The Ultimate Interview Tips from an Executive Recruiter

As a Partner with Paradigm Staffing, recruiting for over 20 years, I have prepared countless people for their interviews. I’ve learned what makes the difference between offer and no offer. I’ll be sharing my ultimate interviewing tips to help you on your journey to finding that right next position.

What I’ve seen time and time again, is that it is not the most qualified person who gets the job, it’s the person who interviews the best. Strong interview skills are imperative to landing that right job. I would suggest reading these tips as a reminder before every interview. It’s the little things we aren’t giving awareness to that trip us up in the end. I’ve found that the candidates I’ve worked with who either listen to my prep or read through it, do infinitely better in the interview process.

Arrive early: Arrive five to ten minutes early, but not more than ten. Hiring managers are taking special note of when you arrive and getting there early sends a message of strong interest and professionalism.

If this is a zoom call, enter the meeting a couple of minutes early and be ready and waiting for the hiring manager to arrive.

Chemistry is everything: You wouldn’t be interviewing if you weren’t qualified. Again, it’s not the most qualified person that gets the job, it’s the person who is the best interviewer, who shows the most enthusiasm about the opportunity and has that best click. This is even more important during this downturn. Hiring managers have experienced an endless string of candidates who want a job, any job. A company wants to find someone who is excited about their opportunity and their company. You must be able to articulate why it is you find their position interesting.

It’s also important that you make a strong First Impression.

First impression: Within the two first minutes you walk in the door, the hiring manager will make a quick decision on whether they are going to hire you and the rest of the interview will be spent justifying that decision.

There are simple things you can do to create the best first impression. You may think these should all go without saying but candidates make these simple mistakes every day.

· Dress to impress. Find out the preferred style of the office and dress on the high end of that range. Suits are no longer a must for most industries but sloppy is never in style.

· Avoid strong cologne or perfume.

· Turn off your cell phone!

· Stand up and greet with a smile and a firm handshake once we are post-covid.

  • Until Covid resolves perhaps a slight Thai greeting, a wave or a nod of the head will suffice if in person. If this is a zoom call, make sure your screen is set up at a flattering angle with good lighting where they can see you clearly.

· Make direct eye contact while talking, smile often during your meeting and keep your head up and your shoulders back.

  • If this is a zoom call, look at your camera when talking, it will make the hiring manager feel you are looking right at them.
  • Smiling during your meeting is important on two levels — first, smiling will trick your brain into feeling more positive and therefore more confident. It’s also proven that smiling makes people perceive you as smarter. Always a good thing in an interview.

· Avoid nervous gestures — clicking a pen, fidgeting with your hair or in your chair, etc. You want to convey confidence, self-assurance and professionalism. Even if you don’t feel confident, fake it — fake it until you make it has a lot of truth– research shows that even if you feel insecure, if you act like you are confident you will trick your brain into believing it and you will perform better.

· Many hiring managers are very friendly and easy to speak with so be careful that you don’t become overly familiar with the employer and share information or stories that are not appropriate for the interview process. Do not offer information that doesn’t justify your cause.

Your Accomplishments are key to your interview success: Have at least five accomplishments that you can discuss in the interview process. Remember that the hiring manager fears making a hiring mistake. Your job is to reduce their risk. Give information that provides assurance that you can do the job, that you are interested in the job and will fit into the company culture. Do this by giving your “accomplishment” stories telling about situations where you applied your skills required for this job.

Format your accomplishments in three parts.

1. This is the problem I was trying to solve or the goal I was trying to reach.

2. This is specifically what I did to solve that problem or reach that goal. Remember they aren’t interviewing the “we” on your project.

3. This is how it directly benefited my client, company, or team (i.e. major hits, increase in sales/exposure, under budget, ahead of schedule, award winning).

Research: Do as much research on the company as possible. Do they have a company blog? Find articles written about the company or by company employees. Read through the company website! Hiring managers are turned off by questions from candidates that could have been found easily on their website.

Be prepared for standard questions:

· Tell me about yourself. Remember, they want to know about your professional history, not where you were born or where you went to high school. (Yes, many people have started their answer from birth).

· When asked about your long term/short term goals or what you are looking for in your next opportunity be very specific about what you want and make sure it is in line with the opportunity you are interviewing for. You want the company to be able to see you working in their organization five years down the line. In the PR industry, I’ve seen countless people who have interviewed with an agency and told the hiring manager that they saw themselves going corporate within five years. Immediate reaction by hiring manager — Next!

