An Insider's Guide to Nailing the Interview

By Julia Harris Wexler '84TC, '14BUS of the Columbia Career Coaches Network 

Hello world!

Here I am! I'm amazing and talented and smart, but I'm not getting my dream job.

How come? Here's what you need to know:

1.) Employers do not want to hear your entire life story in an interview.

They DO want to hear: Your skills, your strengths, your accomplishments, and what you can do FOR THEM.

2.) Employers want to know that you are not a hiring risk.

Translation: You are a hard worker, minimal drama, minimal high maintenance, and do not lead with your excuses for not being able to perform. No nonsense/no excuses. Just do the job. Sorry, but that's really it.

3.) Employers want you to be excited and enthusiastic about working for them, and for their firm.

That means genuinely researching the individual you're interviewing with (not stalking—just researching) and knowing the company's financials, competitive standing, recent events/press releases, and challenges.

4.) What problem are you solving?

After three decades in the executive career coaching business, there is a theme behind every single job opening: the firm has a problem. Someone in the organization needs you in order to get an important job done. If you don't know what problems you are solving, you won't get the job. If you're smart enough to figure it out—you actually might.

5.) Be authentic!

It's all right to trip up on a tough question. It's all right not to be perfect; in fact it's preferred. Use humor! Show the interviewer who you really are: a human. That's what they want. Every interview is meant to breathe life into the resume. To know the person they may be hiring. Allow them to do so. Present your best self—but show up; don't be someone else.

6.) Connect!

This is the key. If you are connecting with the interviewer, you are ahead of the game.

Please don't think this is done by falsely brown-nosing or glad-handing. Nope. It's done by hard work. Hard work researching the firm/the individual/the problem you'll be helping to solve. Start working before the interview. Show them this is how you work. MINIMIZE THE RISK for the employer. It's quite simple, really. Make their workday easier.

7.) Don't make the employer work for you.

Don't follow up with dumb thank you notes that say something like, "Thanks so much for your time. I'm interested. Let me know what else you need." Nope. Don't do that because everyone does that. Do not leave the employer with the burden of moving things forward. YOU DO IT! Show them your follow up is different. Little hint: your follow up is another opportunity to showcase yourself! Use it. Follow up with a point that came up from the interview. Provide additional information. Answer a question you didn't get to expand upon enough during the interview. Take things further—work it!

8.) Follow up and do not stop until you are hired.

This means it may take a while. It doesn't mean pushing yourself at the employer. It means SLOW and measured follow up; that shows truly meaningful interest over time.

Persistence and tenacity win the race every single time. That's the person who wins the spot.


For the past two decades, Julia Harris-Wexler '84TC, '14BUS has coached entry level, mid-career, and senior level executives on how to strategically manage their career transitions. She has completed and been certified by the Columbia Advanced Coaching Intensive (Columbia Business School and Teachers College), in addition to spending two decades as a senior partner in the executive search industry.

Harris-Wexler has helped professionals from all industries to define their professional identity, develop a personal marketing plan, and navigate their way up the career ladder. She works directly with the heads of talent acquisition and human resource departments at top Fortune 500 companies to help them staff their human capital needs and brings this expertise to her individual coaching clients. She understands how to help individual clients navigate through the peaks and valleys of their career trajectories using her academic and coaching training, as well as her direct experience interviewing and recruiting more than 1,000 professionals.

Check out the complete Columbia Career Coaches Network here.

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