Daunted by day-long interviews? Try these tips.
Candidates who are finalists for senior positions are likely to have to prepare themselves for a day-long series of interviews with a variety of teams and stakeholders within the hiring company. Employers see the value of investing this much time in order to more fully evaluate candidates for key positions. But for interviewees, these marathon-interviews may seem like a nightmare. You need to remain highly focused throughout the entire day and greet each person with a fresh face. The stakes are high and the challenges can be formidable. For example, how can you remember all the interviewers you met in the morning and not draw a blank face when someone mentions them in the afternoon?
Here are a few tips to help you improve your performance in day-long interviews.
Do your homework. “Find out in advance who you will be speaking to, what the agenda is, the purpose of the day, and prepare yourself accordingly,” advises Angela Noble-Grange, senior lecturer of management communication at Johnson. Be sure to get these details from the employer well in advance. Once you know who will be interviewing you, find out more about their backgrounds so that you will be more confident during the interview.
Asking good questions during the interview can really make you stand out, says Cynthia Saunders-Cheatham, senior associate director in Johnson’s Career Management Center. So prepare questions that show you are thoroughly familiar with the company and the industry.
Be consistent. “Before going to an interview, think about the impression you want to leave behind in that company and have a clear, consistent message,” says Noble-Grange. In addition to conveying some specific messages during the interview, you should also keep your answers to similar questions consistent. “It is perfectly fine to repeat a story that you have told another interviewer,” says Saunders-Cheatham. At the end of the day, interviewers will likely get together and talk about you as a candidate. All the better if they find that you have a consistent story and demeanor.
Get plenty of sleep and arrive rested and refreshed. It is absolutely essential to get a good night’s sleep before a day-long interview so that you can start out fully recharged and keep your stamina up throughout the interview.
Refreshing yourself regularly on the day of the interview is also important. Sometimes interviewers will ask you if you would like to have some water or if you want to go to the restroom. “Take advantage of those opportunities,” urges Saunders-Cheatham. “Refresh yourself, whether it’s splashing some water on your face, or doing some jumps in the bathroom — whatever it takes to get your energy up.”
Use business cards or a portfolio to track people. “Carry a portfolio with you to the interview and take notes so that you won’t have any problems trying to remember everything,” says Saunders-Cheatham. Another good strategy is to ask for business cards during interviews, adds Noble-Grange. Right after each individual interview, write a note on the business card about the interviewer and the conversation you had. This will help later, when you go to write thank-you notes.
Choose food and beverages carefully. During the interview meal break, choose something that’s easy to eat and don’t get too much food, since you will probably be doing most of the talking. “Make sure you engage people in conversation and try to stay away from topics like politics and religion,” advises Saunders-Cheatham. Do not order alcohol unless others at the table do, but don’t feel obliged to order alcohol even if everyone else does.
Write thank-you notes and letters right away. Some companies may make their decision very quickly. Therefore, it’s a good idea to write a thoughtful and personalized thank-you note via email within 24 hours. For a company that is your top choice, you may want to write additional, personal thank-you notes. Good thank-you notes that express your appreciation can really set you apart. “Even if you don’t get the offer, you should still send a thank-you note, because you never know when you will come across that person again. By sending it, you distinguish yourself as someone who really appreciated their time,” says Noble-Grange.
Yuezhou Huo ’15 is an intern in Marketing and Communications at Johnson.