Have you spent days, weeks, months scouring the web for a new job? How many times did you tweak that resume to try to hit all of the important skills the job postings were asking for? Finally, your patience and perseverance have paid off and you get the call to set up an interview.
Congratulations!! Nowadays it seems like a long shot to even get a response that a human is going to review your application let alone an actual interview. Well done you!
So are you ready?
Are you sitting there scratching your head wondering – am I? Gosh, I thought I was…
Getting in the door is only the first step. Obviously, you have caught their attention with your resume but now is your chance to dazzle them. Convince them that you are the person they have been looking for. And ultimately, get that next call with a job offer.
I’ve been to many interviews over the course of my career. Some good, some great, some not so great. One thing I can tell you is that most of the not so great ones could have been much better if I was better prepared.
For a variety of reasons, I have blown a few opportunities. For some, I was too busy or didn’t think I needed to take the time to prep. A few others, I foolishly thought I would slam dunk the interview just on my qualification and awesome skills. AWKWARD! I wasn’t quite as awesome as I thought. 🙂
I try hard to learn from my mistakes. Someone very wise once told me “You do what you do, you get what you get.” It is very true don’t you think? I mean if we continue to do the same thing over and over how can we expect the outcome to be any different. So…we learn, observe, adapt and improve.
In the next few sections, I will tell you about some of the mistakes I’ve made, lessons I’ve learned and ways for you to not miss out on this amazing opportunity. Sound good? Here we go…
The Who, What, and Where
What do you know about this company you are interviewing with? Of course, they give you their brief summary in the job posting as well as a fairly vague description of what you might be doing but what do you know about who you’ll be working for?
Learn all you can about them…I mean really learn. Go to their website and read the “About” page, the mission, objectives, core values, leadership team, whatever information they have on there to give you a better understanding of who and what they do. Take some notes, write down any questions you might have about the company after reading about them.
Now Google them. Look and see if they are in the news for anything, good or bad. Perhaps they were on the list of 100 greatest places to work or other annual ranking polls. Write this in your notes.
I once got a job because I found a news article about changes coming to the organization in the near future. I worked in a question during my interview about the article and what the impacts would be to both my potential position and the future of the company because of these changes.
After I got the job my manager mentioned one day that this question was what checked his last box on selecting me for the position. He explained this demonstration of initiative and interest to learn more about where I was might be working made him feel like I would carry that same initiative and assertiveness on the job.
Might I have gotten the job anyway…possibly, but you never know.
This goes both ways. I applied to a company once and did not do any research before my interview. Everything sounded so great I didn’t ask many questions at all and was super excited when they called to offer me the job. My excitement dissipated within weeks as I quickly learned that the company was nothing like advertised and even suspected the whole place was a bit shady so I had to quit and start all over again.
Now that you have researched your potential employer compose a list of questions to ask during the interview. You can download my 12 Questions to Ask During an Interviewfrom the toolbox. This is a great starting point to give you some ideas but I encourage you to add and modify the list with questions that are important to you.
Remember YOU are interviewing them as much as they are you. Why are they qualified to be your boss, co-workers, and career stepping stone? Make sure you get the answers to any of your priorities in a job, be it healthcare, childcare, hours, training opportunities, etc. Please note that during the interview is not the time to ask about salary unless they bring it up. In many companies, you will work with a Human Resources person for this.
Get yourself a notepad and a folder. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy just something simple that you can put a printout of the job description, a few printed copies of your resume and your question list. You will take this to your interview and can use it to take notes during the discussions and check off what questions they cover so you know what you need to ask.
Know Where You’re Going
I saw that…you were rolling your eyes over there 😉 and thinking I am being silly. Sometimes in all the running around and now with all of these preparations you are going to be doing you might forget to find out EXACTLY where the interview is.
Yes, you can enter the address into the GPS on your phone or in your car and set off on your way, leaving extra time in case of unexpected traffic. And your GPS can take you to a giant office park with rows and rows of buildings that all look the same and the numbers do not seem to follow any comprehensible pattern. And you could spend twenty minutes driving in circles before you finally locate the building you need.
Sure, you still have two minutes to spare as you spring from the car and try to speed walk in your heels while retaining some dignity and not falling on your face. Then enter the office to meet Receptionist Ronnie all shiny faced and frazzled because your heart rate continued to climb as you watched your extra time slowly tick away on the car clock.
