March Madness has certainly lived up to its name this year. A number two seed lost to a 15 seed, six of the seven ACC teams in the tournament made the Sweet 16 and we saw a team lose a 12-point lead in 35 seconds. In the end though, all of this madness has culminated in a Final Four featuring Villanova, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Syracuse.
Among a pool of 68 teams, they are the only four left standing. These teams didn’t necessarily have the best records or highest seeds, but they have won the most games in the tournament and that’s what matters most. Now this weekend, we will all witness who has what it takes to reach the championship.
There are actually a lot of similarities between the NCAA tournament and the interview process.
Hiring managers first select a pool of candidates, and then they slowly whittle it down until they have a handful of final candidates. Like the tournament, final candidates might not have attended the most prestigious college nor had the most work experience, but nonetheless they found a way to demonstrate value over all other candidates.
While it’s a great accomplishment to be one of the final candidates, the end goal is to be the last one standing. At this point in the interview process everyone is going to be good. Details you may not have executed earlier will need to be executed now if you want to create separation from your competition. Here are four tips that can help you stand out from the competition if you find yourself in the “Final Four” of the interview process.
Research the Company
Before any of the Final Four teams play each other, they will all have researched their opponent. They study their opponent’s tendencies, offense, defense, best players and much more. Each team will attempt to be more prepared than their opponent with the hope this extra preparation will make a difference in the final score.
While researching your opponent might not be helpful for a job interview, researching the company is (just like we talked about last week). Companies appreciate candidates who have a good understanding of what the company does and what they stand for. They do not expect the candidates to be experts, but they want to know the candidates are genuinely interested in the company and not just a pay check.
Researching a company is easy. Knowing what you should research about the company is more difficult.
A good place to start your research is the “about” page. While you’re reading this page, pay attention to patterns like repeat words or phrases. If they mention something more than once, it’s probably important. Also, look for a mission statement or the company vision page. Companies want their employees to be the embodiment of these statements. Read this section carefully and figure out how you fit into the statement.
After visiting the “about” page, check to see if the company has a social media presence. If they are active on social media see what kind of campaigns they might have run recently or what projects or products they are trying to promote. Businesses are always impressed if you are caught up on their current events.
Prepare for Questions and Create Questions
As you research a company, you should start to formulate potential questions you could be asked and potential questions that you can ask. Businesses love to test a candidate’s knowledge about a company. They might ask about an area where you think the company could improve or they might ask how you fit into a company’s vision. If you’ve done research, you should be able to come up with clear and specific answers to their inquiries.
The key to preparation for questions is anticipation. As mentioned in the previous section, if a company keeps repeating certain words or phrases there is a good chance they will ask you about it. If there is a new product or process, they will probably ask your opinion about it and if you think it works. Noticing patterns and common themes of the company is essential to getting a leg up in the interview.
Creating your own questions for the hiring authority is just as important as preparing for their questions. There is no bigger mistake you could make than having no questions to ask when you are finished with an interview. Having no questions tells the hiring authority that you really aren’t interested in the position or company. They want to see that you have genuinely thought about the position and the company.
When formulating your questions, try to strike a balance between questions that are related to the specific position you are interviewing for and questions about the company. Asking questions about the position will clarify any misunderstanding you may have with job duties and allow the company to go into greater detail than what might not have been covered earlier in the interview process. Asking questions about the company will help give you a clearer picture of company culture and vision, and show the company a genuine curiosity for what they do.
As the saying goes, a picture says a thousand words. The same can be said for body language.
People unconsciously read body language and form opinions while doing so. You can say all the right things, but if your body language doesn’t match what you are saying the message can get lost.
When it comes to body language, the first thing you should focus on is posture. Sit up straight and do not slouch. Slouching shows weakness and submission, which are qualities that employers do not want to see. Also, keep your body language open. Do not cross your legs and arms as that can tell an interviewer you are closed off.
After making sure your body posture is good, focus on your eye contact with the interviewers. You don’t need to burn a hole through them with your eye contact, but be sure to look them in the eyes when they are talking and consistently when you are talking. Not making eye contact is once again a sign of submission and weakness interviewers do not want to see.
The last body language aspect you should pay attention to is your hands. Talking with your hands is fine, but too much motion can distract interviewers. If you going to talk with your hands make sure it is in sync with what you are saying.
Thank Your Interviewers
Your last impression is just as important as your first impression. Always remember you are just fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to interview. They could have chosen anyone else, but picked you. A little gratitude can go a long way when hiring managers are making their final decision.
While thanking your interviewers immediately after your interview is important, it is also important to thank them on a follow up email or letter. It does not need to be long. Simply thank them for their time, and tell them if they need anything else to not hesitate to contact you. If two candidates are a tie in the eyes of the hiring managers, a thank you letter could mean the difference between getting the position and losing it.