Highlights from Chapter 4 in our forthcoming book.
*INCLUDES UPDATES FOR COVID-ERA INTERVIEWING.
This entry runs long, because interviewing provides such a vital opportunity for you to reveal your true self and talents–and to glimpse the company’s culture and the boss’s personality, both of which will impact your wellbeing for better or worse.
Stay tuned next week as we share the LAST TWO POSTS in our series, with how to use technology and organization to reduce your workload during a job hunt . . . The book itself will reveal many more tips and resources, and that will be available in January!
Here It Is: Your Big Chance
So maybe it takes you one hundred queries to get one interview. No one’s career path follows a straight line.
Let’s say you get the chance to interview for a job that you actually really desire. Here’s how to get from the jitters to the offer.
Before the Interview: Preparation
Preparation is essential. Employers immediately can tell whether a candidate is prepared or not, the moment they enter the room. Make sure you’re armed and ready to impress them. Do your research and anticipate what questions will be asked during the interview.
Do a Little Background Research
What should you do research on?
- Background and history of the company. You have to know the company that you are applying to. If you claim to have a desire to work in that organization but you do not know the basic information about it, your credibility will immediately go right out the window. And don’t just stick to the basic information, either — company size, industry and products. Look deeper, such as the organization’s goals, vision, its current performance, and what you think of its future.
- The job you are applying for. You should know and understand what job you are applying for, and what it is about. You should have some basic knowledge on the duties and responsibilities that come with the position, because how can you claim to be a very good fit for the job when you don’t know what it involves?
- Background of the interviewer. Learn about the people who will be interviewing you, through things like their company bio, online searches, and LinkedIn. This will put you in a position where you will better understand and anticipate the questions that will be asked, and show that you respect them and their time.
You can get your information for your job interview research from various sources. Start from the website of the organization and any articles published about them.
Anticipate and Review Their Questions
Job seekers are advised to make a list of the questions that they expect to hear during the interview. You may look for these anticipated questions online or ask others who have gone through job interviews for pointers.
Formulate your answers as you envision yourself being asked these questions by an interviewer.
Keep responses concise but detailed. You should go directly to the point when answering. Don’t meander or become long-winded, because this has the tendency to bore your interviewers. It may also take up a lot of time, especially when you only have a few minutes allotted for the interview. You might end up being able to answer only one or two questions because you talked too much, focusing on the buildup rather than the heart of your answer.
Do not memorize. There is a danger to memorizing responses. It is possible that the question that will be asked has variations on what you practiced or memorized, and you will be caught off-guard. It’s better to come up with talking points, and work around it with your potential answers.
Dress for Success
The term “first impressions last” applies to interviews as well.
Interviewers put a lot of stock on how you come across the moment you enter a room, and a huge factor in that is how you are dressed.
Being “presentable” is no longer enough; you have to dress well, and dress in a manner that any employer or organization would approve of.
COVID Update: Appearance Matters Onscreen
This matters just as much onscreen as in-person … at least for the portion of your apparel that can be seen!
- Dress in an appropriate and professional manner; i.e., match up with the job you are applying for. If you are applying for a managerial or supervisory position, you should exude the aura of a manager or a supervisor. There is a rule of thumb that says you should dress “two levels up,” or two levels higher than the position you are applying for.
- Dressing appropriately means you should also make sure your outfit is not too racy. Low and plunging necklines, sleeveless tops, and extremely short skirts are not good options. This may give your interviewers the wrong impression.
- The default job interview outfit usually consists of a suit, but you can be flexible. Fortunately, corporate and professional dressing has evolved over the years, so that you can dress in a manner that represents your personality while sticking to the office’s dress code.
- The outfit should match the culture and sensibilities of the organization. Check if they have a dress code for their employees and pick your clothes in accordance with that.
- Avoid loud patterns and flashy colors. They will be distracting for the interviewers. You want them to pay attention to you and your answers, not to the patterns and colors of what you are wearing. Similarly, do not over-accessorize. Wearing too much jewelry will just be distracting.
- Clean your shoes. And your bag. Scuffed shoes and a messy bag will give your interviewer the impression that you cannot take care of your personal things, so how could you possibly expect to be trusted with company property?
- Make sure your clothes are dry-cleaned and pressed. Wrinkly or stained clothes won’t look good and won’t help you make a good impression.
