In-Person Interview Tips
An in-person interview is a great sign! It is rarely the first step in the process, so it shows positive feedback. In-person interviews often involve with multiple members of the decision-making team, so it also shows they are serious and interested.
If a candidate is fortunate enough to be invited to an in-person interview as the first step in the hiring process, review Blue Signal’s Phone interview Tips first for additional preparation tips.
Follow Blue Signal’s Top 10 Tips for a smooth and professional in-person interview:
1. Research the company.
Use notes from previous conversations to develop and refine research topics for the in-person interview. Come prepared with a few talking points to refer back to the phone interview.
- Conduct additional research on topics that came up during the phone interview. Record notes and create follow-up questions.
- Reach out to contacts within the company or the industry in general. As much as possible, get an insider’s perspective to understand the true nature of the role.
- Research the industry and learn more about the competition. Interviewers are likely to know more about their competitors than about any other organizations. Speaking intelligently and confidently about the industry is an excellent way for candidates to distinguish themselves as competent, valuable employees.
- Check LinkedIn. Study the LinkedIn profiles of everyone who will be present on the interview. Consider their background, role in the company, interests, skills, and what information they will be interested in gaining during the interview.
2. Review common interview questions.
The in-person interview involves more detailed questions that focus on goals, experiences, and problem-solving abilities. Additionally, be ready to answer some of the same questions again—this time with even better answers. The company’s goal is to determine whether candidates have the technical expertise to do the job and benefit the company. They are also judging how candidates will fit into their culture and how much they desire to succeed.
- Describe a typical day at your current office.
Briefly summarize core business activities, emphasizing the ones that relate to the new job.
- What do you like most about your current position? What do you like least?
Candidates should provide insight into the elements of their ideal work environment. When describing undesirable traits, avoid naming problems that may be present in the interviewing company’s workplace.
- What are your professional goals?
Discuss specific short- and long-term professional goals, their timeline, and the path to achieve them. Be realistic and specific, including a mix of quantifiable and open-ended goals.
- How do you prioritize projects?
Give an example of working under pressure to accomplish organizational goals.
- Why should I hire you for this position?
Discuss qualifications and how they fit with the position. Emphasize interest in the opportunity and the capacity to increase profitability and productivity.
- Do you have any direct reports? Describe your approach to management. What is your leadership style?
Have specific examples ready, and stay positive. Avoid naming names.
- Are you applying to other jobs?
Answer honestly. If yes, indicate a search for similar jobs to demonstrate a targeted job search. This shows a commitment to the process.
- How would your current co-workers describe your personality and work practices?
Frame answers positively.
- What causes you to lose your cool?
Everyone experiences this. Select a topic that is reasonable and focused on results, such as coworkers missing deadlines, tardiness, etc.
- Describe a situation where you had to perform under pressure.
- What are your greatest accomplishments?
Highlight two major accomplishments. Do not just indicate a metric (e.g. 20% sales growth). Instead, describe the metric as part of a story (e.g. achieving 20% sales growth by identifying a new niche market, creating a system, etc.).
- Describe a team project you were a part of. What role did you play on the team?
Speak about the performance of others positively, not just your own performance.
- Have you worked for a younger/older (or male/female) boss before? How did you feel?
This indicates the manager for this position likely fits the question’s description. A negative answer is a deal-breaker for the job. If asked, candidates should assure the interviewer that age and/or sex does not affect their professional relationships.
- What type of salary are you looking for?
Do not give a specific number. Convey that a fair salary would represent the responsibilities of the position and past experience. Blue Signal handles salary discussions on the candidate’s behalf.
- What is your current salary?
Be honest, including pay, bonus, commissions, benefits, and paid time off. If expecting a raise or special commission/bonus in the near future, mention it. The interviewer may ask if they can verify salary; be prepared to answer.
- Are you willing to relocate?
Answer truthfully. A “no” may not result in disqualification. Specify if the answer would change within the next three years.
