Ace Your Job Interview and Get Your Target Salary

You’ve been searching for a new job for a while, submitting countless resumes, talking with multiple recruiters, and networking as much as possible.

Finally — you get the call. An invitation to interview for a role you’d love.

Here’s how to ace that interview — and get your target salary.

How to Prepare for Your Interview

While you can’t guarantee the desired outcome, there’s a lot you can do to set yourself up for success at your upcoming interview.

Here are five steps you should include in your interview prep routine:

Get the Details

Obviously, you need to know when and where the interview will take place. But, the more details you have in advance, the better. Try to find out:

  • how many interviewers you’ll have
  • the names and titles of everyone you’ll be meeting with
  • how long the meeting will take
  • if you’ll need to take any assessments while there

All of this data will help you be more thorough in step two: research.

Do Your Research

The recruiting process isn’t just for a company to get to know you. It’s also your chance to learn about the organization.

Plus, by knowing a lot about the firm, you can have a deeper dialogue at the interview and impress your interviewers.

For best results, your research and study should focus on:

  • the company’s history, mission, vision, culture, and values
  • the products or services the firm sells
  • any recent public organizational announcements
  • the backgrounds and achievements of your interviewers
  • reviews from current and former employees — as well as customers
  • the responsibilities and qualifications listed in the job advertisement

Armed with this knowledge, you can articulate how you’d fit in with the organization’s current objectives and future plans.

Practice Your Answers

It’s impossible to know what questions you’ll be asked ahead of time. But, there are common interview questions you can formulate a response to in advance.

You may be asked things like:

  • Tell me/us about yourself.
  • Why do you want this job?
  • Where do you see yourself in ten years?
  • What’s your greatest weakness?
  • Share a time when you had a conflict at work/with a coworker/with your boss. How did you handle it?
  • Describe a time when you missed a deadline. What were the circumstances, and what did you do differently to prevent it from happening again?

Without debating the usefulness of these questions, getting mentally ready for them can help you respond thoughtfully and strategically.

What you say should tie directly back to the open position and company. Your responses should paint you in a favorable light while demonstrating your willingness to learn and grow.

For example, when asked why you want the position, you could say something like: “This role appeals to me because it lets me use my skill set in support of a mission I care about deeply. I’m also excited about X {insert upcoming company initiative}.”

Of course, be honest here! Your interviewers will be able to sense if you’re not genuine.

For extra practice, consider setting up a mock interview with a family member or friend. Pick someone who’ll give you honest feedback. Then, run through several questions you may encounter on your big day.

Get Organized

Once you’ve created a dossier on the company and the role, and you’ve practiced interviewing, it’s time to get organized. An interview is a naturally stressful time, so you should make the moments leading up to it as easy as possible.

The day before the interview, consider:

  • driving to the location, so you know exactly where to go
  • laying out your clothes, so there’s no guesswork about what to wear (unless the firm says otherwise, plan on business attire — suit, slacks, blouse, blazer, etc.)
  • printing out extra copies of your resume to ensure each interviewer has one
  • writing down the questions you want to ask, so you won’t forget (It’s okay to think of more questions at the interview, too.)

Then, when you wake up on interview day, all you’ll have to do is get ready, give yourself a pep talk, and shine.

Take Care of Yourself

Preparing for an interview is hard work — and can be nerve-wracking. To get the tension, fatigue, and jitters out before your meeting, practice self-care the night before.

Eat a healthy meal, do some gentle exercise, take a bath, and try to relax. You’ve done all you can to prepare. Now, it’s time to recharge so you can be at your best.

What to Do at the Meeting

The day is here. It’s time to showcase your talents and assess this opportunity.

Here are several things you can do to wow your interviewers and get the most out of this experience:

Give Yourself Time

The last thing you want to do is panic on the way to the interview because you’re running late. Give yourself some extra time in case there’s traffic, or you miss a turn.

Virtual interviews are very popular due to the pandemic, but they may continue to be part of the hiring process for many companies in the future.

