Interviewing – one of the most nerve-wracking activities that we must take part of, BUT it doesn’t have to be all that scary. I know it sucks, but we all have to do it.
Luckily, I competed in “job interview” in high school; I know, weird, very weird. Who wants to compete in that?!
What happened was…I attended a vocational high school, where I was in “Office Technology,” so there really wasn’t many categories that I could compete in like the other shops (welding, machine shop, graphic arts, culinary, etc.).
Turns out, I’m pretty good at interviewing; I placed first at city level and second at state level two years in a row. So I’ve decided to share my best tips for interviewing to help you feel a little less nervous because it’s not actually as scary as your mind is telling you. Here are my best Interviewing 101 Tips:
Preparing for the Interview
- Make sure your resume is up to date
Ensure there are no spelling/grammar errors on it – and DON’T rely just on the “Spelling/Grammar” check because sometimes it’s a little off; make sure you thoroughly go through your resume to comb for spelling/grammar mistakes
Quick tip – if you’re apply for an administrative position, make sure your resume is formatted correctly; we often turn on the Paragraph Marker in Microsoft Word to ensure correct format. Many times we’ve seen applicants claim they are “proficient” in Microsoft Word, but really, they’re hitting the space bar 762 times instead of setting tabs correctly (seriously?!).
If you don’t know how to generate a resume, there are plenty of templates available online; Microsoft Word has some great templates for use.
- DON’T LIE ON YOUR RESUME
Refer back to Note 2 from tip #1 – we will figure it out if you lie on your resume. You won’t be faulted for not knowing every single thing in the world, there’s no need to lie; everyone is good at something, showcase that, but don’t lie to make yourself look better.
- Research the company and position you are applying for
Absorb as much knowledge as you can about the company so you’re not clueless when you get to the interview. When applicants show up without any attempted knowledge about our company or even the position they’ve applied for, it shows us that you’re not really dedicated and you just wanted a job, whatever job.
If you apply for every single open position, that can be a bit of a turn off for a company, because again, it looks like you just wanted any job you could get, and that you’re not focused or dedicated, which will inevitably transition into your job performance.
We want employees that are focused and dedicated and want a career, not just any old job. Research will impress an interviewer.
- Research average salary for that position in your area/location
Don’t do what I see many college Freshman do – DO NOT just google “(insert general career of choice) salary.” You won’t get an accurate figure because what that figure does not tell you is the education and experience that is required to get to that top salary, and it’s also not personalized to your area; different locations make higher/lower salaries than others.
Do yourself a favor and research very specific details about a career you’re interested in so you can get a clearer picture of which education path you should take, how far you should continue your education career, which specific degrees you’ll need, which and how much experience you’ll need, etc. If you’re only focused on salary, your mind can’t clearly get an idea of how to proceed.
Many times we see applicants enter a figure for their expected salary and often times, it’s way too high, and we can figure out that you’ve done absolutely zero research on a realistic salary expectation for that position in our area. It also tells us that you’re not willing to start at the bottom if you have no experience, and work your way up.
You want to be prepared during the interview when they inevitably bring up salary negotiations; a good way to step into salary negotiations is to tell us your research about that position a certain level of education/experience in your area typically averages at a certain amount and if you meet that average education/experience, you expect to earn the same average salary.
- Research frequently asked job interview questions
When you do research these frequently asked job interview questions, DO NOT memorize any suggested answers, but rather, personalize those answers to your life/experience/education.
We’re all nervous to interview and commonly google such questions just to get an idea of a proper/acceptable response because it can be very easy to freeze up during the interview if you haven’t prepared answers to some commonly asked questions, so if you take the time to research those questions and have a personalized answer ready, you may not be as nervous.
Another quick tip – practice your answers to those frequently asked questions so you can be prepared, but don’t practice so much that your answer starts to sound rehearsed; you want your answer to flow naturally.
- Have at least one or two questions prepared to ask the interviewer(s)
Typically, at the end of the interview, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions for them – it’s always good to have a couple questions prepared to ask them. Again, this shows us that you’ve done research, which has raised some questions for you, and/or it shows the interviewer that you’re interested and excited for the job.
Some good questions to ask relate to the company and/or the position you’re applying for. One of my favorite questions to ask is “what is a typical work day in this position?”
Some of your pre-planned questions make actually get answered during the interview, which is perfectly fine and that’s great, but don’t panic if you don’t have any further questions for the interviewer. A good way to tie in your research is to simply state that your questions (insert said questions) had been answered during the interview process.
