn about organizations, how they operate, their culture and how they approach building a team. Interviewing is also a great opportunity to reflect on your own professional experience and how it all ties together. It's a process that can help you think about what you’ve learned so far in your professional development and decide where you need to go next to find a career you love. I've sat on both sides of the table (most recently on the hiring side), and I'd like to share my top three observations on what makes an effective interview. [bctt tweet="Top 3 Ways to Supercharge your #Interview Skills, by @SarahSalbu #interviewtips"]

3 Tips for a Successful Interview:

1. Pause and reflect

While you prepare for the job interview, take some time to review the company and reflect on the job description. You will have questions; you should write them down and be sure to ask them during the interview. Asking insightful questions is an interview skill which is mutually beneficial to both sides of the conversation, because it helps narrow in and determine if you're the right candidate.

[bctt tweet="#Interview prep tip: reflect on the description + write down insightful questions—@SarahSalbu"]

2. Give proof

When I’m interviewing someone, I want to hire them. But to make the final decision, I need proof that they've been successful in the past.

After meeting with you, your interviewer is going to go back to their team and discuss what makes you a good candidate. If they don’t have anything concrete to highlight, it’s going to be harder for them to make the case to bring you back for a second interview or to extend you an offer.

I've found that people typically fall into two categories—they either offer a specific example to answer an interview question, or they give a vague and unspecific answer. Don't be the latter.

You need to know how to answer questions specifically in an interview. Here's an example. If I ask: “Can you tell me about your sales experience?” a specific answer might be:

Yes, I’ve worked in sales for a few companies. For example, when I was working for a high-end luggage company, I wanted to hit my sales goal. I made sure I talked to everyone who expressed interest in the luggage and gave them my full attention. While not everyone I spoke to purchased a product, I was able to have meaningful interactions that had a positive impact on the brand. As a result, I hit my sales goal.

[bctt tweet="When #interviewing, always back up your claims with specific, quantifiable examples—@SarahSalbu "]

A vague answer, on the other hand, looks something like this: “Yes, I’ve done sales before so I’m comfortable with selling products.” If I prod for more information about the candidate's technique or approach, I usually get this response: “I like to learn about a product and then be friendly and tell people about it—that’s how I sell.” Well, that just makes me want to slap myself on the forehead because it's a no-brainer.  I want proof! I want to know that you're capable of taking on this responsibility. If there is no specific proof, I won’t be confident to bring you on.

To get to a better, more specific answer, try framing your response in the CAR format. CAR stands for Context, Action, Result. This will help you to frame your response with specifics and stop you from going off on a tangent. Set the stage by giving information about the context or situation you were in, describe the action you took, and finally, explain the result or outcome of your action.

[bctt tweet="Use the CAR (Context, Action, Result) format to answer #interview Qs—@SarahSalbu #careeradvice"]

3. Always send a personalized follow-up

After an interview, be sure to follow up within 24 hours with an emailed thank you. It doesn’t have to be long. However, I strongly recommend highlighting something specific about the topics you discussed. If you met with several people, don’t copy and paste the same email—tailor it to each person.

For example, a friend of mine was recently interviewing for a legal position and the person interviewing him shared that they had a similar background in insurance litigation. My recommendation was to mention that in the follow-up email. It shows that my friend listened and took the time to reflect on that specific conversation and what it meant to him and his intent to pursue the position.

[bctt tweet="Always send a personalized thank you email to your interviewer—@SarahSalbu #interviewtips"]

I hope this is helpful as you embark on the interview process. Reflect, be specific, and be personalized in your follow-up. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at sarah.salbu@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter: @sarahsalbu.