Don’t make the mistake of not giving yourself the same time to prepare when interviewing virtually as you would for an in-person interview because you’re at home.

If you arrive for your in-person interview way ahead of schedule, find a restroom to check your hair, makeup, and attire. Or, sit in your car, go over your notes one last time, and think positive thoughts to quiet any nerves.

A few minutes before your meeting, head into the building and check-in.

Be Enthusiastic and Personable

An interview is exciting! You don’t want to fake it or be over the top, but be enthusiastic about the conversation.

Your interviewers will likely meet many people as they try to fill this role. Being personable and engaged will help you stand out.

Exchange Information

Before the interview kicks off, try to get business cards from each interviewer. It will make follow-up later much easier. Then, hand out copies of your resume so that everyone can follow along or refer to it as needed.

Answer Questions Honestly

Answer every question honestly. Embellishing the truth (or fabricating it) can come back to bite you later.

It’s okay to say things like:

  • “I don’t know.”
  • “I need to think about that.”
  • “I don’t have that skill — but I can learn.”

Your interviewers will appreciate your honesty — and your transparency will ensure that you don’t end up in the wrong role.

Highlight Your Achievements

But, being honest doesn’t mean being modest.

An interview is the wrong time to be super humble. If you achieved things, own them. If you have in-demand skills, highlight them.

This is your shot to show what you know, what you can do, and what you’ve accomplished in your career to date. Give them the full scoop!

Ask Questions

An interview is not an interrogation. It’s a two-way dialogue that gives both parties the chance to size each other up.

Based on the research you did, you can ask informed questions about the role and the organization.

Doing so shows that you did your homework and that you’re truly interested in the opportunity — both of which can get you brownie points with your interviewers.

Some questions you could ask include, but aren’t limited to:

  • What training would I receive? What does the onboarding process look like?
  • What would you expect of me in 30 days? 90 days?
  • Why is this position open?
  • What long-term advancement opportunities exist?
  • Tell me more about {insert new company initiative}.
  • How would you describe the company culture?
  • What does a day in the life of someone in this role look like?

Have a pen and paper available to jot down notes. You can potentially use some of this information in your interview follow-up.

Understand Next Steps

As the meeting winds down, be sure to thank everyone for their time. And, if you remain interested in the position, ask about the next steps.

Is there another round of interviews or pre-hire assessments? How soon does the company want someone to start?

Your interviewers or the human resources department should be able to give you at least a rough timeline for filling the position.

Interview Don’ts

We’ve covered what you should do at your interview to increase your chances of success.

Now, here are some pitfalls to dodge:

  • Arriving late — shuffling in the door (physical or virtual) after your meeting was supposed to begin gives the impression that you don’t care and don’t respect the interviewer’s time
  • Dressing down for the occasion — typically, you should dress professionally and be exceptionally well-groomed
  • Lacking enthusiasm or personality — you don’t need to be super bubbly, but you do need to be engaged and friendly
  • Lying about your abilities or achievements — doing so could get you disqualified or worse — hired into a position you can’t handle
  • Downplaying your true accolades — your interviewers won’t get the full scope of your professional prowess unless you tell them
  • Disparaging a former employer or boss — doing so makes you look unprofessional and will turn off interviewers who assume you’d say the same thing about them later
  • Rambling or going off-topic — you interviewers may become annoyed or wonder about your communication skills if you have a hard time getting to the point
  • Asking about pay and benefits — this should be disclosed on the job ad, covered during a phone screen, or discussed with HR separately
  • Failing to ask questions about the organization or job — your interviewers may think you’re unprepared or disinterested
  • Forgetting to thank interviewers or follow up — politeness definitely counts — and it could make or break your interview

If you avoid these mistakes, you can feel good about your interview performance — whether it results in a job offer or not.

How to Follow Up Afterwards

Following up after an interview is critical. Here are some tips to help you get it right:

Timing is Everything

You should follow up for the first time immediately after the interview. You need to strike while you’re top of mind, so try to do it as soon as you get home from the meeting. That way, you won’t forget.

Email is Best

Send an email to each interviewer individually. (This is when their business cards come in handy!)

