Acing the Final Interview

How to Prepare for Meeting the Hiring Manager 

This is the last installment in the Job Series by UCSC Extension Dean P.K. Agarwal.

Congratulations. You’ve landed an interview with the hiring manager. You’ve done your research and networked through the awkward moments. You’ve reworked your resume and practiced your presentation. You’ve even made it beyond the bot-scanning gatekeepers to a real person. Of all the applicants to throw their hats in the ring, you’re a top candidate with good odds for success. 

At this magic moment when you get to talk to the hiring manager, however, it’s the most competitive it’s going to be. Everyone in the candidate pool is qualified to do the job.

Differentiate Yourself

I remind you of all the foundational work you did to get to this point in the journey. Consider the suggestions I discussed earlier in my Job Series articles. In Laid off. Crisis or Opportunity? I talked about how to manage the rollercoaster of suddenly being in the job market. In Job Transition: Make Your Own Luck I provided some advice about how to set up a foundation for a successful and “lucky” job search. I showed you how to really target your efforts for quality leads in Getting Your Foot in the Door. And, in Ready for the 10-minute phone interview? I explored how you need to practice for a successful conversation.

In this final stage in the job journey, you’ll need to refresh your information and refine your message and align your career goals. You may be invited to participate in one or several interviews with peers, managers, and other stakeholders. You’ll be meeting new people. Below are my top tips for making it a successful interview.

  • Review the job description and the language used. It is amazing how few people actually study the job description. Background research will help you choose the right words in the conversation. People actually hear you better if you use the same language they use.
  • Update your information about the company in the news, on the website press releases, in SEC reports, and in trade journals.
  • Familiarize yourself with the interviewers. Google the hiring manager and key people in the division you would be working for to understand who you will be talking to. Is there anything new on LinkedIn? Research their background, experience, and education on social media. Perhaps you’ll discover interesting, shared experiences.
  • Check in with your contacts to hear about last-minute changes at the company (and thank them for their help).
  • Align your professional goals. Remember what you know about the company culture, values, and mission so you can tailor your responses and showcase your skills and experiences in a way that aligns with the company’s goals. For example, if a company prioritizes customer satisfaction, setting a goal to improve customer service skills would align with this objective.

    You can also identify areas where the company is looking to grow and set goals that would contribute to this effort. This is a way to demonstrate a commitment to the organization’s success and ensure a good fit.
  • Practice your answers. As you did for the initial interview, you should prepare answers to common interview questions. Some questions are evergreen and you should be able to play them out eloquently by now.
  • Why are you interested in this position?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why do you want this job?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What can you bring to the company?
  • What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

    Remember the links to commonly asked questions that I provided previously.
    10 Most Common Interview Questions and Answers
    10 Common Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
    19 Top Interview Questions in 2023 (With Sample Answers)
    Answers to 10 Most Common Job Interview Questions
  • Refine your responses. This is a new and different audience. The previous answers won’t fully suffice. You need to now move from generalities to specifics. The winning script answers the question “What are going to do to make the employer successful?”

    Take time to fine-tune your answers. Show them that you not only know your business but theirs as well. Weave in your achievements and the impact you have had in your previous positions to highlight how you will create value for this employer. This part becomes easier each time you interview. Time spent here will pay off in getting the job offer.
  • Presentation matters. Confidence, poise, and effective presentation are more of a differentiator as we are moving back into the face-to-face world. Write down your answers. Say them out loud and record yourself. Practice in front of a mirror or with a friend until you’re comfortable speaking about yourself and your experiences. Consider not just your words, but also your body language and expressions. It needs to come across as natural and conversational. Is your nonverbal communication complementing your message?
  • Take time in the conversation. You’ll want to listen carefully to questions during the interview and compose thoughtful and relevant responses. Let your questions show your strength, that if you’re offered the job, you are ready to hit the ground running. You could say, “I tend to be a creative person and a team player. How receptive is the organization to innovation?”
  • Your brightest self. Be confident, enthusiastic, and personable. A positive attitude and pleasant demeanor can go a long way in making a lasting impression on the hiring manager. By following these tips, you can increase your chances of acing the interview and landing the job of your dreams.
  • Always gratitude. After the interview, send a thank you email to the interviewer expressing your appreciation for the opportunity to learn more about the company and the position. Reiterate your interest in the position.

Best of Luck!

Lastly, let me know how it goes in the comments below. What helped you the most? What made the difference in your job search? What do you wish you’d known earlier?

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