How to ace an interview.
Time to get on it!
Whoa, the résumé worked!! Now what?
Congratulations! No seriously, congratulations on finishing your résumé. Now it's down to the interview. Understandably, the résumé to some people feels like the top of the mountain and everything is downhill from there. For others, they would rather crawl through barbed wire than have to sit down face to face with a complete stranger and talk about themselves.
Not to worry though because this too shall pass. I have a unique trait that I affectionately call the "gift of gab." I can talk to almost anyone and we get along famously. I'm the type of guy who likes being around people and thriving on conversation. But I would be lying if I said that I didn't have some degree of nervousness when I've spoken directly to hiring managers. I mean, when you walk into the room, you feel like you're Frodo about to toss the ring into Mount Doom and the person you have to get through is Sauron himself! Your only weapons are your résumé and your wits.
Now before you go off practicing your sword-handling skills, let me give you some preparational tools to walk you through the land of Mordor.
Business Card Paper.
First things first.
Okay, let's say you haven't gotten that interview yet. What do you do? How do you go about it? Here's some steps to get that part accomplished.
- Make profiles on different career sites. Post your resume on these sites, e.g., Monster.com, Career builder.com, etc.
- Create a Linkedin account. Linkedin accounts are networking accounts for career minded people. (Recruiters say they hardly ever look at Facebook accounts anymore.)
- Check these sites daily. Look for new job postings and apply apply apply!
- Oh yeah, speaking of Facebook, clean that up! Question: "But how do I know if my facebook is trashy and unprofessional?" Answer: Put it this way, if I check your photos and there you are laying on a pool table slobbering all over yourself drunk with a mountain of beer cans in the background while your friends are using an at-home-tattoo kit to put the name of your dog on your arm, I think it's pretty safe to say that you won't be found very appealing to your mom, much less a job creator. Recruiters have found instances of these situations before.
- Start making phone calls. Find out what it would take to get an interview with a hiring manager. (You calling says, "I want this job" to hiring managers.)
- Pay a visit to the workplace. Speak to hiring managers directly. (This says, "I REALLY want this job!")
- Make business cards if you can. A great "calling card" (pardon the pun) to make you look professional is getting your own business card printed out with your name, information, and skills on it. Every little extra helps when you're trying to leave a mark. The Avery 2-sided matte business card paper should help with this.
YOU GOT THE INTERVIEW, NOW DRESS FOR SUCCESS!
Before we show you how to interview, let's teach you how to dress.
"Look, I'm a grown person, I don't need you telling me how to dress.", you might say. Well I'll again go back to the experts and personal experience of what I've witnessed at hiring events and job fairs. Some of the people who attended must have thought they were going to get hired on personality and skills alone. If I was the hiring manager I honestly wouldn't have taken them seriously.
Recruiters have told me that if someone is blessed with a phone interview and graduates to a face to face, then that person better come dressed like they already have the job. You may not agree with this, but what you wear, at least in the interview process, defines you. If you aren't dressed for success, then you've failed before you even get to the interview.
Some simple tips on dress code:
- Ladies - a two piece matching suit is a great way to go. Don't overdo it on make-up and perfume. If you choose to wear a well tailored blouse and skirt, please keep your "God-given assets" covered and make sure your skirt is long enough that your thighs aren't showing when you sit down. Make sure you're wearing hose. Recruiters have not hired ladies who show too much skin because they aren't there to see you flaunt your bodies, they want to know you take the job seriously. Compliment them by going the extra mile on this.
- Men - suit and tie all the way! Keep the cologne to a minimum. Nothing exudes confidence about yourself more than a slick, well tailored suit and tie. No extra tight shirts to show off your masculinity. You need to take this seriously and not look like you're showing off your pecs at the gym.
- Make sure to coordinate your attire accordingly. (For example, if it's a black suit and tie, go with black dress shoes, black belt, and black socks. A white shirt would work well with this. You can vary the shirt but make sure it makes sense and doesn't distract from you.)
- Do the best you can within your budget. Remember, you are investing in you! If you can't afford something, borrow from friends. If you don't have friends, make some!
