You’ve spent days applying and sent in what feels like a thousand resumes. And now you finally have an interview. This is when the nerves start kicking in. What should you say? What should you wear? Do you know anything about the industry?
We’re here to help. Review this list of dos and don’ts to ace that next interview!
Dress for the Job You Want
That’s right, we’re back to that old cliché. But, there’s a reason people say it so often. This interview might be your only chance to make a lasting impression on a potential employer. You never get a second first impression. And if you do get the job, do you want to be seen as a regular employee or a candidate for promotion? Hopefully the latter. So dress like it!
Also, make sure to:
- Get a haircut (if needed)
- Trim your nails
- Take a shower that morning.
- Try to avoid any strong-smelling colognes, perfumes, body washes, or deodorants.
You don’t want anything to distract the interviewer from why you’re right for the job!
Learn Interview Etiquette
How’s your handshake? Everything goes back to making that immediate, lasting impression. If you give a puny handshake, you seem weak. If you give an overly strong handshake, you come off as aggressive. It’s getting to that happy medium that’s difficult.
The same thing applies to eye contact. You don’t want to stare into the interviewer’s eyes for a straight hour, but also don’t want stare at a corner of the room or look out the window. Be attentive and go for a balance between the two extremes.
How can you practice your handshake or eye contact? And, for that matter, how do you know if you have a good handshake? Join a local professional group!
- Ask other members to practice interview techniques with you. These groups exist to help people master the fine art of business etiquette.
- Even if the organiztion you’re interviewing with doesn’t have a traditional office setting, these groups can teach lessons applicable to all workplaces.
- Mock interviews are especially helpful to highlight any flaws in your technique.
Always Have Questions Prepared
The the first thing you should do after scheduling an interview is research the company’s history, values, and culture. You want to make sure you fit in—and mentioning the company’s mission statement and how that applies to you is always a good start.
However, you also need to come prepared with questions. The more specific and tailored to the company, the better. Ask about:
- The job and potential future responsibilities.
- The work environment and culture. For example, asking the interviewer why they like working at the company shows you’re interested in the people and culture, not just climbing the company ladder.
Follow-ups matter. Start writing a handwritten thank-you note immediately when you get home. Bring up a few things you learned in the interview, and send it off as soon as possible. When the applicant pool for a certain job is especially competitive, this helps you stand out. If you’re unable to send out a handwritten note, send a personalized email.
Remember that whole bit about leaving a good first impression? If you’re late to the interview, you’ve already shot yourself in the foot. In the interviewer’s eyes, if an applicant can’t make it to the interview on time, they simply don’t want the job enough.
Be early. It’s much better for you, as an applicant, to wait on the interviewer, rather than the other way around. Just don’t arrive too early—ten minutes or so should be fine.
Talk Too Much … Or Too Little
Interviews can be nerve-wracking, and some applicants find themselves rambling just to move the discussion along. If you take up your interviewer’s time with long descriptions of achievements, you’re preventing the interviewer from asking questions they want to ask.
But don’t make your responses too short either. Remember, it’s all about balance. Avoid giving one word (or, in some cases, one sentence, answers). When asked about what it was like working at “such-and-such” company, don’t respond with “great.” Your response should be about what you learned from working at a specific company with its own culture, values, and people.
Complain About Your Last Boss
This can be tempting—especially if you were fired or let go from a previous position. Who wouldn’t want to vent about their awful boss when someone specifically asks about their time at that company? However, complaining about anyone in an interview is the hallmark of an unprofessional employee. So come prepared to answer a question specifically addressing past negative experiences.
Bring Up Controversial Topics
Interviews are about showing the interviewer why you’re a perfect fit for the job. They are not a place to discuss religion, politics, and other hot-button topics. No matter how informal the style of the interview, it’s still an interview.
Most industries are fairly closely knit. Odds are the interviewer knows somebody who knows somebody else that is a best friend of a previous boss. So, don’t lie. Even if your industry isn’t closely knit, lying always comes back to bite you.
Go For It
In the end, you can only do so much preparation. When you’re ready, you’re ready. After that, it’s all about balance and confidence. Walk in with your head held high and knock that interview out of the park!