I have since been vigilant about software updates on the GPS! 🙂
The way I see it, going to a job interview is chock full of unknowns. When we walk into a place we don’t know our natural instinct is to be uncomfortable, add to that meeting a bunch of new people, AND the nervousness of having to demonstrate confidence and sell yourself. Why not maximize your opportunity by reducing those as much as you can?
Knowing where you are going takes one of those off the list. If you have time why not do a dry run? Traffic these days is a nightmare – you may drive to the new location and find out you absolutely do not want to deal with that every day. This may be something you even add to your list of questions; how do people get to the office typically…bus, train, carpool?
Dress for Success
I once interviewed a woman who was wearing sweatpants and a dirty shirt. No, I didn’t work at a fitness center at the time. She was applying to be a receptionist. This is the first person you see when you walk into a business right? I really couldn’t understand it because she was very nice and well-spoken but of course, there was no way I could hire her.
There are quite a few rules now about employers talking to staff about what they wear to work. Even if you have an established dress code there is so much gray area on what is inappropriate to say. I say this because how you look during your interview is going to signal to your potential employer if they will be able to trust that you will come to work dressed appropriately.
There are few experiences I have that were as uncomfortable as having to mentor an intern on see-through and very low-cut blouses that exposed her bra. I encouraged her as I would you, sell your brains, your attention to detail, your tenacity, and your dedication, not your body. You will sell yourself short every time. You got the interview on your experience and smarts – you owe it to yourself to get the job on those as well.
Dressing professionally can be very expensive. When I was just starting out working on Capitol Hill for the U.S. Senate my entire work wardrobe came from Goodwill. Slowly I bought a few pieces from JC Penney – they have a line of suits by Worthington that is machine washable and requires minimal ironing. The best part is they sell them as separates so you could buy a few pieces to mix and match so it looks like you had several suits!
Whatever your financial situation there are options and all you need is one clean and pressed pair of slacks and a blazer or suit if you can swing it and a basic top. Keep the jewelry and make-up simple and understated. You want the people you are interviewing with focused on you and what you are saying not the jingling bracelets or giant hoops swinging in your ears.
And for the love of warm cookies and milk, EASY on the perfume! Many offices have scent free zones now because people have allergies. The last thing you want to do is send your interviewer into a sneezing frenzy because you thought a few extra squirts would be best. Save that for when you go out with your friends to celebrate your new job. 🙂
Most importantly, get a good night sleep. A well-rested and sharp mind will serve you well when they hit you with that random question that has nothing to do with anything it seems but then you manage to think on your feet and wow them with your off the cuff thoughtful and relevant response. You got this!
I’m so glad you are still reading! There is a ton of information here so far I know but I also know that since you made it this far you are dedicated to being prepared to rock this interview. I know you can do it. We only have one last thing to do.
Thank You Email
Write down the names of all of the people that you interviewed with, in some cases there might be several in others it might just be one. If you they do not give you their business card you can hopefully find their contact details on their website. Hopefully, you will get at least one business card.
Sending a thank you will not necessarily get you the job but in some cases, it could lose you the job. It is also your last chance to remind them you are the one for the job. If you can email each of the people you met with and personalize the note for each that is optimal. This is another reason you want to bring a notebook to the interview. You can write down something that you discussed with each person and reference that in the thank you note.
You might have discussed a new accounting program that Interviewer Bob talked about. For this Thank You note you could mention that with your experience with another accounting program you found this very interesting and exciting. You are both reminding him if you already told him or letting him know you have experience with accounting programs and expressing further interest in working with them.
The trick is to keep it simple. You are writing to thank them for their time and drop one or two hints maximum to refresh their memory of you. There is a sample Interview Thank You Notein the toolbox that you can download to help you get started.
Job hunting is very exhausting and emotionally draining. All the resume tweaking and cover letter writing, not to mention that hope that comes with every click of a submit button only to be dashed by a no thank you or worse no response. I encourage you to prepare as best you can for the interview it will be time well spent when you get that phone call saying you got the job.
I am so excited for you and this amazing opportunity. You are totally going to knock it out of the park. Drop me a line if you have questions or just want to share the great news when you get the job.