Feel nervous about an interview? Worse yet, can’t even get an interview? We’re about to put all the butterflies to bed help you on your way to the career you’ve always dreamed of.
Let’s jump straight in to our first tip.
1. Know Yourself
The number one sign of fear and dread is the lack of proper preparation. I’ll hit more on the details later, but in general, you need to know a few simple things. You need to know yourself, your history, your strengths, and character. Draw on anything in your past that could construe leadership qualities, dependability, being a team player, or going above and beyond. Don’t forget your personal experiences outside of work– Planned a successful vacation? Negotiated a great deal? Volunteered for a while at your church? These things make you who you are, and, believe it or not, these are qualities you can use in most jobs. The important thing is to focus on the traits that came out in those situations and take note of them. You may be able to use that in your resume, or interview. The key factor is to keep brainstorming on your past until you start to believe in yourself. Even if you use NONE of the details in your resume or interview, you need to know what makes you a great hire.
2. Know Your Industry and Employer
As an IT manager who’s done a lot of hiring, it’s easy to spot the candidates who’ve done their research. When you write a cover letter or go to an interview, you need to know as much as you can about your potential job. I’m not talking about buzz words either. Find out where the headquarters of the company is, how long they’ve been around, and any details about the office you’ll be working in. Get a feel for whether they operate on a military like schedule, or are more free spirits. See if you can figure out who they’ve partnered with, and any recent achievements. If you’re really a sleuth, see if you can figure out who your bosses and peers will be and some details about them. Again, you may not actually use much of this information, but it ads a TON to your preparation, and boosts your confidence. Moreover, this preparation adds a LOT of context to whatever they tell you in the interview– you can respond in a way that shows you’re on the same page with your potential employer.
3. Prepare an Awesome Resume
Your resume is very important in any job. This is your chance to put your best foot forward and get a shot at an interview. Employers are going to be looking for your work history, traits, personality, and glean personal details of your life. This is a place to sweat the small stuff, and it’s no time to be humble– it is, however, not a place to lie. You want to show a complete work history, preferably being relevant. Were you off of work and doing odd jobs for a time? Put down the entire time as “self employed”, and put in enough details to sound productive and successful during that time, again, don’t lie, but put your best foot forward– no need to bring out any negatives. Did you volunteer during that time? List that if you need to. EMBELLISH YOUR WORK DESCRIPTIONS. Don’t hold back– again, don’t lie. Did you lead a successful project one time? List that as an accomplishment under your job. Get fired? Forget that ever happened– That job wasn’t a good fit for your skill set or salary requirements. This is a good place to use some language that’s a higher reading level than you normally speak. You can call nearly any type of organizing “logistics”– use words like that in your resume, but use them correctly. Now, comb over it all and look for things that should definitely be left out or changed. Is your email firstname.lastname@example.org? Don’t let that get anywhere near your resume. Go get a gmail, apple, or other free email account and choose a normal or professional sounding name. Joe.A.Love@gmail.com will work just fine. just don’t include anything that looks unprofessional. Is there anything on your resume to indicate that you might miss work? Pregnant? Medical issues? Single mom/dad? You might want to consider that an employer may see the negatives in those situations before hinting at any of that in your resume, or even in the interview. Employers generally do not probe very far into your personal life (due to legal risks), so you’re better off leaving it out, unless it’s something that’ll really accentuate your talents without adding a lot of risk to the way an employer sees you. Do you move around often? Find a way to minimize that fact on your resume, or at least, say something like “took a job closer to school” and perhaps find a way to indicate that this part of the country is where you call home long term.
4. Write A Killer Cover Letter
Remember how we talked about knowing yourself and your employer? Put a little of that into your cover letter. Let the employer know that you’re excited for the opportunity to get your foot in the door at a company you admire. Here’s a great time to throw in a hint that their geographic location works well for you, and perhaps that you’ve got or are going to have roots in this area (just enough so they don’t think you’re going to move sometime in the next 4-5 years and leave them hanging). Be sure to BRIEFLY highlight the traits you have that make you a good fit for the position.
5. Prepare For The Interview!
First and foremost, make a dry run. Look up common resume questions, and just answer them as you would in an interview. Consider what an employer would read into your answers. Don’t hint that you’re angry, hard to get along with, or constantly looking for change. Apart from the actual interview, make sure you’re prepared to get there and look professional. Get those clothes out and iron those bad boys or, better yet, go get them dry cleaned. MANY dry cleaners will give you free dry-cleaning if you’re unemployed and interviewing– just call and ask if you need to. Print out 2-3 copies of your resume and cover letter and remember to bring them with you to the interview. I cannot stress these two points enough: DRIVE TO THE LOCATION so you know where it is and how long it takes to get there and BE THERE at a minimum of 30 minutes early. Lastly, shut your phone totally off during the interview. No buzzing, no flashing lights– nothing– turn the thing totally off (you’ll live).
6. Take The Interview
Ok, you’re here, you’re early, and you’re just a tad overdressed for the position. You may check in with security, and wait there with your phone off. If someone comes to get you, let them know your name and that you’re there to interview for the [insert position here] position. Greet them with a firm handshake and look them straight in the eye with a smile. If that’s not who’s leading the interview, be sure to repeat the greeting, handshake, and smile when you finally meet who whoever is. If anyone in the interview room looks like they don’t have a copy of your resume already, offer one to them. Now, sit up straight, and get started. They may break the ice with a soft ball question about where you’re your from, or what you’re like, or something personal– but don’t forget, you’re interviewing– answer accordingly, but always sound friendly and open. Use good grammar, avoid slang, and regardless of how friendly the interviewer seems, be nice, but speak and act professionally. When they get to the harder questions, smile, nod, pause a couple of seconds, then respond. Always lead with something positive like “great question” or “I’m glad you asked” — if they ask about old employers, ALWAYS say mainly positive things about them. “Yes, I had a great job at XYZ corp. I enjoyed my time there, it was challenging, but I learned a lot.” If they asked why you left, avoid the temptation to say anything negative– turn it into a positive somehow. Let’s say you were fired, say something like “I’d outgrown the position and found myself not learning or progressing professionally, so I took the opportunity to work for XYZ company where I had more growth potential . (or left unemployed, “I the opportunity to do some freelancing/school”). It can be OK to mention being laid off, especially if the company was in a volatile industry or was having financial problems. Just remember to be positive, project yourself as someone who enjoys a challenge, avoid negatives, and overall, put your best foot forward while being honest and sounding professional.
7. Land The Job
If you took these tips to heart, you have a great chance of landing the job. If you do, remember, to show up a little early, be friendly, and start out on a good foot with your bosses and peers. If you didn’t land the job, reassess what went wrong. If you think your resume many not be so great, hire a professional resume writer– it’s worth it. Read their resume and memorize the thing. Incorporate the language they use into your interview. Resume writers can make you sound like a million bucks, and that alone may give you self confidence to perform better in an interview.
Hopefully, these tips have helped you understand what’s expected of you in the hiring process. Don’t worry if you fail a time or two, but always remember to learn from your mistakes. Failures are very valuable– they can teach you how to succeed. We’ll write more in depth articles on interviewing and resumes so stay sharp and stay tuned in.