You’ve been invited to interview for a job that will elevate your career. You have the credentials and know you can make a difference at the company. Now, you just have to prepare. There’s a lot of advice out there on how to best approach this important meeting, and it’s overwhelming.

Or is this you?

You’ve been interviewing and interviewing… but no call-backs. You have the experience and knowledge — but something is stopping you from landing your dream job.

Or is it this?

You have the years of experience, you’re ridiculously brilliant, everyone says you should be in “his job”… but you just can’t interview. You won’t apply. You won’t leave and go for the opening that would have you managing a larger team at your competitor. You’re stuck. You’re afraid. You’re afraid of the interview, putting yourself out there… the possible rejection.

I received an email a few days ago from someone I trained. He was applying and interviewing for med schools and wasn’t getting in. I worked with him for a few weeks. We spent time on his physical posture, his verbal delivery and his language. We also practiced his answers… his storytelling. Everything he needed for a more successful med school interview. After our sessions, I didn’t hear from him for a few months. I checked in a few times, but he hadn’t heard back from the schools yet. Then, last week, an email popped up in my inbox. The subject line read: Medschool status: ACCEPTED

I just want to say that there is no way I would have gotten in if it wasn’t for your help. When I got the call from the admissions team, they told me that it was the enthusiasm and passion I showed them at the showcase/interview that really let me stand out over the hundreds of other applicants. I was only able to pull that off because of the coaching you gave me. Thank you so much for all your help; you’re the reason I’m living the dream in medschool right now.

And this isn’t the first time I’ve gotten someone into medical school.

What’s the secret behind how I’ve been able to get people into their dream executive jobs, internships or med school?

I’m going to lay some of it out for you so you can make this happen for yourself.

How to Prepare

First, if this isn’t your first interview — then you know the common questions hiring managers ask. You can prepare now.

You know you’ll get the “Tell me about yourself” question. It’s an easy ice-breaker and it’s your first impression — so it’s the one to really nail. This takes a lot of preparation. Know your elevator pitch plus more. Sprinkle interesting things into your “tell me about yourself” answer so the recruiter or manager remembers YOU.

Also prepare for the ten worst questions. Questions you are dreading but you need to answer — and answer while landing on your feet.

Research the person who will be interviewing you. Where did they go to college? Where are they from? What kind of common ground do you share?

Talk to someone who works there and find out what kinds of people they like to hire.

How to Act

An interview is your chance to present yourself in the best way possible. It’s the reason I tell my interview coaching clients that I’m “Producing the Best You.” This doesn’t mean you should be inauthentic. Instead, try to anticipate what questions you may asked and script yourself. Consider taping a mock interview so you can see how others see you and can make sure you don’t appear robotic and rehearsed.

A first impression can make or break you, so that leg work can make a significant impact on your overall interaction with the hiring company. Consider your posture and how you sit in your seat. Do you look like you want the job? What is your body language saying?

If it’s a phone interview, stand. The energy you exude while standing is so much greater than while sitting. Walk and get your blood pumping.

“The myth is that you have 45-60 minutes to get to know each other. The reality is that first impression matters most. And it’s almost content free. It doesn’t have to do with skills and experience and knowledge; it’s about whether you look like a good colleague,” says John Lees, a UK-based career strategist in “Setting the Record Straight on Job Interviews” published in the Harvard Business Review.

What to Share

It’s likely the recruiter and/or hiring manager will ask you about your weaknesses and strengths. Be ready with your answer. This is a pivotal point in your interview as you want to be sure whatever you say reads as sincere. Stay away from the typical answers like “I’m a perfectionist” and instead share something real and assure them it’s something you’re working on. Be sure to stay away from anything that could hurt you in the new role. The key is to try to turn the negative into a positive.

What to Wear

Traditionally, candidates default to wearing a suit to an interview. It’s safe – and it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed. However, there’s a fine line. If you’re interviewing at a startup or tech company, a suit may be inappropriate. Go online and see what you can find out about corporate culture. The company’s website may have pictures showing people at work. Take that information in and step it up a notch. There’s an old saying, dress for the job you want, not the job you have. During an interview, you may want to consider wearing something closer to what the boss wears.

“Wearing a suit when everyone at the office is dressed more casually sends the message: I don’t understand your culture,” says John Sullivan, an HR expert, professor of management at San Francisco State University, and author of 1000 Ways to Recruit Top Talent. “If you go to an interview at Facebook in a suit, you’re going to look like an idiot.’’

What to Ask

While you need to feel comfortable about joining the company, it’s a mistake to think you as the candidate are leading the conversation. Have questions prepared to ask the hiring manager but be sure to behave as if this is the job you want.

“It’s not a conversation. One side is scared to death,” says Sullivan.

Sullivan says while it’s okay to let the company know you’re good at what you do and that your skills are in demand, it’s best to let the company know how you can add to their success.  

Consider not doing these things…

Oversharing. Keep it simple. Keep it tight. Stick to the messaging you prepared before going in. Don’t get too casual and overshare. I’ve done this. You may have too. It can easily happen when you know the hiring manager well. Treat it like an interview. Don’t get trapped into thinking it’s okay to loosen up too much.

Talk money until the time is right.

Whenever possible, delay talking money until you have an offer. If a recruiter or hiring manager feels you are mostly concerned about money or vacation, they won’t think you’re interested in working hard. 

Feel like you have to tell them if you’ve been fired.

If you’re asked why you left your previous job and you were fired but you don’t want to say it, the best way to get around this is to say something positive about your previous role. You don’t want to lie but remember no one wants to think they’re getting someone’s rejects. And talking poorly about your previous gig is unprofessional.

“The trick is to move on to the present by saying something like, ‘I was lucky because it gave me a chance to …’ and then bring the focus back to the present,” said Lees. This is a common practice in media training. You hear politicians answer like this all the time. It works in job interviewing too.

Job interviewing isn’t easy. It’s something to prepare for and practice.

And if you’re ready, you’re more likely to nail it.

Good luck and call me if you need a pep talk.


Want more resources on interviewing?

15 Interview Questions You Should Be Prepared to Answer This Month Glassdoor

A Complete Guide to 2018 Interview Questions The Job Network

10 Most Common Interview Questions and Answers by Experts 2018 Agent Media