Let’s face it, interviews are always stressful no matter how many you have been on or how confident you are in your abilities. An interview is your chance to audition for the job! Most of the time there is only one shot to show a prospective employer you are exactly what they are looking for. Part of my job as a recruiter is to prepare my candidates as thoroughly as possible before they go to an interview. This list is by no means comprehensive, but here are some tips to both help you avoid common mistakes and put your best foot forward.
1. Don’t Forget the “Captain Obvious” No-No’s
There are certain things that can turn off an employer before an interview even begins. It seems that sometimes people forget or maybe aren’t aware of what these are, so here is a list of several common no-no’s that have cost some candidates the job they wanted.
• Do Not Smoke Before Your Interview!! There are few things that leave a more negative impression than a potential employee smelling like the Marlboro Man.
• Do Not Chew Gum. No matter your chewing style, it is nearly impossible to convey professionalism while chomping on a piece of Juicy Fruit.
• Do Not Curse. Do I really need to explain the reasoning here?
• Do Not Speak Negatively About a Previous Employer/Co-Worker. Negativity, in any aspect of your interview, will not be perceived well.
• Do Not Look Sloppy. Wear a suit or a blazer. If you do not have something appropriate, then it is time to go shopping. If you are on a budget, check out the selection at Goodwill!
2. Stop Talking!!
Obviously, I do not mean that you should not speak in your interview, but there is a fine line between answering their question and over-sharing and it is very easy to forget where that line is! Especially, when you might be a little nervous. In order to stop yourself from saying more than what is needed, answer exactly the question that has been asked of you and nothing more. If there is an awkward
pause or you sense that your interviewer needs more information, ask, “Should I elaborate?” or, “Did that answer your question?” This will allow the interviewer to specify where they might want you to expand. Also, these small pauses can give you time to gather your thoughts and refine your answers.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice
Here at Vaco, we do extensive preparation with our candidates before every interview. If you do not have the advantage of working with a Vaco recruiter then grab a friend, spouse, pet, whatever and practice answering commonly asked interview questions (if you do not know which questions are typically asked in many interviews, let me introduce you to my friend, Google: https://www.google.com/). Rehearse exactly what you will say if asked, for example, “What is one of your weaknesses?” or, “Tell me about a time you have had to deal with conflict and how you overcame the obstacle.” These types of questions are always tricky so practicing will help you to fine-tune your answer. Take it a step further and write out your response. This is not only helpful to perfect your wording but writing things down is a trick to aide memory retention. HAVE EXAMPLES READY for everything you have prepared to say. You could say, “One of my strengths is that I am very detail oriented,” but how much better does this sound? – “One of my strengths is that I am very detail oriented, for example, I developed a check system at company ‘xyz’ during month end close to ensure there were no mistakes and that every fraction of a cent was accounted for.” Examples allow the interviewer to understand exactly how your experience can relate to their specific job requirements.
4. Channel Your Inner Boy/Girl Scout and Be Prepared
• Research the company. I am not necessarily saying that you need to dig deep and be able to toss out their quarterly gross profit margin (depending on the position, you might actually need to know this), but at least know the basics – the names and positions of the people you are interviewing with, what the company does, where other offices are located, etc.
• Do not come empty handed. Bring a portfolio, folder, or notebook and have multiple copies of your resume, one for yourself to reference, and one for each person that you will be meeting with. Also, bring the job description and have notes written about how your previous experience and knowledge relates to each of their requirements. This will help you pinpoint which pieces of your resume you need to highlight with your interviewer. In addition, prepare a list of pertinent questions to ask about the company, its culture, keys to success in the position, etc. Even if some of your questions have been answered during the discussion this shows that you have taken the time to prepare and have thought through what you want to get out of the interview.
• Look up the address of your interview site in advance and if you have enough time, go ahead and do a test run to see how long it will take you to get there. The worst possible thing you can do is to be late for your interview, you can also be too early. Arrive at least 10 minutes before, any earlier than that wait in your car. Depending on the traffic in your city, give yourself an extra 20-30 minutes in case you are delayed.
5. Remember the Basics
• Be an active listener. Sit up straight and forward in your seat. Maintain good eye contact, smile, and nod when appropriate. Avoid slouching, fidgeting, playing with your hair, or mumbling. Poor body language can be the difference between acing or bombing the interview.
• Ask for the job! Some might think that this is pushy or can make you come across too eager but that is not true! I once had a client tell me that they were very impressed with my candidate and thought that she would be a great fit for their position, but they ended up choosing someone else because they could not gauge her interest level. A great way to let them know that you are interested and end the interview is to say, “It was a pleasure meeting with you today Ms./Mr.______. I really feel that my experience and background make me a great fit for this role and I would love to become a part of your team. Is there anything in my background that makes you think that I might not be a good fit for this role?” This is a simple way to wrap up the interview, convey your interest, and address any concerns they might have.
At the end of the day, it is impossible to prepare for everything that may be thrown at you in an interview and there are certain things that are out of your control. For example, you could be a doppelganger for the interviewer’s kindergarten nemesis and he just could not stand to work with you every day. Not much you can do about that, but hopefully these tips will help you to avoid bombing your next interview and give you a leg up over your competition.
Massey, Jennifer. Thurs, 21 Jul 2016. “5 Ways NOT to Bomb the Big Interview.” LinkedIn. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/5-ways-bomb-big-interview-jennifer-massey