Nailing The Interview - Make Yourself Memorable

Stand Out In A Way That Makes You Proud!

With today’s economy, job seekers must be at the top of their game in order to land a job. Times have surely changed and with the collapse of so many companies, there are more people entering the job market than normal making it especially difficult for companies to hire.

So they’ve called you in for the interview. Believe it or not, you have gotten through one of the most difficult parts. Now it’s time to prepare yourself. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to see people come into interviews wearing jeans, khakis, overly short skirts, no tie, or even sneakers.

Before you even think of beginning to look for work, invest in two great suits. Whether you are male or female, you can never go wrong! They don’t need to be expensive, but they should be simple.

Preparing Your Appearance

For men, your suit pants should match your suit coat. The tan pants blue sport coat bit is ridiculous no matter who is wearing it! Men should always wear a tie. Ties aren’t expensive and there are plenty to choose from when you are wearing a simple suit. Men’s shoes should be simple, and polished. Nothing ruins a wonderful suit more, than dusty, run-over, scuffed shoes. It is also a good idea to make sure you always have a pair of dark colored socks on hand for these occasions. Adding other little accessories such as cuff links and tie pins can freshen up your look.

For women, it is important to remember if you choose to wear a skirt suit that you choose a skirt that is appropriate in length. When seated, your skirt should not be more than couple inches above the knee. Never wear open toed shoes or sandals and always remember to wear pantyhose.

For men and women, it is a good idea to make sure you are well groomed and free of perfume or cologne which can be offensive if the employer doesn’t like the scent or happens to be allergic. Remember, the fresh smell of soap is never offensive.

If you are a drinker, do NOT drink for a few days before the interview. You may not realize it, but the stench of alcohol screams from your pores even a couple days after drinking. It is important to have a well-balanced meal prior to your interview so that your mind is fresh, but avoid things that can be offensive such as onions, garlic or coffee. Take mints to the interview with you, NOT GUM and be sure that upon meeting your interviewer that you have finished your mints. Many employers will offer things such as coffee or tea during an interview but keep in mind, if the interview runs long, you don’t want to need to run to the rest room as these drinks are known to run right through a nervous person as well as coffee breath is NEVER a good thing.

Preparing Yourself – Your Resume

Now that you have prepared your appearance, it’s time to look at preparing yourself.

  • Look over your resume multiple times checking the following separately. First check for accuracy, make sure that all of your dates are correct and that you have included everything you want. Make sure that if you have gaps of time in between jobs that this is not only accurate but that you can explain this as well because they WILL ask.
  • Next, you will want to check for spelling mistakes. Don’t be afraid to get the dictionary out, visit www.dictionary.com or even type unknown words into Microsoft word.
  • After you have checked for spelling errors, go back one more time and check for grammatical errors – looking for missing periods, commas or other punctuation errors.

It is important to do these things separately because it will lessen your chances of missing anything.

  • One big misconception out there is that all resumes need an “objective” at the top. Every employer knows that this one – two liner is a fluffed couple sentences of nonsense! Instead remove this and replace it with a bulleted-multi-column “Qualifications” section listing qualities and requirements that were outlined in the posting that match you first.
  • For example if the job is for a Call Center Manager with 5 years of management experience who must be well versed on Microsoft Office 2007 and you have 10 years of management experience – in your qualifications section bullet point these things while listing other things after. Remember, they will be looking for their own requirements in your resume FIRST and employers hate to read every line so keep it simple!

Preparing Yourself - Your References (Yes A Very Overlooked Detail!)

Now that you have perfected your resume, make another page using the exact same header that you used for your resume and make a references page. We have all put “References furnished upon request” on our resumes, but someone who really wants a job is not afraid to provide them.

  • Make sure that these are individuals who will absolutely not mind being contacted and who will also be expecting their call. Provide 2 – 3 professional references (labeling them as such) and 2- 3 personal references. It is highly important that you do NOT make a reference page full of your friends and family.
  • This brings me to my next and most over-looked point. In an age of technology and creativity everyone seems to have cell phones and voicemails. Never EVER submit a reference of someone who has anything less than a professional sounding voicemail. We may laugh when we hear the derogatory messages our friends leave such as:

“Hello you’ve reached me, but if I didn’t answer it’s because I either didn’t want to talk to you or because you called me with your number blocked! Either way, this is 2010 and I’m making changes in my life and that change just might be you....”

A potential employer will judge you on the company you keep as the saying goes, "birds of a feather flock together". You also want to avoid those who play too much music that could offend or deter someone as well. With this said, your own voicemail should be as professional as possible. Speak clearly and cheerful, stay away from using music as well as the generic computerized voicemail.