However, dress comfortably. Imagine yourself wearing something very professional to an interview then throughout the interview you keep shifting in your seat because your clothes do not fit very well. This discomfort will have a negative impact on how you present yourself during the interview. It will distract you away from answering the questions properly.
In short, choose clothes that fit, and look good on your body. Clothes give a boost of confidence, and if you are confident that you are dressed well, you will be more comfortable in answering the questions during the interview.
Bring Your Best Hygiene and Grooming
Wear your “power outfit,” one that you picked out carefully that makes you feel confident.
Fix your hair. If you wear makeup, make sure it’s toned down and appropriate for an office, not a party. Brush your teeth and style your hair. Even at a physical distance, on videoconference, hygiene matters.
Be Beyond Punctual
Being on time during the interview shows how time-conscious you are, giving your interviewers the impression that you have good time management skills.
Time management is a soft skill that all employers are looking for in candidates, and a great way to show you have this skill is to show up at the interview venue at least 15 minutes before the set time — even if the interview will be conducted from your desk at home!
Punctuality shows your interest in the job. In addition, arriving early shows that you are reliable. It’s about respect, both for yourself and for the other person’s time.
Arriving early gives you more time to acclimate yourself with the environment or atmosphere at the venue where the interview will be held.
It’s also possible that last-minute changes about the interview will be made, and if you are there early, you’ll have an easier time adjusting. For example, the room where the interview will be conducted may be changed. You won’t end up going around looking for it if you still have more than enough time before the start of the interview.
But don’t arrive too early, either. If you arrive, say, an hour or thirty minutes early, this can make you look idle or desperate. Take a deep breath, get a coffee, and then come back.
During the Interview: Be Attentive
Making good first impressions is not entirely up to your choice of an interview outfit.
The first words you say when you meet your interviewers, your greeting to the people you see in the venue, and even your actions and mannerisms are instrumental for interviewers to develop their first impression of you.
Be polite. Have a smile ready for everyone — and we mean everyone, from the receptionist to the other staff members you come across on the way to the interview. You never know, you may be working with them in the future.
The same is true if you are being interviewed with other people. You might also end up working alongside them.
This definitely means that you have to pay attention to your body language. Your posture is very important. Slouching makes you come across as someone who is lazy and sometimes maybe even sick. Standing or sitting ramrod-straight, on the other hand, may make you appear stiff and unyielding … unless, of course, you are a candidate for a position in the military ranks.
If you have mannerisms such as bouncing your knee, tapping your feet or fingers, or wringing your hands, try to correct them. These are often signs of fear, and you don’t want your prospective employers to know that you are terrified of them, do you?
There’s another thing that jobseekers forget when they enter an interview room: turn off your phone. Do not just put it on silent or vibrate, because you may be distracted when a message or a call comes in while you’re in the middle of the interview.
If the interview occurs onscreen on your computer, you can also deploy your “do not disturb” function. If using Windows, click on the icon in the bottom right of your screen that looks like a page of text, or “Home,” and select “Focus assist” to allow only alarms or complete silence; on a Mac, click on the dot-and-dash menu in the top right corner and scroll slightly up for “night shift” and “do not disturb” options.
More than anything else, be true to yourself. It’s normal during an interview to show your best side, but you can do that without pretending to be something or someone you’re not.
If you express your authentic personality, you’ll come across as natural and real during the interview. You’ll be able to deliver more truthful answers, and the interviewers will be able to sense that.
Try to match the communication style of the interviewer. You have to connect with them, while also making sure your personality is showing. You can do this by mirroring their manner. Be business-like when they are business-like. Try to be more personable or adapt a casual tack when you see that they are going that way. Needless to say, if they ask direct questions, then you should also supply direct answers.
Ask Insightful Questions
At some point during the interview, the interviewer may turn the tables and let you ask questions. Maybe you have a lot of questions running through your head about the job. Go through these questions mentally and ask only those that make sense.
Interviewers tend to remember the candidates who posed challenging questions to them.
Usually, interviewees will ask how much the job will pay them on a monthly or annual basis. They may even inquire about the vacation time and other benefits. This is a natural curiosity for the candidate but, depending on the execution or the way the question was asked, it may make you look like your sole interest in the job is the money.
You should only ask about salary and benefits when you have clearly won over the employer. If you wait long enough, they might even be the ones to volunteer the information to you.
