I’m going to ask you an honest question as you sit across the desk from me. You need to be prepared to answer it. The fact that you are sitting in my office means you are half way to an offer. If I did not think you could do the job you applied for, you would not be sitting where you now are. Now is your time to shine. So…

Tell me why I should hire you. Ready, go!

What Do You Say?

Now is the time to impress me. Make me want to work with you. I might be interviewing five other people that day who have more experience and education that you, but that’s okay. Remember, you are sitting in my office for a reason. Do not tell me what you have done, tell me what you are going to do. I’ve read your résumé, so now is your chance to dig deeper and tell me something I don’t know. I told you, preparation is key.

Is Small Talk Okay?

Yes, small talk is okay and even expected. If you know who you’re interviewing with, do some research about them. Maybe you went to the same college, are from the same town, or both love cooking quinoa. Find a commonality and talk about that. The more you talk about things unrelated to the job, the better. Again, I am interested in why you can help my business, so you want to develop a relationship with your interviewer. Remember, people do business with people they like.

Does the Most Qualified Person Always Get the Job?

I can tell you with 100% certainty the answer is NO. If they did, there would be no reason for interviewing. We would hire people based solely on their résumé credentials. Tell me something that is not on the page. I want to have a conversation, rather than ask you about your strengths and weaknesses. Soft skills are just as important, if not more important, than hard skills.

What are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are things that don’t communicate themselves through paper. How do you communicate? Do you speak in a clear and confident voice? Do you carry and present yourself well? Do you get along well with others, work well as a team, and listen to others ideas and suggestions (rather than think about your reply)? These are just a few examples of soft skills. Hard skills are on the paper; soft skills are about you. What makes you different?

Identify an Area of Improvement

Each one of us can improve at something. I can think of five ways I can improve even as I write this. Acknowledging areas of improvement shows professional maturity. Are we successful in every interview, project, and presentation? No. You’re not expected to be. You can answer anything to this question. It doesn’t matter the specific area you choose. I am asking this to see if you are coachable. Do not be afraid of this question! Honesty is the best path forward.

What Do I Do Now?

Your interview is over. Congratulations, you probably learned something today. If you are interested in working at an organization that has made you an offer of employment, that’s great! Remember, though, that this is only an offer and you do not have to accept it. Maybe after the interview you received a better offer. Maybe you didn’t like the way the office looked or were forced to wait around 30 minutes.

An interview is a two way street. You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Oh, and one little trick: send me a handwritten thank you note when you’re done. It may not seem like much, but no one does it anymore and it goes a long way.