Hiring managers don’t hire the most qualified person. They hire the person they want to work with the most. Whether this is fair is not up for discussion, because the philosophical and de facto practices of corporate hiring aren’t going to change any time soon. However, we can discuss how to get hired when being qualified is a small factor in the decision.

Too many people have had slews of interviews with no offers. To be sure, you need to work at getting interviews, but you also need to work hard at turning an interview into a job. The skills to turn an interview into a job have little to do with having the skills to do the job. People use resumes and phone screens to make sure someone has the skills to do the job. When you get to the interview, it’s usually about other things — such as the unquantifiable but all-important likeability factor.

Here are six steps between landing the interview and actually doing it that will help you get an offer.

1. Research the company. Comb through every section of the company’s site and memorize it as if you were cramming for a test. Unlike a test, though, you won’t have a chance to spout the six facts you learned about the company during the interview.

Rather, there will be a random, fleeting second when a relevant fact you gained from the site will be the perfect answer to something the interviewer says. To find the right comment for that fleeting moment, you’ll need wide knowledge and good judgment. The overall goal is to seem as though you are intimately aquainted with their area of business and you monitor the company independently of your desperate need for a job.

Favorite places to do reasearch about companies: TechCrunch (for startups), TechDirt (gossip for intellectuals), Fortune (to know what everyone else knows).

2. Get the right outfit. Corporate America has a uniform; wear it. People like to hire people who look like them, and clothing is the easiest way to make this impression. An interview is not the time to dress to express your true self. In fact, no one needs to know your true self at the office. You will fit in and work best with others by keeping eccentricities to a minimum. Each company has a variation on “the uniform,” so loiter near the office ahead of time and spy on its workers to get a sense of the corporate dress code.

3. Prepare stock answers. Most interview questions are standard, and surprisingly enough, have standard answers. Take the question, “Why did you want to leave your current job?” The correct answer incorporates phrases like, “I am looking for a company like this one,” and “Your company offers a unique opportunity that is a perfect fit for me.” Learn these answers before the interview and be prepared to deliver them with a special flair, so they don’t seem rehearsed.

There are three or four good books that list interview questions and how you should answer them. The one I have used successfully is, The Complete Q&A Job Interview Book, by Jeffrey B. Allen. Also, Perri Capell points out that your answers should always be on message — speaking to most important points you want to make about yourself.

4. Go to the gym. Taking charge of the first 15 seconds of an interview is critical. An interviewer will judge you first and most significantly on non-verbal cues, and having a great interview outfit alone may not be enough to make the best impression. This is because thin, good-looking people are more likely to get hired than overweight, less attractive people.

If you have scheduled the interview already, it’s probably too late to drop forty pounds. But go to the gym anyway. By using your chest and back muscles to life weights, you’ll stand up straighter in the interview – which shows poise and self-confidence. Also take a ride on the treadmill. The more energy you expend now the more relaxed you’ll be at the interview, and being calm will help you seem more confident.

5. Prepare to close the deal. Leave nothing open-ended when you walk out of the interview. This means saying at the end, “I would really like this job. Do you have any reservations about hiring me?” This is scary to say because the interviewer might have reservations you can’t overcome. But closers get the contracts, and you need to be a closer in interviews. Risk hearing any reservations about hiring you because it’s better to confront them and fail than to never try. You have nothing to lose.

When I tried this, the hiring manager told me her reservations (which were large). After I countered them one by one, she was so impressed that she offered me a job on the spot. But I also had done my homework. I knew what I wanted from a job and what were dealbreakers. And I had prepared extensively for the interview. Which leads me to my last point….

6. Practice, practice, practice. Maybe your friends will be helpful in a mock interview situation. Even if your friend does a terrible job pretending to be an interviewer, you get practice interviewing with someone who doesn’t know how to do their job. You can bet, though, that someone in the career counseling office of your college knows what they are doing in this regard. Career centers are evaluated based on the career success of their graduates, so most centers are happy to field your phone calls, no matter how long ago you graduated. Ask someone there to do a mock interview with you. The feedback you get will probably be very useful.

28 replies
  1. Dave
    Dave says:

    re: “no one needs to know your true self at the office.” — I think it is a balancing act. I had started to leave my law degree off my resume as I was interviewing for tech jobs because I thought it de-focussed my story. However, when a company I recently interviewed with learned of it from the application form, I think it prompted them to think of me at a more senior level and led to an offer for a more senior position that I originally interviewed for. On the other hand, I am resisting the urge to share the existence of my blog with them. My blog has nothing to do with the job; I don’t want them worrying that I might be writing it from work! I think it’s best to save my “coming out as a writer” moment until I know the people better…

    re: questions. My favorite question runs something like this: “We think you’d be a great fit, but we wonder, Is this what you really want to do?” My response…I sort of deflect at first “That’s a big question…I want to do a lot of things in my life…I know that what I’ll be doing is likely to change over time…but what is important to me is that I get a chance to work on something new and exciting and be a part of…etc.”

    In the back of my mind, the question that jumps out is “um…why? What are you going to have me doing? Do you know something (bad) about this job that I haven’t been able to figure out from the interview? I don’t know what I want to “do” but I know I want this job. But then I’m reading too much into the question…

  2. Dylan Tweney
    Dylan Tweney says:

    When I was a teenager my mom was always harassing me to “stand up straight.” I always hated that. Now, though, I realize how important posture is. People perceive those who stand up straight (yet relaxed) as confident and competent. I think this can make a huge difference in your career. So the gym is great advice.

  3. Cam
    Cam says:

    Your point of “practice, practice, practice” seems to be even more important as our careers mature. In my 20s, I usually entered an interview with “I know what I want to say” so I’ll just see what they ask me and give honest answers. Thank goodness I was given leeway for being so green and points for having potential. It’s amazing the things that will pop out of your mouth when you’re not prepared.

    When I was 25, one executive at Revlon in NYC asked me “What do you do best?” My answer was so inane that I have never confessed it to a soul.

    It’s even more important to be practiced when you’re a seasoned professional because the focus of the interview is no longer what your potential is, but rather what experience and talent you can do for the employer. And trying to figure out your career skeletons.

    I also agree wholeheartedly with your opener that the most qualified person doesn’t necessarily get the job. I hired someone recently, and one of my main concerns was how would she fit in with the group of middle-aged women she had to work with. I had a couple of very qualified young college-graduates, however, I hired the 50-year-old woman with no degree who had run her own at-home business. It was the right choice.

  4. Evan
    Evan says:

    These are some excellent tips. I think that people underestimate the power of first appearances. And it is kind of difficult to be on the ball physically, appearance wise, especially if you are actively looking for a job and have several interviews lined up. I guess it is a job in itself though, and getting a job requires a lot of work.

  5. MyCollegesandCareers
    MyCollegesandCareers says:

    There was a recruiter from Gallup who recently said that someone’s appearance is the first thing that employers and interviewers notice. I totally agree with #4: Control the controllables and make yourself attractive. -Sarah

  6. Mr Kaan
    Mr Kaan says:

    I agree with all your advice, especially the one about going to the gym.

    However, for some of it is quite difficult to even get to the interview so I collected a few ways I see work for the candidates that passes by my table: http://bit.ly/WfSmvE

    //Mr Kaan
    TheYoungCareerist.com

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