Prepare for the interview like your job depends on it
By Amandalyn Vanover
The 21st-century interview process is certainly different from your grandfather’s day. But without a doubt, the traditional in-person interview remains the primary tool for companies to meet and evaluate potential candidates for employment opportunities.
Know Who You’re Meeting
Research the company, position, and manager you will meet. What is the company known for? How long have they been in business? How long have they been in the local area? Is the interviewing manager the same manager you will report to? Check out any news stories involving the company too.
No Map Mistakes
Drive to the interview location on a different day (same time as your scheduled interview if possible in order to properly gauge the traffic/parking) to work out any navigation mishaps or confusion. Identify parking options. Does it cost to park? Will you be close or far away? Factor all these variables when figuring out your departure time on the interview day. Don’t make the mistake of being late. This is a huge no-no. Use your GPS on your cell before the interview to stay on top of any major traffic delays.
When it comes to appearance for interviews, there is a delicate balance. You don’t want to dress to the nines when the interviewing manager is casually dressed and you don’t want to be dressed too casually when everyone else is in suits. If you are over the top, it gives the impression you don’t understand the company or its unique culture. If you are too casual, then you give off the air of unprofessionalism.
Some people are instructed as to what to wear, but not everyone is so lucky. If you are in the dark, the first step is to make sure you look the part. Find out how people at the company dress. Do you already know a person working there? Ask them. Scour photos on the company website and social media pages to see what people wear during the workday as your guide.
Have An Interview Outfit
A fallback outfit is another way to ensure you always look the part. Choose khaki, black, or navy blue for the skirt/slacks. A nice blouse or button-down shirt to match. A nice dress that’s not too short or revealing is excellent too. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on an interview outfit, it just needs to be clean, neat, and wrinkle-free. In fact, you probably have what you need in your closet right now.
Shoes should reflect the work environment for safety’s sake. For instance, choosing non-slide flats with closed toes makes more sense than wearing high-heels into a warehouse or manufacturing setting.
No matter how much you qualify for the position, if you walk in as if you haven’t been in that environment before you risk them thinking you are exaggerating your skills or worse; you don’t understand the basics of the culture and atmosphere. Don’t let the outfit give the wrong first impression.
If you already have a padfolio or briefcase, use it to store all of your interview documents and supplies. If you don’t, pick up a plastic letter-size envelope to store all of your interview documents. They cost $1 at the Dollar Tree, Amazon, general stores, etc.
While the common thought is:
“I’ll just use a manilla envelope or file folder.”
I warn against it (more than one experience has taught this harsh lesson). File folders allow papers to slip out, don’t hold business cards well, and don’t protect against liquid (like from a drenching rain or coffee spill). The latter also applies to manilla envelopes.
Leave the Kitchen Sink at Home
Pack to enter an interview in the same way you prepare for the airport. Take only what is necessary and nothing that makes you look bad.
- Copies of your resume
- List of references
- List of questions to ask the interviewer
- Floss, gum, breath mints
- Printed or written down directions (phone call die, GPS can malfunction, etc.)
- Paper and pen
You Have Arrived
Plan to arrive 20 minutes early. Upon arriving but before entering read through the exact job description again to refresh yourself on the job details and what they need. Read the company’s mission statement – this is what they believe and strive to achieve.
Do a final mirror check for your hair, face and teeth. Adjust your clothing as necessary. Head in 5-10 minutes early.
The Interview – All About the Words
“I” is a word to sparingly use during an interview. “We, us, and the team” are all great words to incorporate into your language to attribute recognition to other contributors, while still demonstrating your success and experience.
“I don’t have any weaknesses.”
Everyone who interviews is human, therefore they all have flaws and make mistakes. So, it is the sign of a fool who says he is great at everything and has absolutely no weaknesses to recognize.
The words to use here start out with “My weakness is…and I continue to work on it by doing……”
The Interview – HR Questions to Expect
- What is your biggest weakness?
- How do you deal with a co-worker conflict?
- What can you tell me about yourself?
- Why are you interested in this position?
- What do you know about our company?
- Why did/are you leaving your last/current job?
“What Questions Do You Have For Me?”
Do. Not. Fail. This. Big. Test.
None. NEVER say this. It’s a no-no to forego questions with the interviewer. It is a test to see how serious you are about your place with the company both now and in the future.
This is where you are both deciding if it’s a good fit. It is your own future and if you don’t ask questions, it’s guaranteed that no one is going to do it for you.
Have questions ready to go. Keep them in your plastic folder to have handy. Write down the answers they provide.
Here’s a short list but make your own based on your interests, concerns, and needs. You can Google ‘questions to ask interviewer at interview.’
Just don’t ask questions that can easily be answered by visiting their website. Ask for the details up front to keep from ending up in culture shock or stuck overwhelmed/ bored in your new job.
- What do the daily tasks and responsibilities look like?
- What’s the turnover rate in this position/ department? (Don’t ask if it’s a new position/company.)
- How would you describe the company culture on a normal work day?
- How is success defined and measured at this company?
- How cross-functional is the role today and what’s the vision for it in the future?
At Close of Interview
Make eye contact.
And say: “Thank you for taking the time to interview me. After hearing everything, I’m certain I’m interested in the job and working for (Company name). I am looking forward to hearing from you.”
One to four hours later, send a thank you email. Check your spelling and grammar. Use spell check before sending.
Do not forget to send this email!
There are times this final step of appreciation makes the difference in who lands the job.