Interviews can be stressful, even for seasoned career vets. This in-person meeting is often your only chance to strut your stuff and make a strong case for your hire. But in the midst of anticipating the hard questions, practicing show-stopper answers, and making up an excuse for your absence to your current boss, we often forget to account for key interviewing foe paws that could make or break your job search.
But don’t worry, I’ve got your six. Taking time to plan for an interview before the big day can help you clear that last job search hurdle with inches to spare. I’ve thought of everything you should do before-hand, so all you need to do is wow the socks clean off their feet. Here is my 10-point interview checklist you must follow before arriving at headquarters.
Although this should go without saying, I’ve attended one too many career fairs and networking events where shorts and sandals were considered appropriate attire. That is not okay.
That old saying, “Dress for the job you want” is true. Dressing too casually looks lazy — not to mention, rude. Wear something that demonstrates effort and your desire to be there, wherever that may be. If you’re unsure of the company dress code, it’s appropriate to ask Human Resources before the interview. Regardless of the code, it’s probably the safest bet to go “business casual” at minimum. Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
Ladies: a dress at the appropriate length, pants suit, pressed slacks and a blazer, closed-toed shoes, etc.
Gents: a suit and tie, blazer, slacks, belt, etc.
Chew all the gum or breath mints you want during the car ride over, but throw it away before you enter the building. Not only will ice blue gum in your teeth look sloppy to an interviewer, but worse, it’ll distract them from the carefully crafted words flying out of your mouth. Remember, you were invited to interview because somebody important over there was impressed by your resume. So don’t let the cow chewing distract them during your impeccable answer for “Why should we hire you?”
Always arrive 5-10 minutes early to your interview. This is key. If a candidate arrived even 5 minutes late to my interview without a good reason — or a head’s up phone call — I’d reconsider my decision to hire them immediately. Why? Because I need to know I can count on you as a reliable and dependable employee.
Of course, an integral part of arriving to an interview early is knowing where you’re going ahead of time. Know your final destination ahead of time and plan accordingly. With smartphones and GPS availability, there’s no excuse NOT to properly calculate your arrival time AND consider all possible traffic scenarios. It’s better to wait 30 minutes in the parking lot for your interview slot, then to be 5 minutes late due to unforeseen circumstances.
I cannot tell you how many interviews I’ve been on where the hiring team says, “I’ve brought Jane Doe from Accounting to sit in on this interview. You’d work very closely with her in this position.”
Now, if I were a gambling woman, I’d guess that Mrs. Doe has no idea of my past experience and probably had very little notice that she’d even be a part of this interview. This is your opportunity to showcase your professionalism and preparedness by saying “Hi Jane, here is a copy of my resume for you to review during our conversation.” Score one point for you! Even better, these resume copies can act as your personal cheat sheet for answering tough interview questions when your brain turns to mush (more on this in checkpoint #8).
Not only will it behoove you to bring resume hard copies, you’ll also want to remember a pen and paper. When a candidate arrives to an interview armed with their resume, contact cards, and something to write with, it’s hard evidence that you’ve come prepared and you’ve thought ahead.
Of the course of an hour, you’ll be presented with buckets of important information that, if not written down, could be forgotten amidst your jumpy nerves and running thoughts. Be prepared to jot down quick notes about the names of the people you talked with (to follow up with and thank later), key directions on next steps in the process, and relevant job description details you may want to review later.
I once had a college professor tell me he never hired someone to work in his private practice if they asked a question whose answer is already listed on the company website. Asking questions is great — actually, it’s expected — but remember to only ask the quality questions.
Scour the company’s website, social media profiles, and “About Us” pages. Even a quick Google search could be helpful to learn notable recent company news. As NBC commercials say, “The more you know…”
As I have written before, the purpose of an interview is to see how your skills listed on your resume will transmit in person.
Spoiler alert: They WILL ask you about details of your past experiences and request supporting examples of your qualifications.
The trick to handling these inquiries is to know your resume inside and out and practice effective ways to describe your last few jobs efficiently. Your resume is the only place where every key strength is in once place, so use it! The more versed you appear to be about your past, the more likely your meeting will run like a casual conversation, rather than a stoic one-way interrogation.
A good attitude is just as important as your resume itself. People hire people they like and who they deem a good culture fit. Smiling is the best way to break down barriers that inhibit interviewers from connecting with you. So, smile. Be genuine. Be REMEMBERED.
Show some personality or crack a small (appropriate) joke.
If you take nothing else away from this article, let it be this last checkpoint! Adopt a good, strong handshake and be prepared to use it in your interview. As a woman, my biggest pet peeve is when a man gives me a weak grip, instead of the firm handshake they normally use with other men.
Please… no floppy fishes or lady fingers. The trick is for both parties involved in said handshake to: use your full hand from fingertips to palms, grip their hand with a firmness like you would a doorknob, shake 2-3 times, and release. Pair this with a dazzling smile, and you’re likely to absolutely nail your first impression.
What other things do you try to remember before you interview? Did I miss anything? Let us know in the comments!
Lauren is the brains behind CaPABLE…and Beyond, founder of LaunchPoint Resume, Cerebral Palsy have-er, and constant chaser of the ‘good life’. Money and Career writer at The Cheat Sheet and occasional freelancer for career, money, and organizational development topics.
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