Always ask good questions: Asking smart questions shows your interest and your intellect. Hiring managers are turned off if a candidate asks zero questions. Make sure to ask the questions that are important to you so you know whether the position is right for you.

Ask questions about the company: Everyone has different things that are important to them, so ask what you need to know. You could question them about their business model, previous growth, future growth, strategic initiatives, advantages over their competitors, challenges in growing their business, philosophy on training and much more.

Ask questions about the position: I think these are the most important as the answers the hiring manager gives you are exactly what they are looking for. Make correlations between their answers and your own experience. Be sure to ask questions so you can find out what problem they are trying to solve by making this hire. Ask them about their current projects, future projects, what they expect you to accomplish in the first six months, and most difficult aspects of the position. Most likely you have had experience with what they are trying to do and you can highlight specific accomplishments that will be of most interest to the hiring team.

Ask questions about the hiring manager’s background: Find out how long they have been with the company, why they chose to work there and why they stay. This will give you an idea of why they like their job and the culture within the company.

Avoid the “what can you do for me” type of questions: Be careful not to interrogate with your questions. Keep a nice flow of conversation.

Conversation: Make sure you have a 50/50 conversation. Don’t be the one who does all the talking. On the other hand, do not talk so little that the hiring manager feels like they are pulling information out of you.

· Be sure to make answers clear, concise and to the point. Many people are not hired because they are asked a question, then they talk for ten minutes and never answer the question. This happens because so often we are thinking about what we want to say next, rather than listening to what the hiring manager is actually saying. Pay attention. Listen. Be sure that you understand what is asked before answering.

· Don’t interrupt. — I admit this is my kryptonite, I’m a terrible interrupter when I get really excited about something — I remind myself before every meeting, DO NOT INTERRUPT. We all have our little faults, what is important is bringing awareness to them and continually grow from experience.

· Remember. Negative comments leave a negative impression. Don’t make disparaging remarks about your previous employer, manager or co-worker. This will not go over well, they’ll assume you’re going to do the same with them. You can be honest about why you left a position, just be diplomatic about it.

Compensating Asset: When a hiring manager asks about a specific experience that you may not possess, you should always be honest. Let them know you don’t have that particular experience and then immediately follow it up with an example of a time when you had no experience with something but went on to master it. Use this as another opportunity to share an accomplishment. This will leave the hiring manager with a positive thought rather than a negative one. This will also show them that you are a quick learner and adaptable as opposed to you just saying you are.

Strong close! It’s important that you let the people you are interviewing with know that you are interested. One of the biggest reasons people are passed on in interviews is this: Hiring managers will tell me There was no interest, no enthusiasm, no fire in the belly, they were flat, etc… and this would be after I spoke with a candidate who was telling me how excited they were about the opportunity. I would always wonder where the disconnect happened. At the end of the interview, with each person, reiterate your interest and tell them why you think you are a good fit. Ask them what the next steps are. Where do we go from here?

Thank you note: Send a thank you note immediately to each person you speak with. This can be sent via email. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. Again, reiterate your interest and let them know you are looking forward to hearing from them. Be sure to make each thank you email different when sending to multiple people in one company as they may compare. I have had many candidates that clients wanted to hire but who didn’t send a thank you note and therefore did not receive an offer. Do not underestimate the importance of a thank you note.

Wrapping up, I’d like to leave you with a final piece of atypical interview advice.

Before going into your interview, give yourself a few minutes to spend time visualizing your success. Studies have proven that it is highly effective to visualize yourself doing well at whatever your goal is. It activates the neurons in your brain as actually doing that thing in real life, so you’ll have much more confidence and will perform better when you are actually doing that thing. Top performers in every category employ this practice. Give yourself a boost before your next interview and spend a few minutes Visualizing your interview being a huge success and then go out and make it happen in real life.

I’m wishing you the greatest success in your next interview!




Entrepreneur at heart, creator at core, seeker and life long learner. Partner with Paradigm Staffing. Podcast Host, Fresh Blood, Killing it in the Age of Ageism

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Jolie Downs

Jolie Downs

Entrepreneur at heart, creator at core, seeker and life long learner. Partner with Paradigm Staffing. Podcast Host, Fresh Blood, Killing it in the Age of Ageism

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