If you’ve been asked to interview for a job, you’ve already impressed someone. These job interview tips will help you continue to shine on the big day.
This post is an excerpt from Melissa’s new book, The Girl’s Guide: Getting the Hang of Your Whole Complicated, Unpredictable, Impossibly Amazing Life.
Times are tough. Job interviews are in short supply. Lucky-ducky you, then, for even getting an interview!
Of course, once you score an interview, you immediately begin to second-guess everything about the job for which you applied. The job must have a hidden fatal flaw, like no benefits or a deep belief in the seven-day workweek. If it’s worth having, why on earth would they call you?
Look at it this way: you wouldn’t have gotten the interview if someone wasn’t impressed with you. (Click here to tweet this boost of support.) No one gives interviews out of pity. Remember a few job interview tips, and you’ll shine when it’s time to prove that your passion and experience are the best fit.
Should you interview for jobs you don’t want?
Every interview is practice for another interview. In a perfect world, you’ll find a listing online, do your research, stun them in the interview, and end up with your dream job. But sometimes it doesn’t work like this — companies will “forget” to include the 12-hour workday in the job listing, or your potential boss will be a fire-breathing dragon.
Either way, make sure to do your best in the interview. You shouldn’t throw it just because you’re angry that it didn’t turn out to be everything you’d dreamed of.
It’s like dating. This company has good taste! Don’t fault them for that. Go on every interview you’re offered and hone your interview skills, because you never know who you might meet or what pleasantly unforeseen job connection might result.
Preparing for an Interview
Let’s be frank: Your SAT scores don’t matter anymore, and nobody will give a hoot where you went to college if you can’t describe why you’re a team player or what your ideal job would be.
Before you go on an interview, get to know everything you can about the organization and the people who’ll be interviewing you. Ask around, get the inside scoop on the place from friends who work there or who know people who do. Do a very sophisticated Advanced Google Search on the company. Take notes. Write down a few questions you have about the job and the office culture. Think about why you want this job, and try to come up with good answers to some questions you’re likely to be asked.
You don’t want to go nuts, but I do believe the more prepared and in-the-know you are, the more comfortable and relaxed you’ll feel in the interview, and therefore the more likely you are to perform with elegance and charm instead of like a wooden doll with indigestion.
All the research and practice interviews you’ve done with friends or a mentor have a far better likelihood of paying off than letting nerves immobilize you or resolving to “just wing it.”
Interview day essentials
That trusty resume
Be sure to bring some extra copies of your resume, a pen and paper, and your list of carefully researched questions. Give your clothes some liberal cat-hair de-linting, and, above all, don’t forget to breathe.
Put your resume in that pleather folder with the brass corners and carry a smart briefcase-ish bag. No one needs to know that you’ve spent the last six months eating cottage cheese out of the container while wearing ripped underwear. And no one is going to know, all right? That’s between you and you.
Your interview dress code
A basic suit, or at least a jacket and pants (or skirt) that match.
I have friends who will fight me to the death about there being certain jobs for which you can go the casual route, but I beg to differ. One time I wore a sweater and a skirt to an interview — I rationalized that it was okay to skip the suit since the interview was for a position at a three-person start-up and was conducted in my potential employer’s studio apartment.
Though I got the job, my hypercritical boss later told me that she’d considered my lack of professional attire very poor form. If the interview is with some seriously progressive company, some hypermodern sanctum sanctorum of hip, maybe you’re wearing a pair of knee-high boots instead of heels with your skirt, but I beg you to fight the good fight against your inner underdresser and still wear the suit.
You stand to lose nothing by looking every bit the competent, together go-getter, no matter position for which you are applying.
So many interview questions!
Relax. The interview is not a hostage situation, but an opportunity for you to talk about yourself and to suss out your potential employer. You both want to see if you like each other and if you might make a good match.
Your interviewer has already seen your resume. Now he wants to see if you’re not only someone who can speak articulately about your goals and talents but also someone he could stand to sit next to on a five-hour flight across the country. Which is why you want to be your most delightful, smart, engaging self. Notice how I said your self.
If you go into an interview trying to outsmart the process and decide to be someone you’re not, it will show, and you may appear to be suffering from multiple personality disorder (not typically a boss’s dream candidate). You may blow that interview altogether.
Interview questions may be generic, but you’re not. That’s the lovely part: you’re like the divine pâté on otherwise bland Wasa toast. It’s the questions’ very genericness that will let you shine by thinking how you might answer them beforehand.
You just want to answer in as compelling a fashion as you can muster, without getting overeager (like a puppy tap dancing for a chew toy), or dwelling too long on any jobs that ended badly. Whatever you do, don’t lie or pretend to have expertise you don’t.
Stop second-guessing yourself. You’re going to knock ‘em dead at your next interview.
Melissa Kirsch is the author of The Girl’s Guide: Getting the Hang of Your Whole Complicated, Unpredictable, Impossibly Amazing Life and has written for New York magazine, National Geographic Traveler, Nerve, and Good Housekeeping. She is an editor in New York City.