Interview Basics – What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
It astonishes me how many job seekers in today’s day and age are held back because they lack the information and skills necessary to interview well. I have developed a simple list of basic interview skills every job seeker should posses before stepping foot in the door of an interview. You may be amazed by what you don’t know.
Prepare a resume that sells. Is your resume a timeline, historical document, or a sophisticated marketing and sales piece? Sell the employer on your best attributes and what you can bring to them. Quantify when possible!
This may sound like a no brainer but practice makes perfect. Actually practice answering interview questions. When I’m getting ready for a big job interview I think about all the questions I could possibly be asked during the interview and I already have my answers formulated in my mind. This way there are no long, uncomfortable pauses and I’m not scrambling to put something together on the spot.
Be prepared. Boy Scout motto or instrumental piece in landing a great career? Take a notepad to the interview with you. I usually jot down 3-5 accomplishments I am most proud of, my three biggest strengths, and my one weakness. Because you know they’re going to ask so you might as well be prepared. In addition to having your notes handy when they ask you those big questions you can also jot down notes during the interview. This is great because it makes the interviewer feel that you are really interested and are paying attention to what they are saying.
Be early. I recommend showing up 10-15 minutes early. Sure you will have to wait but what happens when the interviewer walks out to the waiting room and you’re not there yet? If you are going to be late because of an earth shattering emergency call ahead. But don’t be late! That pretty much assures the job is not yours. The common belief here is if you can’t make an interview on time you won’t make it to work on time. I would say that is a fair assessment.
Make sure you show up alone. When I was a recruiter for a staffing agency I don’t even want to go into how many people showed up for the interview and brought their family or kids along. This is a big no-no!
Bring extra copies of your resume. You never know when an extra person may sit in on the interview. I always bring one copy for everyone, a copy for myself and a few extras. Just in case there is someone extra.
I know you are nervous but do not fidget, play with your clothes, hair, jewelry, shoes, etc. It is just bad form.
When introduced make sure you smile, shake their hand firmly (but don’t break it) and wait to be seated until they sit down first. Common courtesy and professional etiquette – it’s the details that matter, believe me.
Answer their questions professionally and when applicable use an example from your previous experience. This confirms to your employer that you really do have experience in the area they are questioning you.
If they ask “Have you ever done…” something before and you have not; do not just say no. Say something like: “I have not actually had experience with that but I am confident that if someone showed me how I could do it.” Or “No, I have not done that before however, I am a fast learner and I am confident that I could learn quickly and provide the results you expect.” This communicates your willingness to learn new tasks, your ability to adapt easily and your confidence in your abilities. Being flexible and open is always a great quality!
When they ask if you have any questions do not say no! This is one of the biggest mistakes I see candidates make. If you say no it appears as though you have no interest. Even if they have answered all your questions surely there are some you can think to ask. I always have 2-3 questions jotted down on my notepad before I come in. They usually consist of ‘how the position/person is managed’, ‘what the management style is of the person who will be managing me’, and ‘what the next step will be in the hiring process‘. The last question is always important; you want to know where it is going once you’re done interviewing.
It is not okay to ask the interviewer “How did I do?” That is BAD FORM! And puts the interviewer on the spot and they will most likely not tell the truth because if your interview was awful they’re not going to come out and say you did horrible you’re not getting the job. Plus, the majority of interviewers will discuss the interview with other team members before they come to a conclusion about your performance and the next step for you.
When you leave make sure you thank them for their time and let them know you look forward to hearing from them soon. This conveys your interest and is a professional way to exit.
Follow up with a thank you note. Yes, you MUST send a thank you note. Do you have any idea how many people don’t send thank you notes? Do you know how many people that do send thank you notes actually get the job?! Every interview I’ve been on that I’ve mailed a thank you note to I’ve received an offer (minus one). In addition, the majority of hiring managers I know will give someone a second look if they thought enough to send a thank you note. It lets the interviewer know you are still interested in the position, you are excited about it, and you are thoughtful, organized, and professional enough to send a thank you note. Don’t question it – just do it and see what happens.
Do not call the interviewer every day asking about the status. This is so annoying and YES people really do this. Please do not be one of these people; it will get your name scratched off the list so quick you won’t even see it coming. Calling a week after you mail your thank you letter to check the status is acceptable, anything after that I think becomes a nuisance. Chances are if the job was yours within two weeks of your interview you would have heard something.
Last but not least do not put your eggs all in one basket. I knew someone that every time he had an interview he immediately stopped his job search. I never understood this; he stopped sending out resumes, stopped applying on line, and stopped mailing out letters. He put all his eggs in this one basket and sadly when it didn’t work out he had lost two weeks in his job search, had to start all over again and was more discouraged then ever. Getting a ‘no’ is inevitable you are not going to ace every interview and be the perfect fit every time.
If you stay consistent, focused, and look at finding a job like it is your full time job then eventually you will succeed and it will all be worth it. Keep these interview tips tucked away and refer back to them before each interview.
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