  • As a rule of thumb, you can never have too many resumes with you. Make about 10 copies of both your resume and reference page and put them neatly into a portfolio or folder to take with you. In addition, take a notepad and pen.
  • Plan to leave your cell phone in the car. You won’t need it during your interview so there is no need to take it in. You don’t want it to accidentally ring or vibrate during your important moment.
  • Lastly get on the company’s website and do a little research not only about the position but about the company. Prepare some notes for yourself on the notepad outlining what you know about the position (as they will surely ask) as well as what you have learned about the company. While reading, be sure to prepare 3 – 5 well thought out questions for your interviewer. These questions should not include salary or ridiculous questions such as, “Where did the company finish at the end of the fiscal year?” but instead something that shows your honest interest.

Things To Remember

  • Don’t assume that your interviewer(s) have a copy of your resume. Upon entering the room, make eye contact, shake hands, smile and politely provide everyone with a copy of your resume. (Remember not to change too much from your original resume as it is possible they will do some comparisons) Save your reference sheets for after your interview.
  • Be prepared for anything! Many employers do panel interviews of two or more people at once. Don’t let this intimidate you but look at it as an opportunity like American Idol. How many times has Simon said “NO!” but was out-voted? Remember to not only look at the person asking you the questions, but to also make eye contact with the other interviewers. Don’t be surprised if once you are finished interviewing that you may need to interview with someone else in the same day. This is quite common and another reason you should have plenty of resumes.
  • Often times the interviewer will show you to the conference room or office before all interviewers have arrived. While you are waiting it is okay to make simple small talk. Be sure to play it safe speaking about things such as the weather or even asking them about their day. Stay away from questions that are too personal as this may make someone uncomfortable. You will especially want to avoid subjects concerning politics and even sports. Think about it, how would you as a sports fan feel if someone challenged your favorite team? Once the others arrive, be sure to stand to greet them taking time to shake hands.
  • Before beginning the interview, mention to the interviewer that you brought a notepad and would they mind if you took notes during the interview. This is something you should do as a courtesy so that they don’t feel uncomfortable about what you may be writing down as well as shows them that you are organized. Make sure that you indeed make notes this could be valuable information later.
  • As you are being interviewed, don’t be afraid to think for a moment. Don’t make up answers just because you want to answer quickly. Employers can smell manure a mile away and this will create a poor impression of you.
  • When asked to share details about yourself, remember NOT to complain, speak as if each day is a good day and give honest facts about your experience without boasting or sounding too sure of yourself. Detail where you received certain experience saying things such as, “I have 5 years investment banking experience which I received while working at ...” Work on the best way to sum up your work experience before arriving so that you are not talking TOO much.
  • Never badmouth a previous employer. You will almost always be asked why you left or are planning to leave a job. Be honest, but positive. Instead of saying, “I hate my manager and I’m tired of watching him promote everyone but me...” try saying something such as, “While I have received many opportunities, I’m searching for slightly more than they currently have to offer.”
  • Don’t forget to ask your questions unless of course they have answered it for you during the interview. This shows that you are not just going through the motions, but indeed are interested in the position and the company.
  • As the interview comes to a close, make sure to leave a lasting impression. There is no need to be witty or overzealous but the interviewer will likely remember the beginning and the end of the interview the best. The rest will be in the notes they take about you. Be sure to let them know that you brought some references that you would like to leave with them and make sure this is the last thing that you do. You don’t want your references to get lost in the pile of paper they already have for you. You instead want to leave them looking over your references with an itching sensation to look into your qualifications further.
  • Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of a thank you letter. It is important that you collect their full names and a business card if you can. You can email or mail this letter, but it should be done within a day of the interview; never more! Be sure to thank them for the opportunity to interview, outline your eagerness for an opportunity with the company and briefly mention something that shows you want to help them achieve their goals as well.

Now that it’s over, there is nothing left to do but wait. You might follow-up with a call a few days later unless they have given you a timetable of when they will be making their selection. Remember never to hound them and should you decide to follow-up, only do this once. Even if you don’t get this job, you have increased your chances of being selected greatly. Don’t sit back and just wait, get out there for more interviews. If you decide to drop your resume off at different companies, do so in the appropriate interview attire – making sure you are ready for anything. You never know your interviewer might be standing nearby and their first impression of you shouldn’t be ripped jeans and flip flops. Make them want to meet you and if you follow the above, you’ll have a much better chance.

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