How to Stand Out at a Job Interview
More people 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.
This can be frustrating, and it's easy to feel defeated before you even start. With so many (often over-qualified) applicants, how can you make a lasting impression on your prospective employer?
Showing a potential new boss you're "the one" is actually easier than you might think. So play some inspirational music, repeat your favorite positive mantras, and make sure you know these job interview do's and don'ts. You got this.
Job Interview Dos
- Do show up early. This may seem like a given, but all too often a job applicant comes blustering in the door at exactly the interview time or even ten minutes after. Here's the thing. You can pretty much kiss the job goodbye if you show up late to the interview. You may have a perfectly legitimate reason for being late, but it doesn't matter. You're going to come across as someone who doesn't have their you-know-what together. Period.
- 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 could be indicative of other worrisome issues. Just see that you've bathed, deodorized, and put yourself together in a nice and simple way.
- 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.
- Do shake hands and use your manners. 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.
Job Interview Don'ts
- Don't get too elaborate with your appearance. Dress in a conservative and tasteful way. Unless you are applying for certain specific positions, overly trendy, provocative, or eclectic ensembles may not be well-received. Imagine meeting the parents of someone you've been dating. 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 really 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'll lose all credibility and respect 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 get into that another time.
- 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. 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 inauthentic, 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 you've done some research and that you'd be willing to start at the bottom of the scale for your position, provided there is opportunity for growth based on performance. You could also ask them what they are willing to offer before you answer, but tread carefully as this can be off-putting to some 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. Saying things like that is a great way to ensure the interviewer forgets 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.
Get organized, refresh your resume if you need to, and put your best face forward. Jobs are out there, and there's an employer somewhere who wants to add you to their team. While you may have to jump through some hoops to snag a face-to-face interview (we'll discuss that another time), you're totally going to nail it.
Feel free to share your job interview dos, don'ts, and other insights below.
© 2009 Arby Bourne