Why email? It’s fast, so it lets you get your message to them while they’re likely still deciding who to hire.

Keep it Short

Your interviewers are busy, so don’t send a manifesto here. Your follow-up email should be a few short paragraphs — max.

Make it quick to read and easy-to-digest. They’ll appreciate your making an effort — and honoring their time.

Help Them Remember You

Even though your email should be brief, it needs to hit on some key points. Here’s what you should include:

  • Another thank you for their time and the engaging conversation/insight into the company and the role
  • A reiteration of your interest in the job
  • Any questions you thought of after the meeting
  • Any details about your background that you forgot to mention
  • A sign off that expresses gratitude and eagerness for the next steps

You may get bonus points if you personalize each email.

See if you can recall something that particular interviewer said that you could weave in. They’ll likely be very impressed — especially if they compare notes with their colleagues.

For example, if an interviewer said that they’re spearheading a project you would be involved in if hired, say that you look forward to working with them on that initiative.

Then, You Wait

Once you send your follow-up emails, it’s time to play the waiting game.

But, you don’t have to wait forever.

If the interviewers said that they would have a hiring decision in two weeks, reach out to HR after the two weeks are up. You have a right to status updates and to know the eventual outcome.

How to Negotiate Your Job Offer

You just got the call. The company is offering you the position!

You’re excited that they chose you, but you need the deal to make sense before getting onboard.

Here’s some guidance about how to negotiate a winning job offer:

Have a Number in Mind

Ideally, you should have a salary in mind long before the company makes an offer.

That figure should account for the firm’s pay range and your worth on the job market. By the time of the interview, you should know what the organization is willing and able to pay.

Then, you can compare it against what you could reasonably expect to earn based on your experience, skills, credentials, and location.

Websites like Salary.com can show you low, average, and high salaries for your position. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also publishes wage information.

You should have a target salary — and a bottom line.

Your target salary would make you over-the-moon happy to accept the offer. Your bottom line salary is the least you would take. If the company doesn’t meet that, you’ll walk.

Evaluate Their Offer

Based on the numbers you established, you can evaluate the company’s offer. Is it closer to your target — or near your bottom line?

If it hits the mark (or close to it) and the benefits package is satisfactory, it’s okay to accept the offer as-is. You don’t have to haggle (unless you want to!).

But, if the salary is on the low side of acceptable, you need to do some thinking.

Is the benefits package extra robust?

If the company pays 100% of your medical premiums, has a 10% retirement plan match, or offers other highly valuable perks, your total compensation (salary and benefits combined) may be in line with your needs.

However, if the package is only so-so, you should negotiate.

Pro Tip: It’s okay to say that you need time to think about the offer. You don’t need to decide on the spot.

Make a Counter-Proposal

If you decide to negotiate, follow these best practices:

  • Thank the company for the offer, but explain that it’s a bit low based on the role and your qualifications.
  • Suggest a new salary that considers the firm’s pay range and your worth on the job market. Be prepared to show/cite data to back it up.
  • Consider better benefits in lieu of a higher salary. Perhaps you could get additional vacation time, professional development opportunities, schedule or work location flexibility.
  • Be confident during the negotiation process — you know your value, so own it.
  • Ask for a planned raise after 6–12 months of excellent performance (Be sure to document exactly what that looks like!)

If the company doesn’t agree to a better deal, you’ll have to decide whether or not to take the job. Worst case scenario, you flexed your negotiation muscle and learned a few things for next time.

Get it in Writing

If you reach a deal with the organization, get it in writing — ASAP!

Make sure the written offer captures everything that was agreed upon during the negotiation. If it looks good, sign it, set a start date, and breathe. You just landed a new job! Congrats!

Final Thoughts

The interview process has a lot of moving parts, and the whole experience can be anxiety-inducing.

But, if you approach it systematically, do your due diligence, and follow best practices, you can absolutely ace your next job interview. Be sure to tell us when you do!

Additional Reading:

Article written by Laura

Originally published at https://womenwhomoney.com on April 5, 2021.

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