7 Tips to Ace Your Next Interview
You get the call that you’ve made it to the interview. You do a happy dance. You’re one step closer to starting a new chapter in your career. Then, reality sets in. What do I wear? What questions will they ask? Interviewing is overwhelmingly nerve-wracking. The stress can make your stomach churn, give you cotton mouth, or even make you break out in hives when you’re getting grilled by your could-be boss.
It doesn’t have to be that way though. Knowing what to expect can calm your nerves.
Katie Honeycutt from our Talent Acquisition team interviews countless candidates each week. She’s seen it all – the good, the bad, and the downright, “what were you thinking?” I sat down with her to get the scoop on what you can do to be your best when you interview with us. Her top tips:
Know who will be interviewing you
Typically, when you interview with us, you’ll meet with a variety of people for about 30 – 45 minutes each. Most of the time, the entire interview “day” lasts four hours. Feel free to bring snacks to keep your energy up. You’ll meet with your hiring manager – that is who would be your manager when you join the team – people you would work with who may or may not be part of your team, and the talent acquisition consultant (aka, your recruiter).
Before every in-person interview, we send you an itinerary that outlines your interview schedule as well as who you’ll meet. To help you feel comfortable, it’s a good idea to do some quick research to get the lowdown on who’s who.
Dress for the occasion. Wear business professional attire and professional but comfortable shoes. You won’t regret not wearing high heels when you’re on our campus tour
Like the saying goes, dress for the job you want not the job you have. We typically wear business casual; jeans on Friday. But during an interview, stick to business professional. That doesn’t mean you have to go all out in a suit, but you should dress a step above khakis.
Many times, we take candidates on a short campus tour. You’ll get to see our on-site gym, cafeteria, backup child care center, and maybe even where you’d be working. If you feel comfortable walking around in high heels, go for it. Just know that it’s totally appropriate to wear dress flats.
Don’t bring too many bags. It can make your introduction awkward when you’re juggling bags and handshakes. And, you probably won’t feel like toting them around anyway.
Be thoughtful and consider the other people involved in the interview (don’t drown yourself in perfume or cologne)
Not only do you want to impress your interviewers with your answers, you should show that you’d be a thoughtful teammate. Things to keep in mind:
- One in three people are sensitive to fragrances. Whether it’s perfume, cologne, or your favorite hand lotion, what may smell normal or even pleasant to you, may cause allergic reactions for your interviewers. Plus, you don’t want to repulse your new team or manager with a pungent smell.
- You would think this is a no-brainer, but triple check to make sure your phone is on silent. You’d be surprised how many people don’t do this. It’s a major distraction.
Be prepared for behavioral questions (you know, the STAR kind)
We use a behavioral interview method called Targeted Selection. It’s tried and true to predict future performance based on past behavior. Not everyone you interview with will use Targeted Selection, but you’ll definitely get these types of questions at some point. To nail them:
- Be prepared with real-life scenarios to answer questions like, “Tell me about a time when you weren’t satisfied with your work. How did you handle the situation?”
- List all kinds of examples to clearly articulate projects you’ve worked on and how you’ve handled certain situations. To ace this part, talk about situations or projects you’ve been in, what your specific role was, and the outcome of those scenarios or projects. Think about a difficult interaction you’ve handled with a peer or client, how you overcame challenges on a project with a tight timeline, etc.
- Practice the STAR technique to answer behavioral questions. Follow this format to tell the story of how you handled the situation:
Situation/Task: Explain the specific circumstance or task.
Action: Describe what you did – the steps you took and how you went about it
Resolution: Share a measurable accomplishment, outcome, or what you learned
Taking notes is more than OK, just not on your phone
Use a professional notebook or padfolio instead. Taking notes not only helps you remember all the things you talked about, but it shows you’re engaged. Be sure not to go overboard on the notetaking though, and make eye contact.
Do research: Have 3 – 5 good questions in mind to ask
Unless you don’t want the position anymore, it’s a good idea to ask questions. Being curious shows that you’re interested. Some of your questions may be answered during your conversation. Even so, you should ask a couple questions. You’re being interviewed, but you’re also “interviewing” those you meet to make sure it’s a good fit for you too. Getting answers about life at Blue Cross NC will help you feel confident in your decision to be part of our team (or not).
Glassdoor has a great list of 45 questions to ask in an interview to help you get to know your role, the manager and the company better. Some of my favorite questions to ask:
- What does a typical day look like?
- How would you describe the culture and work environment?
- What’s your team’s biggest accomplishment this year, and what’s the greatest challenge?
- What do you enjoy most about working here?
Send a follow-up thank-you note, even a handwritten one
Katie says she loves a handwritten note. Last year, she got three, and it really made an impression. A handwritten note doesn’t guarantee you’ll land the job (we didn’t hire any of the three), but it definitely helps you stand out. Of course, email is just fine too. Besides, if I were in your shoes, I’d be a little worried my handwritten note wouldn’t make it to the final destination in time, especially since we have an open office workspace. Yes, we have a mailbox. But it’s easy to forget to check if you have mail.
Remember to ask for email addresses. It’s a good idea to send a follow-up email after each part of the process (i.e., after your phone interview and in-person interview). When you send your email, try not to make it too generic. You can still make yourself stand out by making it personal and tailoring your message. Remind them of the skills you bring to the table that make you a perfect match for the job; what you learned about the role or company that you really liked; and, reinforce why you want to be part of the team.
Thank you for your time last Thursday and for explaining the <insert job title> and its corresponding skills, as well as the company’s benefits. Based on your explanation, I see how much of the experience I bring matches with your description of the job (e.g., list examples here).
Thank you also for sharing how and when you joined Blue Cross NC and about the company’s culture. I am excited to hear that transparency, collaboration, development focus, employee-focused, community involvement, and flexibility are each an important part of the company’s culture.
I would be delighted to join your team, and I’m passionate about making a difference. And that is, to turn data into insights and insights into excellent business decisions that produce measurable impact and improve performance.
Thank you for your interest. And I look forward to hearing from you this week on the selection decision.
Before you even land an interview, you have to wow the recruiters with a stellar resume. Be sure to apply as soon as possible. Our recruiters get 100 resumes within a few days of posting a job. They take the job postings down pretty quickly so they can review the hefty pile and start the hiring process with the best candidates.
Interested in working with us? Learn more about our hiring process and see what life at Blue Cross NC could be like for you.