Another re-post from my blog…and my own personal interview experience.
As I look back over my job search for the past few months, I thought about my interviews that I had and how well I think they went. I have wondered how I appeared to the interviewer, what I could have done differently, what could have made me stand out, and what I should have avoided doing.
My first thought was: I haven’t actually had an interview in 15 years! I’m sure I had one, but I don’t remember it. The other jobs I had were through personnel services. There’s really no interview for those. They started out as temporary positions, but later turned into job offers. As I think back over the recent interviews, I realize that I was a tad bit unprepared for them. Most days I feel like a big unprofessional goof and I feel like I may have presented myself that way. I’ve discussed it with a couple of people and I’ve come away with some great pointers.
1. Have confidence. I have always struggled with my confidence level. I’ve been borderline Type A all my life where I know that I am fully capable of doing certain tasks or handling job situations, but I always doubt myself. I didn’t apply to some places, because the thought in my head was “there’s someone better for this job than me”. Sometimes I thought, “I’m not good enough for this job, because it pays too much and I’ve never earned that sort of a wage.” Finally, I had to break down and apply for a few of those jobs. Yes, I got the “thank you for applying” email or letter. When I did go to an actual interview, though, I gave myself a pep talk before getting out of the car. I would check my makeup to make sure I didn’t have lipstick on my teeth or anything. I would tell myself that I was fully capable of the job. Yes, when it was all said and done, I would return to the car and critique myself and every word. Sometimes I would wonder to myself “did I only think that or did I actually say it out loud?” With each interview, I felt more confident in my personal presentation (appearance).
2. Look presentable for the job you’re seeking. There’s no need to overdress for an interview. For one interview I went to, I wasn’t sure how to dress. I went with “business casual”, just in case. After I got there, I saw that the owner and employees were in polo shirts with the company logo and khakis, shorts, or whatever they wanted. Casual. For another one I went to, I was told over the phone to dress “business casual” or “business professional”. Knowing the reputation of the company, I went for the latter, as well as I could with what I had in my wardrobe. I gave myself a mani/pedi the night before and worked harder on my hair than normal (usually a ponytail, but I left it down for the interview). I accessorized minimally and made sure I didn’t have lipstick on my teeth or lint stuck to my pants. I gave myself a once over when I got out of my car, before I went inside.
3. Be punctual. This point cannot be over-emphasized. Being late can ruin an interview before it ever begins. I try to be 5 to 10 minutes early, which allows me a second or two to go over my appearance that last time, pop a mint, and do any touch-ups. It also would allow time to rehearse your responses and any questions you may need to ask.
4. Give clear, concise answers. In the line of work I was in, I heard the same questions over and over. You’d think I would have written them down and rehearsed them before the next interview. Nope. I wish I would have put more thought into what I would say at the next one. (Perhaps role play would have worked. Hubs would have been an excellent interviewer and he’s completely Type A and then some.) I tried to hold my tongue instead of saying, “well” or “um”. Those are words I am trying to steer clear of in my everyday vocabulary.
5. Feel free to ask questions. I felt awkward in interviews about asking certain questions. As a friend pointed out, don’t be afraid to ask questions about pay rate, insurance, etc. These tidbits of information will impact your life, so knowing if you’re making a livable wage or not is very pertinent to making the correct decision. Some ads for jobs did post a varied wage, some an exact amount, and some didn’t post one at all. Now that insurance is mandatory, it’s also good to know how long they expect you to be employed before you qualify for insurance coverage.
6. Think about sending a thank you letter to the interviewer. I was telling a friend how much I had really wanted a certain job at a particular place and how disappointed I was to get that dreaded “we hired someone else” letter. She asked me if I had sent a thank you letter. My face registered a completely blank, then surprised, reaction. Then I had to honestly state, “I’ve never heard of that before!” She told me that sometimes that little extra step can make the impression that makes them remember you. The key to that is to make sure you remember who you interviewed with (and the correct spelling of their name, of course) and send it promptly.
I am currently on a long-term temp job and if nothing comes up at this business before my job runs out, I will have these tips in mind if I have another interview. I will definitely feel more polished and that the interview was successful. Whether I am offered the job or not, I will know that I put my best foot forward.
I hope these tips help you, should you choose to use them in an interview. They are, by no means, an exhaustive list, but they are a fantastic starting point toward a successful interview and, potentially, a rewarding job. Best of luck!