Sweet! Now that you’ve perfected your resume, you have landed yourself an interview! Now it’s time to perfect your interviewing skills. With my job as a recruiter, I have interviewed hundreds of people both over the phone and in person, and it is very easy to see has prepared him/herself, and who has not.
Trust me, it makes an employer happy to know an interviewee is prepared. These are some easy guidelines and tips to make you the person who is prepared for the interview.
- Do a practice run to get to the interview location a few days before your interview. If you are unfamiliar with the exact location and where to park, include finding parking during the time of day your interview is scheduled. This will gives you an accurate measurement of the amount of time it will take to get you there. Also, it makes you look unprepared if you call 20 minutes before your interview and ask for directions because you’re lost.
- Without exception I always say arrive 15 minutes early. As my co-worker once said, “If you’re not 15 minutes early, you’re 5 minutes late.”
- Do not arrive too early, though. Arriving 30+ minutes early could actually be an inconvenience to the potential employer and could start your interview on wrong foot.
- It is always better to be over dressed than under dressed.
- NEVER wear jeans. I don’t care if you’re applying at Subway or McDonald’s. At least throw on some khakis.
- For a professional industry, it is typical for men to wear a suit and tie and women to wear a business suit (whether it be skirt, pants, or dress). Wear standard, neutral colors such as dark navy blue, grey, or black. Though colors like dark green might be “in” or compliment your skin-tone exceptionally well, but old-school business people could be put off by your modern looks.
- Make sure you shower and (men) shave the morning of the interview. I don’t care if you don’t think your hair looks oily after two days or if you’re trying to rock a half goatee. Be overly-professional for your first interview. This is very likely the only impression you’ll be able to leave on your potential employer.
- Your resume: I don’t care if the secretary on the phone said she would print off a copy for you. Bring your own resume without exception! It shows you are prepared.
- Your resume…again: Bring multiple copies of your resume! I personally bring four copies of my resume with me to an interview even if I know it is a one-on-one. I want a copy for the person with whom I am interviewing and a copy for myself. Maybe this person will think I am such an amazing candidate that she will bring in her boss to talk with me. You’d better believe I want a copy of my resume for that person as well.
- Notebook and pen: I take notes during interviews to write down anything of importance that is discussed during the interview. (Note: I can write without looking at my notebook. This is important because you want to maintain eye contact at all times. Don’t be writing and looking down at your notebook.)
- There are so many industry-norm questions these days it is hard to narrow it down, but there are some specific ones you should be prepared to answer and elaborate on.
- Your strengths: think of three or four very different strengths and be prepared to elaborate and GIVE AN EXAMPLE of each.
- Your weaknesses: (I know I know! Who doesn’t love to talk about what they’re bad at!) This is a trick question. Yes, your potential employer wants to know honest areas you need to work on. However, if you say “being on time” is a weakness, I can 100% guarantee you will not land the job. A commonly-used weakness is “being a perfectionist” but that answer can be predictable. Unless you can elaborate as to how this is actually a weakness and what you can do to strengthen this, it’s not going to work. When I’ve said “being a perfectionist” I back it with:
- I can be too detail-oriented. In the past, I have had a difficult time getting past the small details of the project until it consumed me. I have learned that I have to take a step back, look at the big picture, and see the that little pieces will come together in the end. Only then will the project be able to be completed perfectly. (Remember that is my answer.)
- Come up with a real area of opportunity and show how you have taken steps to correct and work on this problem. Give examples.
- “Discuss a time where the was conflict in the work place and how you overcame it”: Pick a topic, think of how you approached it, what you did to actively resolve it, and the result of it.
- “Why did you leave your former place of employment/why are you looking to leave?” Be honest. In today’s economy, it is perfectly acceptable to say you were laid off. If you say you had issues with the management, that could also mean “I am high-strung.” Be care of your wording, but again, make sure you are honest.
- “Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years?”: Tailor it toward the company you are interviewing with. If you want to advance, explain you want to take steps to be in a higher position than one you are hired in for, and that you want to help people starting out to shorten the learning curve, which helps further strengthen the company.
- “We have a lot of good candidates, why should we hire you?”: Go off on your strengths and show them why you can be an asset to the company. This is your chance to sell yourself.
- Ask them yourself! At the end when they ask if you have any questions, you had better have some prepared. This shows you were paying attention and actively engaged during the interview. This also sets you apart from the other people interviewing for the position.
- A great closing question on your end is, “I am very interested in this opportunity with your company. What is the next step in the interview process?”
- Salary and Compensation: If hired, this will be disclosed then and you can counter-offer if you want something higher. Don’t look overly-anxious by asking about your salary before an offer is on the table
- PTO: This makes you look like you’re already ready to take time off of work. Again, this will be disclosed once you’re hired.
- Two or three business days after your interview, send a thank you note. I do the old-fashioned, hand-written thank you card addressed to the person with whom I interviewed.
- With today’s technology, lots of people send follow-up and thank you e-mails, but I think it doing it old school shows the extra time and effort.
- Wait. Oh yes, the best part. Don’t consider it odd to wait two or weeks to hear from the company. Do not incessantly call to see where the company is in its decision. This makes you look desperate. The follow-up card or e-mail shows them you are definitely interested and looking forward to a response.