3. Grooming and appearance are a top priority.
Hiring managers have a short window of time to form an opinion of a job candidate, so a first impression is extremely important. Any sloppiness or missed detail is likely to stand out and may even cost a candidate the job. A candidate’s personal presentation directly reflects their level of respect for the company and the challenges of the position.
- Shower that morning.
- Hair should be clean, dry, and neatly done in a conservative style.
- Avoid combing hair while wearing a jacket.
- Keep fingernails trimmed and clean.
- Clothes should fit very well (ideally tailored), and should not be baggy or loose.
- Avoid accessories or membership pins that relate to religious or service organizations.
- Use deodorant but avoid colognes or fragrances.
- Do not smoke or drink alcohol before the interview.
What to Wear – Male Candidates:
- Dry-cleaned and pressed suit in navy, gray, or black
- Pressed white button-down shirt
- Silk tie in quiet colors and patterns
- Polished black leather dress shoes
- Calf-height dress socks that match the suit
- Minimal jewelry, e.g. wedding ring and watch
- Freshly trimmed and neat facial hair. It may be preferable to get a clean shave if the company has a conservative dress code
What to Wear – Female Candidates:
- Suit or tailored dress in a neutral dark color. Hemlines should be at least knee-length.
- Pressed, collared, button-down shirt in a color that complements the suit jacket.
- Closed-toed classic pumps or flat shoes in a neutral matching color with no more than a 2-inch heel.
- No long nails. If wearing nail polish, choose a neutral color or French manicure.
- Minimal, natural-looking makeup.
- Classic, minimal jewelry, e.g. earrings, conservative necklace, and watch. Avoid loud or chunky statement pieces.
4. Manage logistics.
In the days before the interview, clear any commitments that might distract or compete with interview preparation. Do not let anything get in the way of a good night’s sleep—preferably for the whole week, not just the night before the interview.
Aim to show up 10 minutes early. Study the route in advance—do not count on a GPS. Look at a map and have a hard copy of directions in the car. It pays to make a practice run ahead of time. Drive to the interview location, preferably during rush-hour traffic, in order to time the drive and pinpoint exactly where to go.
Find a place to discreetly kill time if arriving more than 15 minutes for the interview. A nearby café or similar place in the area is a good place to recharge and relax for a few minutes before walking into the interview.
5. Create a paper trail.
Despite the increasingly digital nature of business, in-person interviews should create a paper trail.
- Bring 5 to 6 resume copies; interviewers should have them, but often do not. It is an easy way to demonstrate good preparation skills.
- Bring a notepad in a professional portfolio or padfolio, plus several pens. Do not risk a bad impression by ignoring small but important details like this.
- Bring a printed copy of references in case the interviewer asks for them.
- Ask everyone for a business card to avoid forgetting contact information or the spelling of a name.
- Be ready to fill out a formal application. Fill it out completely, including references (list salary requirements as “open”). Failing to complete an application in its entirety shows poor attention to detail and a lack of respect for the company’s processes.
6. Turn the cell phone off.
Apart from an ongoing severe family crisis, there is absolutely no reason to interrupt an interview. Eliminate all possibility of a distraction by switching cell phones off—not on vibrate mode, not on airplane mode, not on silent. Keep it in a pocket (just in case an issue arises, such as the interviewer not being present). Leave all other devices in the car or at home.
7. Master nonverbal cues.
In a first encounter, interviewers will often judge what they see as much as what they hear. Candidates should be themselves and on their best behavior: speaking and acting confidently.
- Posture and body language has a big impact on the impression a candidate conveys. Maintain posture that is poised and alert. Sit up straight and do not fidget.
- Maintain friendly eye contact throughout the interview. Do not stare at the floor while speaking.
- Echo the same level of enthusiasm as in the phone interview.
- Smile to convey a positive attitude.
- Shake hands with a firm but not viselike grip.
