You're sitting there, sweating, tapping your foot & chewing gum at a ferocious pace. You look in your briefcase, realizing you didn't bring your resume. You forgot the name of the person you are meeting with. The interviewer approaches, hand extended, and you slap your wet palm into hers. You walk into her office and have a seat. She sits, smiling. You think she's making small talk but then you realize she's stopped talking and is waiting for you to say something. Did you miss the first question? Everything starts to go black....next thing you know it's 40 minutes later and she's walking you out of her office telling you she'll be in touch.
Sound familiar? Even if you haven't experienced a total interview meltdown, mostly everyone has left an interview thinking "That could have gone better." Who would like some interview tips? Some of these may be obvious, and some of them not as much...I wanted to make sure I can help prepare as many people as possible.
Prior To The Interview
Ask your recruiter for the inside info. What do they know about the interviewers, the firm, what kinds of questions they ask, do you meet with more than one person at a time, etc.
Go over the job description you applied to and make notes of what you do and do NOT have experience with.
Review the firm website.
Google the company.
Google the people you are meeting with.
*NOTE* Keep it professional. If you notice your interviewer's kids soccer photos on Facebook, now isn't the time to bring it up that you also played soccer 30 years ago.
Google yourself. Do a quick social media check and make sure nothing pops up that you don't want the interviewer seeing. Trust me...they'll look.
Pop a mint before the meeting and finish it. Don't have a mint in your mouth during the interview. You don’t want to seem fidgety or preoccupied playing with a mint or gum. You may not pay attention and it can turn into a nervous tick. Plus you don’t want to accidentally spit it out while talking.
Don’t smoke. At all. Avoid smoking as long as you can prior to the meeting. Don’t smoke in your suit. Near your suit. Near your coat. In your car. Outside of your car waiting to go inside. Don't smoke. *Tip* - If you must, treat yourself to some interview Nicorette prior (not during). *Bonus Tip* - give the Nicorette a try a day or two BEFORE the interview to see how you react. You don't want to be nauseous during the interview.
If you can avoid it, no perfume, cologne, scented products, etc. You never know what is going to irritate someone. Both in the allergic sense and the annoying sense. Also, it doesn’t cover up smoke. Ever.
Take a test run so you know how to get to the interview. You don't want to try and figure it out as the clock is counting down. Trying to find an interview address as the interview time gets closer is like trying to figure out which wire to cut to defuse a bomb before it hits 0:00.
Make sure you know how to pronounce everyone’s name that you will be meeting with. If you aren’t sure, you can A) ask your recruiter beforehand or B) Dial *67 and call the office and ask to speak with the interviewer. Use a fake name and before they connect you, ask the receptionist the proper way to pronounce the name. Or you can call after hours and listen to the voicemail greeting. Again, make sure you *67 so they don’t know it's you calling. Plus it could lead to an awkward 10 pm conversation or *69 if your interviewer is working late.
Turn off your phone BEFORE you enter the office. Don't put it on silent. Turn it off. As a recruiter, I have heard "But I put it on silent" too many times.
Bring the same version of the resume you previously submitted. The less confusion during an interview the better. The original version got you the interview, so it's good enough. What you may think is an improvement may be a step backward to the interviewer.
Do you sweat? Carry a handkerchief (not a tissue). Give your forehead a quick pat down before the interview. Sweaty hands? Have the handkerchief in your hand to keep it dry and then stash in your pocket or bag when the interviewer comes out for a nice non-gross handshake.
I know we have all gotten the same advice...be early. "In my day arriving early was a sign of respect!" "If you were 25 minutes early you were 5 minutes late!" "I once walked 10 miles in the snow..." you get the idea. I'm here to tell you to not be TOO early. Companies really don't want you just hanging out in the reception area for an hour. Plus the receptionist will be watching your every move and taking note of everything you do. You don't want to be the center of office gossip before you have the job. If you are early, go hang out somewhere close by and arrive 15 minutes early. Just don't smoke.
Related to the above - be nice to the receptionist or whoever is out front. Smile. Be friendly. Say "Hi," and, ask how they are doing today. It's true that the interviewers DO ask the receptionist what their impression was. Culture is important.
