10 Things Employers Are Looking For During An Interview

by Lauren Schneidewind on January 18, 2016

We have all been there, on the other side of the table with someone watching our every move. They are asking questions about us, and we have to figure out how to say what we need to say in order to impress the person on the other side. It doesn’t matter if you are interviewing for your first job at Subway or for that executive position you have been working a decade for. We always need to be on point when in an interview situation.

I spent a great deal of time job interviewing off and on for the better part of 20 years. I consider myself to be an ambitious individual (or I was just really good at finding what I didn’t like to do), so I was constantly on the lookout for career growth opportunities. I can realistically say I have probably had around 100 interviews (formal and informal). When I look back at some of the things I said, I cringe and vomit in my mouth a little bit. Long story short, let’s just say I have learned a great deal. Recently, I have moved seats at the interview table and now I am the one looking to fill a void. There are 10 things I look for when I interview a potential candidate.

Be on Time

This one is rather straightforward, but so important. Our office is located in Midtown/Downtown Atlanta, and traffic sucks. It always sucks, which means we have to leave early for appointments. I understand things come up, but for a job interview don’t you dare be late. This just sets a bad tone for the meeting. Do everything in your power to get there on time and if you are early sit in your car, coffee shop, or bench until 5 minutes before. I use social etiquette to guide me on my arrival times and it can be considered rude to show up more than 5 minutes before a party. That is my guideline, feel free to establish your own, and just don’t be late.

Look Professional

I tread lightly on this one, as I love wearing T-shirts, sweatpants and simply pulling my hair back when I come to work. Sadly, I can only do this on days I work from home. As much as I dislike it, perceptions matter. When going in for a meeting or any professional event, it is crucial to look professional as well. Impressions do matter, especially first impressions with a potential employer. Try your best to look professional, which means get your suit dry cleaned, iron the shirt and tuck it in, and most importantly make sure it fits well. If you are not sure how you look, ask an honest friend or a sales person. I have found out that sales people are better at helping when you give them a choice as to which looks better. Last note, looking good doesn’t have to be expensive. I personally love TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack, Target and various Outlets. I look just as good in these suits as I do with something from Banana Republic or J Crew, it just has to fit right.

Body Language

As they say, most of our communication is non-verbal, so lets be on point with our body language during interviews. Check out a body language blog from Inc.com for more information. Here are a few of my favorites:
Good posture, sit up
Lean into the conversation
Look them in the eye approximately 60-70% of the time
Hand shake, eye contact, lightly touch forearm of their right arm with your left hand.

Be Engaged

Remember how uncomfortable a first or blind date can be, well so can an interview. We can reduce this feeling by being engaged in what the interviewer is discussing. Try asking questions and getting involved in the conversation. Ideally, the person running the interview is as prepared as you are, but if not, attempt to have a meaningful conversation. A great way to be more engaged is by having prepared talking points for the awkward moments of silence.

Do Your Homework (Company and Interviewer)

We have been taught the importance of homework since grade school. It is still true in the real world. It is easier than ever to find out information on companies and individuals. Before going to an interview, you probably checked out the company’s website, great! Let’s do it again and find 2-3 thoughtful questions. Next, we need to find out a little about the person doing the interview. I always start with LinkedIn, and then maybe use Google. Google is great if you have a name like Schneidewind, not so great with a name like Rice. I don’t find too much information on Twitter or Facebook, because I hope everyone has their privacy settings turned on, but if not, you might find some useful information about who you would be working for.

Know Your Resume and Own It

No one knows your resume better than you do. Make sure you are prepared to discuss your resume and dates with the interviewer. Learn from my mistake, know what is written on your resume even if you had a professional make it for you… You know your career better than anyone else, so who better to talk about it than you? It’s your time to Own It! When I am asking someone about their career, I want to see confidence, not arrogance, and to see someone with goals and ambition.

This Is The Company's Interview Too

You are not the only one in the hot seat during the interview. I am usually disappointed with this section of the interview, because no one asks me questions about my company (I love talking about myself and my company). Ask about me; let me prove myself to you too. Give me hard questions to answer, a few of my favorites are (Tread lightly with some of these):
* What are the company’s short-term goals (and are you on track)?
* What are the company’s long-term goals?
* Has the company ever had to do layoffs?
* Are you growing? (People, financially, etc…)
* Why are you interviewing for this position? What do you hope to gain?
* What is the turnover rate?
* How do you support career growth?

Career Ambitions Within The Company

This is an easy win to let me know how you fit in with the company. Rather than letting me connect the dots myself, if you already have a plan with how you fit into the company, this is great. It shows dedication to the company already! This is a bonus, because well, you are here interviewing for a reason, which is probably because you have something the company needs.

Follow-up

Within 24 hours of your interview, sent a follow-up email. This can be as simple as thanking the interviewer for their time, the things you enjoyed, potential action items and looking forward to potentially working with them in the future.

Hand Written Thank You Note

Just do it! And yes, it must be hand written (A thank you email doesn’t even come close to the power of hand written one). I fought this one for years, and I was wrong. This note is so important because if conveys several things in one small gesture that takes about 10-15 minutes to write. This shows that you are thoughtful and took the time to thank them for their time. This also gives you an edge because no one else that interviewed for this position will be doing this. I am not saying that this alone will get you the job; however, if I was deciding on two great candidates and one sent me a hand written note, this might be all I needed to push them over the edge and receive a job offer.

It is also important to remember, this is just a job interview, there will be more. Some will go better than others. Overall, these are some of the most important items I look for when I am interviewing a candidate. However, I like to remember when I was on the other side of the table, and if it makes you feel better, I have bombed more interviews than the average person. Just to give you a glimpse into my life: I have forgotten what was written on my resume, I have been late, I have been unprepared and actually started talking about the wrong company, I have puked in the bathroom prior to the interview because I was nervous (I pulled an Eminem with “mom’s spaghetti”), and I have even been so nervous that I started shaking so bad during an interview I had to step out of the room. I consider these great learning experiences about what not to do and I am grateful I have never made the same mistakes twice (thank God).

These 10 pieces of advice can be an outline to create your own guidelines for great interviews. Good luck and I wish you the best on your career aspirations. I would love to start a conversion about what you think is important for a job interview, let’s chat!

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