I’ve been having lots of conversations about hiring and what makes a candidate stand out so that the hiring manager thinks “they’re the one”. And oftentimes, it’s not always the most experienced person who gets the job. Truly, it’s the “soft skills” that translate to “culture fit” that defeat the competition.
I’ve been interviewing people for more than 25 years and as I’ve thought about the decisions I’ve had to make when I have several great candidates, I’ve boiled it down to these five points for candidates to consider:
- First Impressions Matter – Corporate culture is ever changing, and Zoom video meeting has certainly impacted workplace attire, but in my opinion, a job interview calls for a professional appearance. Understand the “norms”, not only for the organization but also for the sector as well as the audience. If you are interviewing for a frontline fundraiser role, the search committee will imagine you in front of their largest donor or in front of their board of directors. And if you are interviewing for an organization, especially in secondary or higher education, wearing one or two of the school colors may feel “corny” but it shows that you are ready to cheer on their team.
- Do Your Homework – Read everything on an organizations website and also research the people who will be interviewing you. Find ways to connect to the interviewers and the organization. Demonstrating that you took the time to learn about and connect with the organization will not only impress the committee, but also it will give you the opportunity to directly relate your experience to how you will add value to the organization’s mission, opportunities and challenges, and will also inform the questions you ask. And, come prepared with one or two questions to ask the committee.
- Answer the Question – Listen carefully to what is being asked, and ask to clarify a question. Directly answer the question. Give an example but keep it relevant. My high school journalism teacher taught us the acronym “KISS” – Keep it Simple Sweetheart – and the same goes for an interview. You will have an hour or less to meet with each interviewer and they will have many questions they want to get through. Be mindful of answering the questions AND answering succinctly.
- Be Mindful – Interviewing is stressful and every single person who has ever interviewed for any job is nervous. AND you have one opportunity to engage and “sell” yourself. If your interview is in-person or by a virtual meeting, watch your audience. Connect, keep them engaged, pause and be aware of their body language - who is leaning in towards you and who is getting distracted or disengaging.
- Share your Passion – If you want this job, be hungry, be high energy and be authentic. Share not only your professional accomplishments but share your personal connection to the mission of the organization. Let the interviewer know why you care about the mission. Hunger and authenticity will inspire the committee as much or even more than what is noted on your resume.
It’s easy to say “just be yourself”, but on interviews, you need to be that very best, most self-aware version of yourself. So pump yourself up, prepare, be mindful and you’ll be ready to knock it out of the park!