Preparing for a job interview can be nerve-wracking. It’s a time where change and new opportunities are right on the horizon, but you know you need to wow the employer first. It’s the moment where qualifications meet personality, and first impressions are everything.
That’s why we spoke to Sherry Bruck, a brand strategist and creative director at White Plains-based Harquin Creative Group, to learn what stands out to her when she interviews candidates. Working across multiple sectors including education, nonprofit, government, and healthcare, Bruck has a solid understanding of how to ace an interview.
Here are five tried-and-tested tips to help you navigate your job interview with confidence and finesse.
Research, research, research
Bruck says that while there used to be the old adage that “there are no stupid questions,” it’s not always true, especially in a job interview. Thanks to the internet, the interviewee should have a good sense of the company they are interviewing for. That’s the very first step of the process. The candidate should read up on the company, go through its bio and “about us” pages, look for any recent press releases or social media posts, and get a good sense of how he or she will fit in the organization.
“That’s 101,” says Bruck. “I interviewed people where they said, ‘Tell me about your company.’ I’m not going to sit there and do that. You have to look it up and be prepared.”
If possible, find out exactly who is interviewing you so that you can do additional research around that person. It’s best to understand the full picture, including the company’s mission, values, recent projects, and even its culture. This will help candidates to then tailor their answers to reflect how their skills align with the company’s goals and demonstrate a genuine interest in being part of the journey.
Practice makes perfect
“Prep is the name of the game,” notes Bruck. “Google typical interview questions you might be asked. If you don’t prepare, it will be easy to trip up.”
Anticipate common interview questions and rehearse your responses. Practice with a friend, record yourself, or even try mock interviews. This will help you articulate your thoughts more confidently and effectively during the actual interview.
There are also online tools that can help, like Google’s Interview Warmup feature that helps you prepare for any upcoming interviews.
Dress the part and arrive early
First impressions matter. Dress appropriately for the role and company culture.
“Check out the culture of the company,” Bruck recommends. “If it’s a creative agency that has casual attire and you walk in with a suit, that might make you feel foolish or uncomfortable if the other person is more casual.”
Bruck says an interview isn’t the time to take any fashion chances. Wear something you feel comfortable and good in. She suggests looking at the company’s photo gallery on its website to see how workers usually dress.
Plan your journey to the interview location in advance, aiming to arrive at least 10-15 minutes early. Punctuality demonstrates reliability and respect for the interviewer’s time.
Think about your body language and nail your talking points
Bruck’s number one rule during an interview? Never lean back.
“That’s a really big sign of disrespect,” said Bruck. “Sit up, lean forward, make eye contact, and listen.”
She says to make sure you’re not in your own head the whole time thinking about what to say next. Don’t be afraid to take a beat or ask a clarifying question. She also says it’s best to refrain from one-word answers and to give as much supporting information as possible to help the conversation flow.
“Talk about your skills and experiences that fit in with the company,” says Bruck. “They want to know what you’re good at and how that experience is transferable to their environment. Use examples.”
Follow up within 24 hours
After you walk out of that room, your job isn’t over yet. Bruck suggests that candidates follow up within a day to say thank you for the time. The email doesn’t need to be too long, but it’s best to use a general format of thanking them, saying one or two things that really stood out to you that you were especially excited to hear about, and let them know they can reach out at any time if they have additional questions for you.
“You don’t have to send it the minute you get home, but don’t take too long either,” Bruck notes.