We can all agree that interviewing is a pretty imperfect way to evaluate a job candidate. For the interviewee, so much of the experience can feel like a game of guess-the-answer-in-the-interviewer’s-head. It’s hard to know if what you’re sharing is even remotely close to what the hiring manager is seeking.
Luckily, there are a few phrases that are almost always on the mark. Given the opportunity, it’s a good idea to try and squeeze these three phrases somewhere into your interview.
1. “I've had a lot of success with that in the past.”
This is one phrase that’s sure to put a smile on your interviewer’s face. Beyond relevant experience, hiring managers love to hear that you not only have the skills they’re looking for, you excel at them.
Of course, this single statement will only get you so far. Back it up with an example of a time where you did indeed excel at whatever skill is being evaluated. (Hint: Try this formula.) And when I say skill, I mean more than hard skills. Think: resolving a team conflict, finding a solution with limited data, leading a remote team, working independently, or meeting tight deadlines.
2. “I’m really excited about that.”
If you were interviewing two candidates who were pretty much identical in terms of the skills and relevant experiences they bring to the table, what would be the deciding factor? For many interviewers, it comes down to how excited the candidate was about the position and company. After all, someone who is enthusiastic inherently seems more motivated. Given the choice, I would definitely want the candidate who seemed really pumped to hit the ground running—wouldn’t you?
While it definitely makes sense to state upfront that you’re excited, you’ll also need to back up that claim by doing some company research. No one is going to believe you if you say you’re incredibly excited about the product, but then can’t explain why it’s better than the competition. Do your homework. Review the website, talk to people you know who work there, and read anything you can get your hands on that might be relevant.
3. “I actually just spoke with Sarah to learn more about that.”
Unfortunately, you’re probably not going to have everything the interviewer is looking for. That’s okay. Show how you’re willing to learn. More importantly, show that you are able to—and that you are, in fact, already learning.
To do this, first identify your areas of weakness—maybe you’re lacking one skill that’s listed in the job description, or you haven’t had much management experience. Then, find someone or something that can help you start learning and improving upon this area. It can be conducting an informational interview, starting an online course, or reading a book. Now, if this weakness comes up during an interview, you can say you’ve spoken with so-and-so or that you just started taking a class about it. This not only shows self-awareness, but also that you’ve already taken the initiative to improve upon this area. What more could a hiring manager ask for?
You’ll probably never know what’s going on inside your interviewer’s head, but at the very least you can know that these few phrases will go over well. Beyond that, keep practicing and with a little bit of luck, you’ll be through this stage in no time.
Photo of speech bubbles courtesy of Shutterstock.
Lily Zhang serves as a Manager of Graduate Student Professional Development at the MIT Media Lab where she works with a range of students from AI experts to interaction designers. When she’s not indulging in a new book or video game, she’s thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author