When you google ‘interview tips’ almost instantly — 0.17 seconds to be exact — 96,200,000 results show up. As of April, there are a total of 13.7 million unemployed Americans, meaning there are millions reading the same interview tips you just googled. So where does that leave you?
Millions of Americans are on the job hunt, and with college graduation around the corner, there will be millions more joining the efforts.
I decided to get in the head of someone who actually conducts the interview: The HR Manager. I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Polina Panich, the Human Resources Manager at Cummins Inc.—a manufacturing company that designs equipment ranging from power systems to diesel engines. With a staff of 1,500, Polina has conducted her share of interviews, and she know what works and what doesn’t.
Here are some insights and tips to gain a competitive edge during the interview process. According to Panich being a strong interviewee is a pretty simple as long as you follow some basic rules:
1. “Get to know the company culture.”
Polina says this is a crucial part of the job search process, “Select where you want to work by evaluating the core values of the company. You want to fit in with the company culture.”
I personally think this is one of the most important and most overlooked parts of the job hunt. I understand that not everyone has the luxury of taking time to be selective about which jobs to apply for, but if you do have some time I high suggest it.
By applying solely to companies you feel would be the best fit for you, not only will the interview process go smoother; it will be easier for the interviewer to see why you would in turn fit them.
It’s a simple equation, the more companies you apply to where you truly want to work, the more likely you are to have a dream job once hired.
2. It’s all about the skills and experience.
Should you wear your glasses to an interview? Is your hair supposed to be short? Business casual or business attire? Polina says at the end of the day none of this matters. The whole point of the interview is to see if you are qualified for the position.
“The most important part of the interview comes down to skills and experiences,” Polina emphasizes.
All the other things interviewees’ worry about are what Panich calls ‘neutralizers’. You want to be remembered for what you bring to the table not how you present yourself.
Dressing appropriately, having a good handshake and all the other traditional etiquette will bring you on par with the rest of those interviewing, but it won’t get you the job.
Hint: A lot of companies will add a list of skills and qualities they are looking for in their next employee, if you believe you fit this list make sure to tailor your answers to highlight these traits.
3. All the other stuff…
At the end of the day it is important to “be who you are”, according to Panich, “Interviewers can see through your answers, if you present false information it’s a lose/lose situation. Either A). The interviewers will be able to tell you are lying and you don’t get the job, or B). You get the job, but a few months later you find you aren’t cut out for it.”
I completely agree with this mentality, when you have a full-time job, you will spend 40 to 50+ hours with your coworkers in that environment. It is important to present your true self so you can flourish and grow in a work environment instead of lie about what your goals are.
Finally, here are some quick takeaway tips:
- Ask questions: I think it is always a good move to have some questions prepared. Research the company, ask things you want to know. Polina made the point that no one has ever been hired based on their questions. This is a time for you to interview them, also if you didn’t get a chance to highlight a skill, bring it up during the questions portion.
- Come prepared: Even if you think you are only interviewing with one person, someone else may pop in. Always bring extra copies of your resume and—if possible—any other materials you are presenting.
- Be Polite: You should stand once someone comes in the room. Shake hands when you greet someone and when you leave. ALSO, think about getting Thank You cards to send after the interview. Depending on how long their interview process is you can mail a card and express your gratitude for the company meeting with you. I used to personally design mine so they had that extra flair, but if you are not a creative person you can still pick out ones with your initials or some other nice touch. If the interview process is a shorter one, shoot over an email to the person you spoke with.