Acing the Interview to Get the Job of Your Dreams

Facilitated by Marianna Richardson

Before the Interview

  • Do your homework by learning about the organization (mission, purposes, financial performance, etc.).
  • Be on time. Visit the building before the date of your interview so you know where to go.
  • Dress appropriately—understand what type of clothing employees at the organization wear.
  • Practice powerful body language. (Before the interview starts, practice the Superman power pose.)
  • Have PARL (problem, action, result, learned) stories prepared, practiced, ready to go for open-ended questions.
    • Needs to be short—one sentence for each element of PARL
    • Prepare three that you can share in the interview.
  • Practice PARL stories and interviews in front of a mirror to identify verbal tics and distracting body language.
  • Prepare questions to ask the interviewer.
    • Do your homework about the company and ask questions about it
    • What challenges does a person in this position typically face?
    • What is the typical career path for someone in this position?
    • What is the organizational culture/philosophy?
    • What do you like best about working for this company? What is difficult?
  • Don’t prepare for the interview so much that it sounds canned, like a script. Disrupt the script. A couple short tangents are okay.

During the Interview

  • Make eye contact with everyone in the interview, and have positive body language.
  • Speak confidently and clearly. Show passion about the job.
  • Be honest. Don’t exaggerate or pretend to be something you’re not.
  • Tie your answers to the specific skills expected in the job.
  • Expect surprise questions.
    • Be careful in your response, and don’t be afraid of silence. Give yourself time to think. Ask for a moment to think about a question if you need to.
    • Some interviewers ask problem-solving questions that have nothing to do with the job. The interviewers care less about the answer than how you think about and approach a problem.
  • Think about the interviewer’s viewpoint.
    • “Tell me about yourself.”
  • Think about what the employer would be interested in hearing. This question is an opportunity to show your human side, personality, background, interests, and passion for the job.
  • Answer in 30–45 seconds.
  • These interviewers are meeting with lots of people in a short time, so tell something that is interesting and memorable.
    • Mission stories: In Utah, stay away from them because they don’t make you stand out. But outside of Utah, mission stories may be unique and interesting. Know your audience.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, respond, “I don’t know, but here’s how I would find out.” Or, “I don’t know, but I do know _______.”
  • Find a personal connection with the interviewer, such as a shared hobby/interest.
  • Call out the elephant in the room. Address something on your resume that you know may be a problem (e.g., lacking one of the job qualifications). “I know I don’t have this qualification, but I have another qualification that is just as important.”
  • “Where do you see yourself ten years from now?” Have a plan. It’s okay if your plan doesn’t include long-term employment at the company: “I’m excited about this job and excited to be here now, but ten years down the road, I’m hoping to accomplish X, Y, and Z.” You can have your sights on other things but still have passion for what you’re applying for.

After the Interview

  • Write a thank-you note.
    • Handwritten notes really stand out (use nice stationery), but email is okay too.
    • Make sure the name it’s addressed to is correct
    • Express sincere gratitude for a specific thing, but use different phrasing than just “thanks” (e.g., I sincerely appreciate the advice you gave me).
    • Elaborate on what you’re grateful for.

Applying for a Job You Don’t Feel Qualified For

  • As long as you’re passionate about it, go for it. You might not get the job, but you make connections along the way. Express how the things you’ve done have prepared you for that job. Send the thank-you note. Making the connection might lead to a job later.