How to ace a job interview

Ottawa recruiting firm Stevenson & White weighs in on how candidates can stand out when meeting a prospective employer
Anne & Matt Stevenson

Interviews are the most critical – and stressful parts – of the job-hunting process.

You’ve piqued a potential employer’s interest with your CV, but now it’s time to wow them in person.

As a recruitment firm, Stevenson & White helps its candidates not only land, but also prepare for, job interviews. The firm recently offered some suggestions on how to nail your next sit-down with a prospective employer.

Prepare yourself

When you learn you’ve landed an interview, do some research into the hiring company and, when possible, the individual who will be conducting the interview. This includes taking time to review the job posting.

“It’s important to understand the business, including its past and the direction it’s moving in,” says Matt Stevenson, a partner and recruiter at Stevenson & White.

Based on your research, prepare questions to ask. Matt suggests having more than one; this way you’re prepared should the interviewer inadvertently answer one of your questions before you have the chance to ask it.

Interview day

There are several important steps to take before leaving home. Many coaches still recommend abiding by the adage to dress for the job you want.

“You can never be overdressed,” says Anne Stevenson, the co-founder and managing partner of Stevenson & White. “But you can be underdressed.”

In addition to wearing appropriate business attire, there are certain best practices around what to bring to an interview.

Never show up empty handed, says Matt. Candidates should bring a paper copy of their resume, even if the hiring manager already has an electronic version.

Conversely, however, there are certain things better left at home.

Rather than carrying an oversized purse or briefcase, opt for something smaller, and don’t show up with a coffee in hand. This keeps you looking organized and leaves your hands free for handshakes.

Punctuality also bodes well for job candidates. Anne recommends showing up ten minutes early, allowing time to observe some activity at the hiring company in the lobby or waiting area.

The interview

While this may sound far-fetched, your interview truly starts the moment you walk onto the premises. Each person you encounter – whether in the parking lot or the elevator – could be a key decision maker in the hiring company.

Similarly, body language can be a major deciding factor in whether a candidate is hired or not. Be sure to give a firm, professional handshake and make eye contact when greeting your interviewer.

During the interview, sit up straight and be conscious of any habits you may have, such as touching your hair or fidgeting with your hands. Maintain a healthy amount of eye contact – enough to show you’re paying attention, but not so much as to make the interviewer uncomfortable.

Once you’re sitting down, try to relax.

“Give genuine answers, not canned ones,” says Anne. “You want the person to hire the real you.”

She also advises candidates to listen closely to questions in order to keep answers direct. Long, rambling answers can make it seem like you haven’t been paying attention.

Within 24 hours of your interview, it’s common to send a short follow-up email to thank the hiring manager for their time and express enthusiasm in awaiting next steps. Matt stresses that if you are using a recruiter you should send any communication through them so they can assist you with tone and proofreading.

Finance. Accounting. Payroll. Stevenson & White can help. Head to stevensonandwhite.com for more information or call 613-225-5417.

How can a recruiter help?

Though many choose to go it alone, there are major benefits for candidates in working with a recruiter to find your next job.

Save time. Good recruiters take the time to get to know you, then contact you only when the right opportunity comes along. Avoid taking time off for job interviews you’re not right for.

Expert career guidance. As a neutral third party, recruiters often act as a sounding board for candidates, enabling them to ask questions they may not be able to in a job interview.

Hiring expertise. As full-time hiring experts, recruiters know the many do’s and don’ts of the hiring process and pass that knowledge onto candidates.

Extensive network. As a firm that’s been placing candidates in and around Ottawa for close to 20 years now, the Stevenson & White team has a vast network in the region.

Personal champion. When a recruiter recommends you for a role, it’s because they know you’d be a great fit with the hiring company. As such, recruiters tend to champion their candidates to the fullest degree – both before and after an interview.