Win the Offer, Part 3: Nailing the Interview

In the first two parts of “Win the Offer,” we discussed the importance of research and preparation, both for the job search and the interview. Putting in that effort ahead of time will increase your chances of success. But no matter how prepared you are, it’s how you do at “game time” that counts. Here are the most important steps you need to take to nail the interview (and post-interview), so you can move up from a name on a resume to the person they most want to hire.

Five minutes after a job applicant walks in the door, more than a quarter of interviewers have already made a decision about whether they’re the right candidate for the job. By the time 15 minutes have passed, more than half have made up their minds.

They aren’t sizing up your qualifications. If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve already convinced them that you have the right skill set for the job. They know all about your experience, your background, and your education. So what are they looking for, and how do they know that they’ve found it in just a few minutes?

They are sizing up whether you are a good fit for their organization. They’re looking for what’s not on your resume, things like how you approach solving problems and how well you work on a team. They’re the kinds of qualities that are hard to put into words, but “you know it when you see it.”

The good news is that once you get to the interview stage, you have an idea of what they’re looking for in a candidate. Now it’s your job to show them that they’ve found it in you. Here are some things you should keep in mind:

Set the right tone early on. You want to be upbeat and personable. If the meeting is in the office, step forward and greet everyone individually. If it’s on Zoom, leaning forward a bit as you speak to each person has the same effect. Be especially aware of how you present yourself on a video call. Make sure that you’re well lighted and are dressed appropriately for the office. Examine your workstation and your immediate surroundings and get rid of anything that makes you seem less professional.

Establish a rapport. If you read my last installment of “Win the Offer,” you have already done some research on the people who are interviewing you using LinkedIn or other resources. Now’s the time to put that information to use. If you discover that you previously worked at the same company, or that you have focused on similar projects, don’t hesitate to bring it up. These kinds of commonalities show that you already speak the same language.

Differentiate yourself. Companies are looking for new hires who check a lot of boxes: They want someone with teamwork and collaborative skills, someone who is great at time management and is a good communicator. As you talk about your own experience, give examples that also show how you work equally well on your own and as part of a team. And make sure to ask thoughtful questions along the lines of: “What challenges did your team face during the pandemic?” or “Do you think any of the changes you made during the pandemic will be permanent?” This shows you’d be the type of employee who is invested in the company and its success. 

Look to the future. Don’t only ask questions about what the job is now. Show a real interest in where the team is headed. What sorts of projects are on the horizon? What is the job going to look like on day 30, day 60 or day 180?

Give a strong closing statement. Just like a lawyer wrapping up a case, you want to reiterate your main points. After making it clear that you are excited about the chance to join their team, bring up one or two of their current projects that you’d enjoy tackling. This shows that you’re already thinking about the ways you can contribute to the team. It’s this kind of enthusiasm that people don’t forget.

Don’t forget the post-interview. The process isn’t over when you walk out the door. It’s good to send a thank-you note, but even better is to keep the conversation going. Ask a follow-up question about some aspect of the job, or bring up a potential solution to an issue that came up during the interview. Make it clear you’re serious about the job and you’re more likely to be the top pick.


If you need a refresher on what to do before you start job hunting or how to prepare for your interviews, check out my two previous installments of “Win the Offer.” And be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss other great advice!


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