How to Interview Like It's Your Job
It’s pretty safe to say that I’ve become an expert on job interviews. Over the past year I’ve had 30-40 interviews both over the phone and in person. Interviewing can be nerve-wracking and stressful but also exhausting. I personally have struggled with fighting interview burnout and have had to consciously work on being upbeat and positive before each one. Believe me, after being rejected for months, it gets hard to not feel defeated.
The job market can be a fickle thing. One would assume that when a company posts a job opening that it will be filled within a few weeks or a month. This is far from how things actually work. The job application and interview process can be long and slow. This example is a little unique but I applied for one particular job in May and it wasn’t until August that the hiring manager reached out for an interview. FOUR months later. Now every company is different and as an outsider you don’t know what is happening internally to impact hiring. It can be very discouraging and confusing, but just stay positive and don’t give up! You never know when you will get a call to set up an interview.
Interviews can be very stressful. I try to be as prepared as much as possible before each one. Take time to research the company, look over the job description in detail, view the interviewer’s Linkedin profile to see their background, and prepare notes on how your experience can bring value to the company. Nine out of ten interviews usually start with the opener of “so, tell me a little about yourself,” so think about how you can summarize your career in a little elevator speech that will kick off the interview. I feel like I’ve perfected mine, but always try to line up my talking points with the individual job I’m interviewing for. If a job description has a lot of media relations-related bullets, I make sure to bring up my experience handling media and story pitching. The most important thing is to be prepared and know your stuff. A hiring manager can certainly tell if you’re winging it!
Here are some tips that on having a successful interview in 2018!
1. Be On Time. When I go on an interview I arrive to the premises at least 20 minutes early to make sure I find parking and the appropriate building etc. I stay in my car, do some last minute preparations and just take some moments of quiet to get in the correct mind space. I head inside about five minutes before my interview because I think it’s rude of me to be any earlier than that. This is a pet peeve of mine as an interviewer and just working professional. When someone arrives more than five minutes early it shows me that they don’t respect my time. To me, it’s rude to be super early and also late! Showing up at your scheduled interview time is key!
2. Dress Appropriately. Having proper interview attire is something I’ve noticed the younger generation is having trouble with. Now I don’t think you need to fully suit up for an interview, but wearing modest, professional work attire is definitely still required. I personally stick to wearing black dresses because that’s what I find most comfortable and appropriate for the jobs I’m interviewing for, but wearing pants and a nice dress shirt is more than appropriate. Your interview attire should be based on the job you’re interviewing for. Modesty is also something I find is changing. In today’s culture we’re taught if you got it, flaunt it. I suggest keeping the goodies under wraps as much as possible during an interview. If you question your outfit in any way, go with your gut and maybe tone down the provocativeness. You want the focus of your interview to be about your qualifications and not on what you’re wearing. You don’t want to give the interviewer any reason to question your judgment or professionalism, as silly as it may sound, this bias definitely still exists in the professional world!
3. Put Your Phone Away. This should be common sense, but I’ve been shocked throughout my career to have interviewees leave their cell phone out on the table during their interview. This is a huge NO NO. Having your phone out shows me as a potential hiring manager that you’re distracted and that this job isn’t as important to you than whoever is on the other end of your phone. Most interviews last 30 minutes to an hour, your phone will be just fine in your purse on the floor or pocket while you’re in the interview.
4. Always Ask Questions. Before going into the interview, have a list of a few questions to ask the hiring manager. This lets them know that you’re really interested in the job and also gives you a voice and allows you to learn more about the company. This is always a challenge for me because a lot of times my questions are answered during the interview, but I always have a few standard ones I like to ask. A few of my favorites are:
- What is your favorite part about working for the company?
- What is the department culture like and how is it structured?
- What characteristics do you think are required by someone to excel in this position?
Steer clear of money-related and benefit-related questions during the first interview. These topics will come up in later interviews once you’ve made it to the final stages.
5. Always Send a Thank You. This concept might seem archaic and old school but it really is a nice touch. I send a quick thank you email after each interview just to thank the person for taking the time to speak with me. If you really want to stand out, send a hand-written note and mail it the day of your interview so the interviewer receives it the next day. It always adds a nice touch and may put you to the top of the list.
6. Follow Up, But Don’t Be Pushy. The number one thing I’ve learned during all my interviews over the past year are that things move at a snails pace. Things can change on a daily basis within a company and sometimes hiring managers have to delay filling positions a few weeks or months. Hiring managers are also busy so their first round of interviews may last over a 1-2-week time span. Typically before your interview ends, a good hiring manager will set your expectations as to next steps and timeline. Typically if I don’t hear from the HR rep or hiring manager in a week or so after my interview, I send a quick email just asking where things stand. This allows enough time for any rejection email to be sent if I didn’t make it to the next round, but also shows you are still interested in the position. Sometimes you get bad news, but at least you have closure and can move on to your next job endeavor.
7. Don’t Lose Hope. This is something I personally have to remind myself every time I don’t get a job I was really hoping for. Rejection stings and it can be easy to get discouraged when you don’t get a job that you’re qualified for and really wanted. Trusting the Lord through your job search is pivotal and fully knowing He has your future in His hands will give you the strength to persevere on to the next interview!