COVID Update: Don’t Get Too Relaxed on that Remote Interview
In “The New Rules for Job-Hunting During COVID,” the HatchIt blog advises you to take an online interview just as seriously as you would in-person:
“A remote interview might not feel as real or intimidating as an in-person interview, but that does not mean that you can be any less prepared. Sure, you don’t have to put on a nice outfit, grab a nice portfolio for your resume, and head to an office building. But you still need to do your homework.
If you’re not prepared for interview questions, tech assessments, and everything else you’d encounter in person, you won’t do well in your online interview. Remember, the post-COVID job market will be competitive. You can’t afford to miss good opportunities because you didn’t prepare.
No one wants to hire someone who can’t follow instructions — especially online. During and after the coronavirus lockdown, employers will be extra sensitive to red flags. If there’s a possibility that you’ll be working remotely, employers will want to know that you’ll be able to figure things out on your own. An employee who can’t follow directions is even more of a problem when they’re remote.
So, if a job application asks you to submit a writing sample as a PDF, or an interviewer asks you to join a Zoom meeting from your computer, don’t send a Word doc or join from your phone.”
To learn more about video interview etiquette, check out these tips from EnterprisersProject.com, such as virtual eye contact — looking into the camera lens when it counts — and how to look the part for the job you want. They also recommend you show up with ideas about how you might productively conduct your work from home.
What NOT to Do in a Job Interview
If there are DOs in participating in job interviews as the interviewee, there are also DON’Ts, or things that could ruin your chances of landing the job.
- Do not speak ill of past employers. Expect interviewers to ask several questions about your work history, particularly on your past employment. They might even bait you when they start asking the reasons why you quit or were separated from the company. Do not badmouth your previous employers, not even if they were the employers from hell and your complaints are completely valid. The interviewer will conclude that, if you are able to do this with your previous employers, you may do it with them in the future. You should always talk about them positively, but do not go to the extent of making up stories just to make them look good.
- Do not talk too much. Talking too much or taking too long in providing answers for direct questions will give your interviewers the impression that you have trouble getting to the point. This could also mean that you are just bluffing because you don’t know a thing about what you are saying.
- Do not display impatience. Is the interview running late? Just stay calm and cool and wait patiently. This may actually be done on purpose, to see how patient you are. Constantly looking at your watch or letting your impatience show on your face will certainly not earn you any points.
Best Practices After the Interview
Thank the Interviewers
The job interview is an opportunity given to jobseekers to show or demonstrate their skills and other qualifications for the job. The interviewers gave you this opportunity, so you should thank them for taking the time to interview you.
Give a firm handshake before and after the interview. Many interviewers observe how you do your handshake. If you have a firm grip, it exudes confidence; but do not grip too tightly, because it will make you appear tense and nervous. If it is too brief, they might think that you are uncomfortable making long contact with others. Do not be too aggressive with pumping, either, because it makes you look unnaturally eager.
COVID Update: Onscreen Goodbyes
The remote version of a handshake may prove as simple as a big, sincere smile. This last moment onscreen is your chance to reveal your warmth and gratitude for the interview.
You can make a brief note about the interview — e.g., “You really tested my I.Q. with your tough questions,” or, “I feel like we would work really well together.” Or slide in a personal note, such as, “My dog Fido has been patiently waiting for me to take him for a walk,” or, “Now I’m off to help my dad cook dinner.”
Let your interviewer(s) know that you will follow up immediately with any requests they had. Do it within an hour if possible, or at the very least within twenty-four hours.
If you feel that the interview took a nose-dive, or you forgot to mention something vital, then an email follow-up can help. No need to beg or apologize; rather, attach an article that might be of interest, or offer to submit a project — some type of value-add — that carries the conversation, and possibly the work-relationship, forward.
Interviewing for a job is one of the crucial steps in getting hired. You can never really do away with interviews, because all job-hiring and recruitment processes include them. Even a simple conversation with the employer may count as an interview. Observe these best interview practices, and they will help you to land your next job, or even your dream job.
Cover image used with permission from and gratitude for priscilla-du-preez-432_UfGLmTA-unsplash.jpg of Unsplash.
This post comes to you as a portion of the book:
MY JOB Gen Z: Finding Your Place in a Fast-Changing World
(c) 2021 by Suzanne Skees and Sanam Yusuf
An open-source, narrative nonfiction book full of true stories of jobs along with best practices for how to make your dream-job come true.
Note from the authors:
Join us each Tuesday and Friday as we release highlights from our new book, that will be FREE to our community members.
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–Suzanne & Sanam