Once your great resume has worked its magic, it’s time for you to leap the most important hurdle of all: the job interview.
A successful job interview hinges upon preparation and professionalism. Here are some helpful interviewing tips:
Before an Interview
- Dress in a professional, conservative fashion. For women, this means dress slacks, a nice skirt, or a business suit. For men, this means dress slacks and a business shirt, or a business suit. For non-executive positions, a tie can be optional, though it certainly can’t hurt your chances (well, unless it’s got Spongebob Squarepants or hula girls on it, of course). Wear your hair neatly styled. If you’re planning on wearing makeup, keep it tasteful and conservative.
- Never wear cologne or perfume. It’s always best to attend interviews scent-free, as you never know who has allergies or a deep-seated hatred of Chanel #5.
- Make sure you know all of the pertinent information about your interview: its location and time, what position it’s for, and the name of your interviewer.
- Arrive early—but not too early. Give yourself enough time to find the place where your interview is scheduled, and to get there 10 minutes early. If you arrive too early, you may irritate or even inconvenience the employer. If, like me, you’re someone who could get lost inside a paper bag, scope out the location ahead of time so you know exactly how to get there.
- Do your homework. Research the company beforehand by visiting their website, looking them up on a search engine, or talking to someone who is familiar with the business. Familiarizing yourself with the company will give you an advantage in the interview—among other things, it can make you look knowledgeable or diligent, or arm you with an understanding of the kind of employee they’re looking for.
- Bring a copy of your resume.
- Bring contact information for 3 – 5 business references.
- Practice! Before your interview, take time to think of answers to typical questions you might be asked. Even if it feels silly, having a friend or family member interview you as practice can do a great deal to prepare you for the real thing.
- Ditch the cell phone and the gum. Leave your cell phone in the car or turn it really and truly off. Vibrate isn’t good enough, unless you want your pants emitting rumbling noises during your interview. Don’t chew gum during your interview.
During an Interview
- Be friendly and polite. Even if you’re interviewing for an executive-level position, it’s imperative that you treat everyone you encounter with warmth and respect. That receptionist or intern is a valued member of the community you are trying to join, and if you’re haughty or impolite with them, believe that word will get around to the company’s decision makers.
- Do not ask anyone other than your interviewer questions about the position. After all, you never know if you’re speaking to someone who’s being replaced.
- Greet your interviewer. Stand when your interviewer enters the room, and greet him or her with a pleasant smile and a firm handshake.
- Maintain good body language. Avoid any nervous impulses, such as tapping your foot, playing with your hair, cracking your knuckles, etc. Use good posture and make consistent eye contact. The goal is to strike a balance between appearing calm and relaxed and appearing professional.
- Speak well. Speak clearly, confidently and thoughtfully. Talk at a steady rate and use proper grammar. It is better to take a moment to find the right words and gather your thoughts than it is to fill in the silent gaps with verbal tics such as “umm” or “like.” Don’t use vocabulary that you’re unfamiliar or uncomfortable with.
- Ask the right questions. Show an interest in the company, its culture, and in the position you’re being interviewed for. Great questions to ask are: “What qualities are you looking for in the person you hire?” and, “What challenges would I encounter in this position?” or, “What can you tell me about the corporate culture?” Tailor the questions to the interview—don’t ask questions whose answers you have already been given.
- Don’t ask the wrong questions. Don’t ask questions about salary or benefits unless they’ve been specifically addressed first by your interviewer. Don’t ask any “high maintenance” questions, such as, “If you hire me, can I take a two week vacation next month?” or, “If you hire me, can I change my schedule?”
- Never speak negatively about past employers. Even if you worked for the Wicked Witch of the East and she kicked you in the shins with her ruby slippers every single day, don’t talk about her negatively. Have positive descriptions planned ahead for those tough positions, and if you absolutely must allude to difficulties, keep it as innocuous as possible. For example: “It wasn’t the right environment for me,” or, “I didn’t feel challenged enough.”
After an Interview
- Inquire about the next step. Ask what the next step is and reiterate your interest in the position.
- Send a thank-you note. Send a hand-written thank-you note as soon as possible, while you’re still fresh in your interviewer’s mind. Emphasize your interest in the position and your appreciation that they took the time to talk with you.
- Follow up. Place a follow up call to the company about a week after your interview. Avoid appearing pushy—don’t call too many times. You can send a follow up by email instead, but phone calls are a little more proactive and personal.
As with all aspects of your job search, professionalism and careful thought will carry you far.
Your attitude also makes a world of difference: stay positive and don’t let yourself get frustrated. Remember that it can take time to find a job, but trust that your tenacity will reward you.