Wear a suit. It doesn't matter what you think is "nice" enough...you wear a suit. You take off from work and you wear a suit. If you can't take off of work, you have to make sure your recruiter tells the client you are coming in your work attire as to not raise suspicions.
Make eye contact. It's not creepy, I swear. The interviewer isn't going to think you are a psychopath. No interviewer has ever thought "Why is this person staring at me?" But if you DON't make eye contact I guarantee the interviewer will be thinking to themselves "Why aren't they looking at me? Do I have something on my face from lunch or something?"
Body language - be sure to sit up straight. Try to avoid moving positions as it'll make you look uncomfortable. Sit, legs crossed, hands folded or whatever's comfortable. *NOTE* - Comfortable AND straight...not slouched and/or spread. Try to look like a professional. Not a gelatinous blob.
When speaking, slow down. Slow. Down. Seriously! Stop. And. Slow. Down. Odds are, you are speaking faster than you think you are. You might be nervous and youwanttogettheansweroutbeforeyouforgetitohmygodthat'ssuchagoodpointdon'tnotanswertheyllthinkyoudontknowtheanswerohmygodIdon'tknowtheanswerbutifIkeeptalkingtheywillthinkthatIknowtheanswer. Seriously. You might just be rambling incoherently. You may have good intentions and may actually know the answer...but if you start speaking too fast it will give the impression that you don't know the answer. Seriously. I have strung together words in nonstop sentences when I was nervous that probably could pass as ancient spells. Listen to the question. Stop. Take a small breath and slowly answer. The key is to be in control. Think about your answer before you say it. You don't have to fill the silence. It is a natural behavior to avoid silence. "Um." "Uh. "Ah." Finishing every sentence with "ok." You don't need to do it. Just slow down and embrace the control when you speak.
Don't over-use, or incorrectly use, words. I'm looking at you "literally."
Answer the question AS ASKED. If you don't know the answer, don't try to BS it. Don't try to answer a different question instead. There's no point in faking an answer...do you think you are going to fool the interviewer? Just be honest. Interviewers prefer honesty to idiocy 10 out of 10 times, guaranteed.
That Dreaded Interview Question
"What is your biggest weakness?" You aren't allowed to say "I care too much" or "I work too hard." Quite frankly, it's lame and doesn't impress anyone. Interviewers want to see introspection and a solution. They want to know that you can identify your own faults. People can't improve if they don't admit their issues, and no one is perfect. Companies don't want to hire people that think they are perfect. Again, honesty is key...but you can spin it a bit. "I'd have to say knowing when to ask for help," or "My supervisors have said I have overstretched myself in the past by not saying no to people who need help." But don't be too honest ("I spell like a 3rd grader.").
Be sure to ask questions! Why?
1) It shows interest
2) Interviews are for everyone involved. Otherwise, it would just be judging you, and that would be cruel. Find out if the company is a fit for you as well!
Questions To Ask
*NOTE* For the love of God please pay attention when the interviewer is speaking. Don't zone out. Don't think about lunch. Don't keep reciting your questions in your head to remember them. Pay attention! You do not want to ask something that the interviewer just spent 5 minutes discussing. Go all in during the interview and be present. You can take a nap and rest up later.
At the end of the interview be sure to thank the interviewer for their time.
When you are leaving be sure to tell the receptionist to have a nice day.
When you get home, type up a quick thank you note. DON'T do it from your phone. You don't need your autocorrect offending anyone. Don't do it too soon after leaving the interview... "As I ride the elevator, I can only think interested I am." When you get home, take a moment to think about the interview. Think about the role that was discussed. Think if you forgot to mention something that relates to the conversation. Then take the time to write a brief but thoughtful thank you note. Something like:
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today to discuss the Y opening available with your company. Based on our conversation, I feel that the opportunity is a match for my experience, and offers what I am looking for in a rewarding position. I enjoyed our conversation and hope to be considered for the role. If you require any additional information, please don't hesitate to reach out.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I am a recruiter that unapologetically loves the recruiting industry. I spend my days (and nights) talking to people about their careers. I’ve been in recruiting for more than 15 years and believe in developing partnerships; high trust working relationships with both clients and prospects. For more about me/my firm, please visit www.karpiakconsulting.com or www.linkedin.com/in/akarpiak
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