How to 'excel and impress' at a job interview, according to a former corporate recruiter

Vicki Salemi
Steve Debenport | E+ | Getty Images

You're heading into the final round of interviews for your dream job. Your resume was pulled from the pile, you sailed through the phone screen. Now you just need to ace that in-person meeting.

As a former corporate recruiter and career expert for Monster, I can attest that the candidates who ultimately receive a job offer do several key things to excel and impress during their interviews.

They are confident and they make it easy for the employer to give them the green light by tying their current skill set and experiences into the role they are pursuing. Ultimately, they come across as the right fit for the organization. Here's how you can do the same.

Dress for success

Show up to the interview dressed for the part. Even if the company culture appears casual from their photos on social media, I recommend wearing a more traditional interview suit in gray, navy, or black. It never hurts to have a professional-looking suit in your closet.

Look sharp from head to toe and make sure everything is clean, pressed, and fits you well.

Be confident

Your body language speaks volumes, so make sure it's saying the right things. Practice in conversations with friends and current colleagues by standing straight and sitting without slouching, making eye contact and connecting with a firm handshake.

Demonstrating confidence, especially during a job interview, is key.

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Practice small talk

When the interviewer greets you in the reception area, he or she will probably ask if you got to the office OK and then toggle to topics like the weather, pop culture, or sports.

Be friendly and polite. Smile and build camaraderie with the hiring team throughout the process. When you know you're going to meet a new person, do a little research. A simple search can tell you if you have a shared alma mater or hobby that you can talk about during the interview.

Be respectful

Treat everyone you encounter well. This includes parking attendants, receptionists, and if it's a lunch interview, definitely the wait staff. You'd be surprised how many qualified candidates get rejected due to how poorly they treated people when they thought no one was watching.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

This step is critical: There's no such thing as over-preparing. Research the company's social media feeds to learn more about their culture, review the job description to learn about the role, and practice answering interview questions ahead of time.

You can conduct mock interviews with family, friends, and perhaps your alma mater's career office via Skype. Get accustomed to confidently speaking about your accomplishments.

You'd be surprised how many qualified candidates get rejected due to how poorly they treated people when they thought no one was watching.
Vicki Salemi
Career expert

What's your biggest weakness? Why should we hire you? Name a time when you encountered a difficult client: What was the situation and how did you handle it?

Think of examples that can illustrate various situations where you were able to solve problems and identify opportunities. Have talking points at the ready that you can share in an eloquent, articulate but not canned way.

Speak their language

Remove your company's current jargon and acronyms from your answers. Instead, speak in more general industry terms and aim to mirror the terminology the prospective employer uses in the job description. Tailor your resume in the same way, and bring a current hard copy with you to give to the interviewer.

Remember that the interview is a talking, living, breathing, three-dimensional extension of your resume.

Ask questions

This goes back to preparing for the interview. Jot down a few questions. Interviewers are usually surprised if you don't ask even one question, so ask away. You may come up with questions during the interview as well. Get specific. If, for example, travel is a big part of the job, ask about the frequency. If something seems unclear, now's the time to get clarification.

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As important it is for you to convince the employer you're qualified for the role and a cultural fit, you can also ace the interview by realizing it's a two-way street.

Yes, the company is evaluating you, but you're also assessing them. Are they the right fit for you? Can they provide the career advancement you're seeking? Will they pay you fairly? Do you like the people you met? Read their body language, observe how they treat each other and, of course, how they treat you, too.

Say thank you

The interview doesn't end when you shake that last hand, the same way it didn't officially begin when you stepped foot in their office — the process begins as soon as you apply with your resume and cover letter.

Send a thank you email, ask about next steps, and most importantly, let your enthusiasm, interest, and passion for the job shine through.

Vicki Salemi is a career expert for Monster, author of "Big Career in the Big City," speaker and former corporate recruiter. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter. She is based in New York City.

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