Route to Relief Blog

Job Seeker Series: How to Nail an In-Person Interview

Interview Handshake
In-person interviews can make job seekers feel nervous sometimes, but with these 8 tips, you’ll be a pro in no time.

You did it. Your resume was approved, you got past the phone screening, you may have participated in a virtual interview, and now you have been selected to move forward to the in-person interview stage. Each in-person interview is a little different; maybe you’re sitting down to a roundtable with multiple people on a hiring committee, or maybe you’re meeting with just one person. Maybe this is your third in-person interview with this organization, or maybe this is the first time you’re seeing this team face-to-face. Whatever your situation may be, a lot of your preparation is the same, so check out these 8 tips below to help you nail you next in-person interview.

1. Do your research

You probably already did a fair amount of research on the organization you’re meeting with, but now, it’s time to take that research to a whole new level. Rather than simply understanding the mission and values of the organization or the people you’re meeting with, start doing research on programs or services they offer, and align your skills with these programs. Telling recruiters how you can make a positive difference within the organization is a great way to stand out from other applicants, especially if you can provide concrete examples about how your background perfectly matches with what they do. 

2. Be prepared to demonstrate your skills

We covered this tip in our How to Nail a Virtual Interview post, but it bears repeating: be prepared to demonstrate your skills. In many in-person interviews, hiring managers will oftentimes ask you to demonstrate your ability to use Excel or PowerPoint, for example, and may even ask you to sit down for a skills test. Be prepared for whatever they may ask you to do. If you need to give a presentation, make sure you’re ready to present to a variety of groups. If you need to teach something, make sure you have handouts and that your curriculum is ready to go. 

3. Bring your portfolio, if applicable

For many jobs, especially those in the creative sectors, be sure to bring your portfolio. A portfolio can simply look like a folder with brochures, flyers, and newsletters in it, or you can even bring an iPad or tablet that you can use to show any stories or columns you’ve written, graphic design pieces you have created, or books you have published. Some have even created e-books to help showcase their past work. Spend some time putting your portfolio together in a format that makes the most sense for you, but the main takeaway here is to have your portfolio ready. The last thing you want is for a recruiter to ask for a sample of your writing, and you arrive empty-handed!

4. Consider your appearance

Your appearance can make or break you in an interview. If you are wearing too much cologne, look disheveled or have wrinkled clothes, or show up in jeans and a t-shirt, these things can stick with a recruiter and have a negative impact on your overall interview. Remember, they want someone with a great skillset, superb soft skills, and can look the part, professionally. This is also a great time to show the hiring committee that you are personable, friendly, and confident. Your job is to appeal to everyone, so don’t forget to smile, make eye contact, and acknowledge everyone in the room (which also means you need to bring several copies of your resume and your portfolio!).

5. Consider what you can do for the organization

“Ask not what your employer can do for you, but what you can do for your employer.”

Okay, so maybe that wasn’t exactly how President John F. Kennedy put it, but you get the idea. Many applicants tend to focus on how the job is perfect for them, how it fits their pay range, how the job duties match what they want to do, etc. But what will help you stand out from other applicants is to consider how you fit what the company is looking for. Interviews are all about selling yourself and your experience (don’t stray into overconfidence, though), and the best way to do this is to identify gaps they have in their organization or team and how you can fill those gaps. Rather than think about how much you would enjoy being a Customer Service Representative for a huge finance company, for example, consider how you can help them achieve their short- and long-term goals, and consider how your skills match what they’re looking for. Channel your inner JFK on this one, and think about what you can do to help the organization, rather than how great it’ll be for you if you land this job.

6. Ask questions

Asking questions shows the hiring team that you are interested in learning more about the organization and the role you’re applying for. Try to stay away from questions about pay or benefits (these answers will come later, or the recruiter might even address these components without a question from you). Instead, ask questions that focus on the organization, such as:

  • What is the company culture like?
  • How is success measured for this position?
  • Are there opportunities for professional development in this role?
  • What are the biggest challenges associated with this role?
  • What are the future goals for this organization? (this is a great question to ask because it gives you an opportunity to show how you can help the organization achieve these goals!)

7. Say thank you

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: be sure to thank everyone who met with you! Sending a handwritten thank you note or an email is a great way to show your appreciation and stand out from other applicants. Keep the notes short and concise, but make sure your gratitude is apparent and genuine.

8. Practice, practice, practice

…did we already say practice? Yes, because it is just that important! Practicing can make all the difference when it comes to successfully completing an interview, so make sure you spend plenty of time practicing how you will answer questions. Although you never know what kinds of questions you’ll get (I once attended an interview where they asked me if I could be any type of cereal, what type would I would be), here are some common ones to rehearse for:

  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses? 
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Tell us about a time you faced a conflict or challenge at work. How did you handle the situation?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?

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