It’s safe to say that in my career as a recruiter for Hulu and now, running Career Contessa, I have conducted my fair share of interviews. And throughout all of these meetings, I’ve experienced the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly.

Allow me to keep things positive and share five things that I absolutely love during interviews. Hint: Decisions about jobs—whether or not you make it past the phone screen, to the final interview, and to the offer—might seem mysterious, but often times, it’s the small stuff that matters most.


1. Present Yourself Well

I don’t care if you’re interviewing with a company full of people who wear jeans and hoodies all day—the vast majority of interviewers want to know that you’re taking the meeting seriously. Meaning: Show up early, dress professionally, be nice to everyone you interact with, come prepared with copies of your resume, give a firm handshake, and look your interviewer in the eye when speaking.

Yes, these steps are Interviewing 101, but hiring managers notice when you do them (or don’t).


2. Make Small Talk

As an interviewer, of course I want you to be prepared to answer questions like, “Tell me about yourself” and “Why are you looking for a new job?” But I also want to know that you’re someone I would enjoy working with each day. While you shouldn’t let the interview go too far off course, make sure to engage in small talk to show that you can be social and are an overall interesting person.

After all, whether or not the interviewer wants to talk to you every day can be the deciding factor as to whether you get the job.


3. Sell What You Can Offer

Too many times, when I’ve asked interviewees why they are interested in the job and company, I get answers like, “I think this is a great learning opportunity for me” or “I could learn a lot.” Or worse, “I’m currently in a part-time job and I want a full-time job.” So, I’m still wondering: How exactly would these people benefit my organization?

Answer: They won’t. My favorite interviewees can easily articulate the value they would bring the company—not what they would take away from the job.


4. Do Your Industry Homework

Basic pre-interview prep includes researching the company’s history, mission statement, product offerings, and so on. But great interviewees also research the industry at large. What macro trends are impacting the company? Who are its biggest competitors, and what are they doing differently? Being able to confidently speak to current news in the space will show your genuine interest and fit within the company.


5. Send a Thank You Note (Really)

This might seem obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many people still don’t do it. And this tiny note can actually stand between you and your dream job. I have actually had another interviewer tell me to wait to send an offer letter to a candidate until we had received a thank you note.

Bottom line: Send one. And make it good.


Photo of heart in hand courtesy of Shutterstock.