8. Evidence defeats doubt.
Interviewers want to address concerns before making a hiring decision. Candidates should prove their skills and experience through stories that demonstrate the job requirements. Use the STAR method to create narratives of past success to defeat any doubts that an interviewer may have.
Best practices for answering interview questions include:
- Speak with confidence. Candidates should sell themselves as the best choice for the role.
- Small talk is a good way to build rapport, but stay on target.
- Stay positive; never speak negatively of a previous employer.
- Be conversational, but let the interviewer lead the conversation.
- Focus on measurable accomplishments, utilize specifics and demonstrate a problem-solving approach.
- Avoid using terms or acronyms that are not used industry-wide.
- Even when disagreeing with an interviewer, do not be argumentative.
- Avoid any controversial subjects such as politics or religion.
As much as possible, answer each question with a specific event in the past that supports it. Use the following questions to prompt stories to tell during the course of the interview.
Sample STAR Method Story Questions:
- When have your technical skills made an organization look better to a client? How?
- When was a time you were thrown into a situation and succeeded?
- How do you attack a project? What is a good example of a time you did this?
- Tell about a time that a project did not go as planned. Frame the end result in positive terms.
- When was a time when your dedication was what made the difference between something getting done and not getting done?
- When was a time you took on a difficult challenge or undesirable task that turned out to be rewarding in the end?
- When was a time where you had to be in charge of cross-functional teams? What is a story where you worked with several different departments to succeed in a goal?
- What is a success story about taking very limited resources and using them in a creative way to get the job done?
- Tell me about a time a group of people you were loosely in charge of did not want to do something and your influence helped get it done?
- When was a time you were a great boss/mentor/leader?
9. Ask good questions.
Prepared questions are just as important as answers. Asking the right questions shows intelligence, enthusiasm, and interest in the role; asking the wrong ones, or having no questions at all, demonstrates poor preparation skills and a lack of enthusiasm.
It is important to prepare carefully thought-out questions to ask during the interview. If meeting with multiple interviewers, prepare questions in advance for each of them. It is good practice to ask one or two overlapping questions, but do not ask everyone an identical set of questions.
- Ask open-ended questions (what, when, where, and why questions); they elicit longer answers and therefore lead to more conversation.
- Ask the interviewer to describe their ideal candidate, then relate past experience to their ideals.
- Prepare questions that relate to larger business issues: competition, technology, new regulation, etc.
- Listen to the answers and incorporate them into follow-up questions and remarks.
- Do not interrupt.
- What is your goal for this position? What are the key responsibilities in your opinion?
- What made you choose to work at this company?
- What is your management style?
- What characteristics in an employee do you seek most?
- What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 30, 60, and 90 days in this position?
- What are the largest challenges your team is facing right now? What is your plan to overcome them?
- What are the largest challenges the company is facing right now? How is your team working to overcome them?
- What characteristics did you like most about the individual who previously held this position?
- What things could cause an individual to fail on your team?
- In five years, if I do extremely well in this role, what career advancement would be possible?
- What do you enjoy most about your position?
- Where do you see the company in 5 to 10 years?
- Why is this opportunity available?
- Where does this position fall into the organization’s structure?
10. Ask for the job.
If a candidate truly desires the job at the conclusion of the interview, it is appropriate to ask for the opportunity. Candidates should reiterate enthusiasm and interest in the position, give an example of how they can benefit their team, and ask if there is any additional information the interviewer needs before making a decision. Close with a handshake, smile warmly, and ask when to expect to hear from them.
When the interview, call Blue Signal immediately. A big part of the company’s decision on moving forward with a candidate depends on how the recruiter votes. The recruiter needs the candidate’s feedback in order to make the best possible presentation to the hiring manager.
Most of all, review notes and make detailed additional notes for later reference. This will assist in recalling specifics in the event of a follow-up interview and during the decision period after receiving a job offer.
Send a thank-you note to each interviewer after the meeting, no more than 24 hours later. Read more details about writing an excellent thank-you note.