- Please, get your grooming and hygiene standards up to professional par. Shower and shave. This goes for both sexes. (I really shouldn't have to go deeper into this.)
Remember in the end, you only get one chance to make an amazing first impression!
Whenever you've interviewed for a job, how was your dress code?
On to Mount Doom. Final preparations.
One thing to remember is that the person sitting across from you is a human being too. They aren't heartless (most of the time). They've had to sit across from someone like them at one time and do the same thing you're doing now. But they also hold a way for you to gain a decent paycheck and future for yourself, so you MUST nail this the first time.
Some preparation work to do before even going to the interview:
- Practice. Get in front of a mirror and make observations of mannerisms, your looks, and the ways you speak. If you have any nervous tics, try to work those out. There is a way to speak professionally and it would be good to learn that now.
- Know your résumé front to back. What's your calling card? Be knowledgeable about what you have to offer because if you don't know, then your employer doesn't know.
- Learn about the company you're applying for. It shows the employer that you care about the company.
- Research Google for behavioral questions. A behavioral question is basically asking about previous behavior to predict future performance. These have been used since 1974 and it's practically an interview standard. I will touch on this a little more later but trust me, this WILL be asked. Example of a behavioral question is, "Okay, tell me about a time when you handled a customer concern, how did you handle it and what was the outcome?"
- Be overprepared. 80 percent of recruiters and hiring managers go to google just to find things out about you. About another 20 percent go to the actual social media sites most of the time. They will be prepared, so you need to be as well!
Get in there and wow them.
This is your moment to shine. These are the steps recruiters recommend you take to wow the person across from you.
- Be on time! I used to live on a base and the leader's motto was, "If you're 5 minutes early, you're late!" Arrive at least 15 minutes before the agreed upon time.
- Know where you're going. In this digital age of GPS and cell phones navigating us, this seems to be a moot point but you wouldn't believe how many hiring managers hear the excuse of, "I couldn't find the building on time."
- Be professional to the secretary. The people who work with the manager are to be treated with just as much respect and professional courtesy. Managers usually ask the opinion of people they work with about you. (My wife got a job this way once.)
- Wait to be seated. Let the manager give you the go ahead to sit down.
- Keep eye contact and smile. Not a silly clownish grin mind you, but a genuine smile. Keeping eye contact is respectful and shows you're genuinely interested in what's said.
- Watch your voice modulation. It's very easy when you're nervous to either be too loud or talk too quietly. Just relax and let your words flow as they normally would with a friend.
- Be interesting, take the extra step. A hiring manager told me a story of one of the best interviews he ever had. The man wanting the job had come in and brought product that the manager's company had produced and then proceeded to explain what he liked about each product. Big Win!
- Expect those behavioral questions to be asked. Just remember the acronym S.T.A.R. Explain Situation, explain Task, the Action you took, and Result. (Be very specific in your explanation.)
- Bring a "brag folder". This is just another way of showing the manager that you would be an incredible asset to their company. For example, if you received accomplishments or awards of any kind in written form from the district manager of your former job, bring them. (I've done this one myself.) Leave them on the table and wait for an opening to show them. Don't force it. You could even leave it along with your résumé.
- Be your happy charming self. (If you have no charm, develop some.)
The art of the résumé
Once the interview is over.
When the interviewer asks if you have questions. Here are some appropriate and inappropriate questions to ask.
Appropriate: What are the next steps? Once they give you an answer, mark your calendar to follow up with them. Usually about a week is good, give them time. They love it when you follow up. But don't start calling the next day.
Inappropriate: What is the pay or benefits? How long is it going to take? How soon could I get promoted? Can I transfer to another department after I'm hired? Ehhhhhhh. Wrong! Do not ask those kinds of questions unless the interviewer brings them up.
I hope this has helped in some fashion to those who are still struggling to find employment. I've been there and done that. I know how it feels to need guidance and direction. My heart is that this will give you a template of success to give you confidence in your ability to secure a beautiful future for yourself. Now get out there and wow them!