Congratulations! You’ve made it through the resume review stage and landed an interview. Now it is time to prepare for the next step!
The following is a list of interview tips that I wish all of my candidates knew. Of course, recruiting is an imperfect science and there are many other worthwhile tips out there, but these are based on some of the most common pitfalls I’ve witnessed after interviewing countless qualified candidates.
1. Answer the question first. Many candidates have a tendency to start with a story and work up to the answer. Instead, answer the question immediately. Be clear and succinct, and then feel free to elaborate with an example and be conscious of time. If we are scheduled for a 30 minute phone screen and you take 20 minutes to answer my first question, we won’t get to half the things on my list and you may have just eliminated yourself because I couldn’t get the information I needed.
2. Don’t overshare. It is perfectly fine to try to develop a rapport with your interviewer, so feel free to open the conversation with a bit of friendly banter to establish that human element. Do keep in mind that everything you say during our time together is being used to evaluate you. Don’t share overly personal details unless they serve a strategic purpose. One exception with particular relevance to the nonprofit sector: if you are interviewing at American Cancer Society by all means share your personal connection(s) to the disease in an appropriate way. Don’t describe your Grandmother’s treatment in excruciating detail or overshare to the point of becoming emotional. Also, always keep your language formal. There is no place for profanity or over-familiar greetings in interviews and even things like common nicknames have no place here. For example, my friends call me Kel, but you should stick with Kelly or Ms. Monahan.
3. Come Prepared with Thoughtful Questions. This may seem obvious, but don’t ask questions that you already know the answer to (especially if the answer can be found in the job description). It can make a recruiter wonder if you did any research. Also, don’t ask why you were selected for an interview. There are much better ways to assess why you might have been selected. I suggest asking what the most successful hires for the type of position generally bring to the table, or what the top priorities from the job description are, and then you can infer from there.
4. Try to be as accommodating as possible for your interviewer. Candidates who ask for a litany of information in preparation for a phone screen or a one hour interview are an irritation; also, in the “Google age” asking for directions, where to park, and nearby restaurants (it has happened!) can make a recruiter wonder if you lack computer skills or, worse, don’t understand the importance of self-sufficiency and taking initiative. However, certainly feel free to ask for the names of whom you will be meeting with so you can appropriately prepare!
5. Ask for the timing of next steps and follow up once within that timeframe. This is after your thank you note, which you should send within a day of your interview. Please don’t send an e-mail every day. I know it is tempting when you really want the job but, trust me, the recruiter hasn’t forgotten about you, and when they have something to share, they will share it!
About the Author
Kelly Monahan is a Senior Associate at Alford Executive Search, a division of Kistner Eddy Executive Services, a national firm dedicated to providing high caliber Retained Executive Search, as well as other services in the areas of Human Resources, Executive Coaching, and Staffing Solutions for the not-for-profit sector. She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a member of the Executive Board of YNPN Chicago.