Getting Your Foot In The Door; How To Stand Out at a Job Interview
Given the current economic situation, more people than usual are competing for employment opportunities. Not only are eager new graduates pouring out of learning institutions, but veterans of all industries are finding themselves back in the job interview circuit.
With so many (often over-qualified) applicants, how can you make a lasting impression on your prospective employer? Believe it or not, there are some time-tested do's and dont's to follow that continue to hold true. There is also whole new set of rules for aceing the Interview in today's mile-a-microsecond world.
Do show up early. This may seem like a given, but all too often an applicant comes blustering in the door at exactly the interview time or even ten minutes after. No matter what excuse you may have - from dry cleaning snafus to sick & sniffling children - you can pretty much kiss the job goodbye if you show up late to the interview. If you've shown up late to a first meeting - where you are expected to be on your best behavior - it can only be assumed that punctuality is not your strong suit.
Do come well dressed. The degree of fanciness with which you clothe yourself will, of course, depend on the position you are applying for. However, ALL employers want to see that you have enough respect for their position of authority by dressing nicely to meet them for the first time. Even if you are interviewing for a construction labor job, don't show up looking like you haven't changed clothes in a week. Again, it's a respect thing. They want to know that you are willing to go to a bit of trouble to impress them.
Do come well-groomed. Looking like you haven't had a shower recently is always bad, no matter where you seek employment. Aside from the fact that nobody wants to share a workspace with someone who might smell, this kind of thing raises numerous red flags for the interviewer. You A) don't care enough to have cleaned up (see above paragraph re: respect issues), B) lead a questionable lifestyle, or C) are unaware of your condition entirely - which raises a host of other issues in itself. Just see that you've bathed, deodorized, and put yourself together in a nice and simple way.
Do shake hands and watch your p's and q's. In this era of instant messaging and other virtual methods of communication, conversational formalities have become less important. Or so it would seem. Most employers would much rather you err on the side of etiquette than act too casual.
Do prepare yourself. Know a bit about the company. In a Google-age, there's no excuse not to have done some research about who you are trying to work for. Re-familiarize yourself with, well, yourself. Freshen up on the previous employment dates and such so that they will roll off the tongue if you are asked and you won't have an awkward, paper-shuffling "uh...um.." moment. Anticipate some of the questions you'll be asked. Usually, an employer will give a hypothetical scenario and ask how you'd handle it or ask how you've handled a difficult work situation in the past. Know what you'll say and how you'll say it so that if you are questioned, you won't draw a blank.
Great tips to get rid of the anxiety and self-doubt that can sabotage your chances of landing the job you want.
Don't overdo it when it comes to your appearance. Dress in a conservative and tasteful way. Unless you are applying for certain specific positions, overly trendy, provocative, or eclectic ensembles will not often be well-received. Imagine meeting the parents of a girl/boyfriend. You don't want your outfit to define you. While you may be remembered as "the guy with the red sneakers" or "the lady with the short skirt," it is unlikely that you'll get called back for a second interview that way. Which leads to the next don't.
Don't flirt or attempt to garner favor through your sex-appeal. This is always a terrible idea. Most often, you will be discounted right away if you appear to be working the interviewer this way. Even if you do happen to get hired by someone who appreciates these sentiments, you'd just be setting yourself up for a world of trouble. We'll save that for another hub.
Don't be too full of yourself. Often, interviews can turn into a bragging session that actually annoys more than impresses. Mention your accomplishments and accolades when you are asked about them. Don't if you aren't. They are all documented in your resume already and dwelling too much on your promotions or certificates of completion can begin to look like you are trying to present yourself as a package, rather than truly engaging with your interviewer. Remember, this person is assessing what it would be like to interact with you on a daily basis. If you seem arrogant or "fake" it is highly doubtful that you'll be considered seriously for the position - no matter how qualified you may be.
Don't freak out when asked the salary question. You can say that you've done some research (see the last do above) and that you'd be willing to start at the bottom of the scale for your position, provided that there is opportunity for growth based on performance. You can ask them what they are willing to offer before you answer, but be careful here as this could well put off certain employers. It's best to have an idea of what you'd like to make, but allow yourself some flexibility and show that you are willing to prove yourself for the right company.
Don't give "canned" answers. If you are asked the question, "where do you see yourself in five years?" DO NOT say, "in a fast-paced environment as a growth-oriented team player." Nobody buys this as a serious answer and even if someone does, they'll probably forget about you as soon as you walk out the door. Using corporate jargon sounds scripted and boring. You're much better off to be specific and genuine.
Don't let the news scare you with reports of record unemployment. While this is a big concern today, their job is to sensationalize things and get you all worked up over them.
Get organized, refresh your resume if you need to, and put your best face forward. A humble, honest, easy-to-get-along-with person is much more likely to win the interviewer's heart than a flashy, fancy braggart. The key to making a great impression will be in showing a balance of confidence and humility. Think of the way people you have enjoyed working with in the past have conducted themselves. You will likely recall that they displayed qualities like integrity and willingness to help out (even something was "not their job") and were not snarky, gossipy, or condescending. Erring on the side of kindness and subtlety is usually the way to go when you want to be the new kid in town.
Happy job hunting! Feel free to share your dos or don'ts below~