So maybe you went to the Willowbrook Mall and walked around passing out your resume to every store with unlocked doors. Maybe, you were applying to every retail job that Craigslist had posted for a forty-mile radius. Maybe, you’ve finally graduated and are applying at a big corporation. It’s all the same, regardless of where you applied, you’ve finally gotten that call back you’ve been waiting for. Congrats! They want you to come in next Tuesday for your interview. Wait, though… interview? Say what?
1. Dress appropriately, but comfortably. As you get ready for the interview, you’ll be tempted to dress on two extreme ends of the spectrum. On one end, you’ll be tempted to put on your most professional and dry-cleaned suit. You know the one… it was dry-cleaned the last time you wore it, which also happened to be the first time. On the other end, you’ll be tempted to wear something suitable for the weather (which, for those of you living near New York City, means the hundred-degree heat wave we’re dealing with this week… which means shorts). Don’t do either of these things. If you dress more formally than you’re comfortable with, you’ll be fidgety the whole time, and if you dress too comfortably you’ll look sloppy. Go for a happy medium: nice dark pants and your favorite button-down, or for girls, linen pants and a dressy top. Always wear full-length pants, close-toed shoes, and have your shoulders covered, but don’t let your outfit hinder your ability to interview well.
2. Don’t lie about who you are, but don’t apologize, either. While there’s a fine line between being self-deprecating and self-pitying, it’s much better to toe that line than to sound like you’re hiding something. Telling your interviewer a funny story about how you hit your head on the elevator door when it didn’t open quickly enough on your way up will stick in his mind much longer than a generic list of your accomplishments, and you’ll come across as much more relatable. That being said, though… don’t turn the interview into an audition for Tosh.0, or make them feel as though you have no self-confidence. It’s okay to say you’re known for being chatty- it’s not okay to point out a glaring flaw with the promise to make it better. The best way to do this? List your biggest strength as your recognition of both your faults and your strong points. They’ll know you have a realistic sense of who you are, and they’ll know you aren’t going to hide anything from them.
3. Don’t bring in a ‘stuffed resume’. It’s always recommended to have an impressive resume but don’t bullshit them. An interviewer can tell when you’re listing little things just to make the resume look bigger, and that won’t impress them nearly as much as listing things you’ve actually invested time and effort in, even if it means putting the fifty hours you put into the school musical as a job instead of listing each family you babysat for once as a separate job.
4. Don’t apologize for inexperience. The last thing your interviewer wants to hear is ‘I don’t have much experience, but I’m willing to learn!’ Of course you are, or you wouldn’t be there. Rather than drawing attention to your lack of experience, explain your successes in what you ARE experienced in. Never held a job because you spent every summer at cheer camp? Let them know how many times you went back the next morning after feeling so sore the day before you had to sit in a tub of ice: that’s much more impressive than a promise you shouldn’t have to make in the first place.
5. List things you actually enjoy when asked. The most common mistake someone can make in an interview is to recite a list of ‘approved hobbies’. Don’t be ashamed of your addiction to reading romance novels, or the scar on your elbow from falling off your dirtbike last summer. The more honest you are, the more likely you are to discover a unique connection to your potential employer, and if they totally despise everything to do with your favorite hobby, you probably won’t have a good work experience there anyway. I hope you’re noticing the trend because honesty wins you SO ma
ny more favors.
6. Don’t try to uselessly one-up your competition. One year, I lived with a girl who, within five minutes of meeting someone, had usually told them that she was born in Lithuania. This is sometimes cool and useful information, but often times, it felt like she was saying it just to seem more unique than everyone around her. Avoid being that person in your interview. If the information doesn’t fit in with what you’re talking about, you’ll sound like you’re trying too hard.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer to clarify something. Your interviewer is a human, too… so unless you’re both socially flawless AND members of MENSA, it’s likely that at least something is going to get lost in translation. Don’t let the interviewer’s superiority over-intimidate you out of asking a question that you really need to ask. They’ll appreciate you being willing to ask for clarification, and it will build a stronger employer-employee relationship from even BEFORE day one. Trying to sound like you automatically understand everything, especially when you’re actually confused, can not only make you sound arrogant, but it can make you seem unwilling to learn. Different employers may be on the lookout for different employee traits, but it’s pretty universal that NONE of them are looking for a petulant employee.
8. Have fun with the interview, but remember: it’s not a coffee date. On the other end of the spectrum from the petrified interviewee, is the interviewee who seems to have forgotten that it’s an interview. Don’t become this person. Employers want to get to know you, but the ultimate goal is to see if you’re right for the job. Don’t annoy them by telling tale after tale about the last great cocktail party you went to. It’s wasting the interviewer’s time and you’ll be remembered as ‘that kid who just wouldn’t shut up’. It’s also incredibly unprofessional.
9. Don’t badmouth former employers. Everyone’s had that one boss from hell and your employer has probably had one too. They don’t expect you to have absolutely ‘oh my god love them so much I sobbed like a baby when I left!’ feelings about every single one of your old bosses, so don’t bother with that tactic. That doesn’t mean you need to vent about Mr. Terrible during your interview, though. It’s going to leave a bad taste in your interviewer’s mouth, if they feel like you’re sharing bad gossip with them, and they’re less likely to either respect you or offer you the job. Interviews aren’t supposed to be scary, but they also aren’t high school. Save the trash talking, the rude names, the bitterness, and the resentment for talking to your friends about the interview later.
10. Do not, under any circumstances, bring a friend or family member to the interview. Even if you had someone drive you to the interview, make plans with them ahead of time to either browse the nearest Barnes and Noble until you’re finished or sit in the car. It’s extremely unprofessional to have someone there with you. This includes siblings, too and while an employer has probably been stuck babysitting at some point too, your inability to call in a favor for the interview, is going to make them wonder how many times you’ll need to bring your baby brother to work, too.
Most of all, though, remember: interviews aren’t war interrogations! Your interviewer isn’t trying to scare you, he or she is trying to get to know you. Smile! Best of luck : ]