- Bring supplies to the interview
Bring a pen, small notepad, and a copy (or a few) of your resume with you to the interview. Again, this shows that you’re prepared and willing to help because let’s face it, sometimes interviewers will slip up and will forget to bring a copy of your resume to the interview to review with you or just to have on hand as a reference to your skills/education/experience, etc.
Follow-up quick tip to Tip #6 – a good question to ask is if there is anything on your resume that the interview has any questions about or might need some clarification on.
During the Interview
- Dress professionally
Don’t wear anything too flashy – no large earrings, no large belt buckles, no bright nail polish, no 8-inch heels, etc. Dress for the position you’re applying for – no ripped jeans, no graphic tees, no hoodies, no flip-flops, etc. This isn’t a lounging day on your couch, this is a professional interview, treat it as such.
Stick to the basics/neutral colors – blue, white, black, khaki. A simple and professional outfit is key and nothing that draws too much attention, which may be distracting. You don’t want the interviewer(s) to only remember you for your outfit, especially if it’s inappropriate. You want the interviewer(s) to remember you for your professionalism, your skills, and your personality.
- Arrive 10 – 15 minutes early or right on time
Early is best because it shows that you’re reliable, eager, and plan very well, because traffic can be a real B, but if you’ve planned well enough and you’ve arrived early, especially with traffic, it shows that you’re not going to let an obstacle get in the way of your career, there will be no excuses, you do what it takes to get a job done and in a timely manner.
Don’t make your interviewer(s) wait on your – that’s not a good look. If you’re late, you’re just delaying your interviewer(s) day and you’re not making a good impression. Showing up early/on-time shows them that you care and you value their time as well.
- Be friendly, make eye contact, and SMILE
No matter who it is you’re meeting during that time, be cordial, polite, and friendly, make eye contact, smile, and mind your manners.
“Please” and “Thank You” go a long way in this world. If someone opens a door for you, offers to get you a beverage, asks you to take a seat, etc. mind your manners – just say “please” and “thank you.”
- Firm Handshake
Although somewhat unfair, many interviewers will immediately judge you based on your handshake.
A firm handshake is best – it shows that you’re confident, strong, and eager. A weak, fishtail handshake has been known to give off a weak, insecure demeanor, and one that would not be great in a leadership/team setting. I know, I know, it’s crazy, BUT there has been so much research on the power of a great firm handshake and the negative effects of a weak handshake.
You don’t want to crush the interviewer’s hand, but just give a proper, firm handshake to convey your confidence and strength, and eagerness to interview for a new career. Grip their hand like you want that job and you’re right for that job!
Quick tip – Refer back to Tip #3; smile and maintain eye contact during handshakes.
- Remain confident
Your body language will tell an interviewer right off that bat whether or not you’re confident in yourself. If you shy away from the entire process, or close yourself off, it conveys a certain level of insecurity in yourself that might be a good fit for a new job.
Practice good posture, show them your great smile, drop those shoulders back so you’re not making yourself smaller and insecure and closed off to the interviewer, sit toward the middle or at the edge of the seat, keep your hands folded/clasped on top of the table if there is one, or on your lap if there is not table in front of you.
- Speak clearly
DO NOT MUMBLE. Mumbling also conveys that you’re not confident in yourself and aren’t a very good communicator, but can be key in a professional setting. You don’t have to have a degree in Communications to be a good communicator, but just know how you come off when you speak and ensure you are easy to understand. No interviewer wants to be asking questions over and over just because they can’t understand you the first 3 times.
- Work in the position you’re applying for whenever you can
If you can work the position you’re applying for into your answers to the interviewer’s questions, that’s a great way to showcase that you’ve researched the position and you’re eager to start working in that position.
Let your personality shine! Interviewers are human begins too and they want to see your personality and learn more about you not just your skills. They don’t want a picture-perfect robotic person who is only worried about being perfect and giving perfect answers; let them see you! Showing your personality could be that one thing that sets you apart from other applicants that may have been super rehearsed and robotic; it makes you memorable.
After the Interview
- Be thankful
This all ties back to Tip #3 – mind your manners. Thank each interviewer for their time and consideration; they’re busy working professionals who took time out of their busy workday to give you a shot. Your interviewers’ time is just as important as yours so be sure to thank them for their time. Be sure to go back in with that friendly smile, eye contact, and a firm handshake!
Quick tip – try to note/remember your interviewer’s name to prepare for the next tip…
- Follow up
Be sure to follow up with a polite letter or e-mail to show your appreciation and thanking everyone again for their time and consideration for that position. This may also be the thing that sets you apart from other applicants as this is kind of a lost art.
After you’re done with the interview, just breathe – relax, you made it through it, and you did a great job!
Congratulations on your new job!
I also filmed a video detailing these tips in case you prefer a different type of format: