If you’re reading this, I’m sure you’ve been on some sort if interview by now. If not, keep reading (you may find yourself interviewing later down the line). My current position has allowed me to experience the interviewing process from both sides of the table. I remember when I was the person getting drilled by someone and trying to sell myself for a spot on the team. Now the tables have turned, and I get to assist in recruiting. Being that I have had the opportunity to meet with various perspective employees, I have begun to notice several similarities between those who I select, and those who just don’t make the cut. I am confident that the step by step list below will provide you with some tips and things to note to stand out in the crowd and blow the interviewer away.
Before the interview
- Apply: Obviously you have to apply before you interview. This step is the most vital step. You are painting the picture of you are before you’re met. With this in mind, your best foot has to be put forward. Along with your name, the first thing that that pops up is your email. The email can be the killing point for a lot of people. If your personal email is anything beyond your name (bigdaddy69, flogrown, stackingpaper101, etc.), make an email for professional use. I know many of us are not fond of using our governments, but your career will thank you later. If you already have a professional email, great. Just make sure that if your email is tied to your social media, that you do not have anything that could be perceived as negative. Many employers utilize social media as qualifiers for perspective employees. Also, be sure to answer and complete each part of the application in its entirety. Failing to do so can make it look as though you’re either lazy, or confused about what’s being requested. Either way, it isn’t a good look. When I say complete, mention those certifications that you’ve gotten over the years. Take an extra thirty seconds to upload your resume and a cover letter. Trust me, it does make a difference. And to go back to those emails I listed; I could not make those up, I have encountered each and every one of them.
So, let’s skip to the point where you have been selected for an interview. What should you do from here?
- Head to the nearest office supply store: Wait what? Just hear me out with this one. I know it sounds like I’m being extra at this point, but it will make sense in the end. If you don’t have pens and a notepad, you will need to get those things as well. I reference the office supply store because you should be prepared to present a hardcopy of your resume during the interview. I know many of us have a printer at home, but how many of us actually keep a stack of resume paper on standby? (Don’t worry, I’ll wait). Many people that I meet do not even know that resume paper exists. Instead of buying a stack of resume paper that you will seldom use, let the office supply store handle it for you. I usually print out six (but you can go with whatever you feel you need). The copies will be a few cents and all you have to do is email it to the store. A portfolio will also come in handy. This will allow you to store your resume and most portfolios have a notepad affixed to them as well a place to store your pen. I highly recommend using a portfolio because it looks neater, but if you’re on a budget, you can go with a plastic folder (white or black) as well. While you’re there, check out the card aisle and see if they have some thank-you cards. I usually purchase these in bulk because you may be meeting with more than one person or you might have to interview again. The generic small ones will do just fine. If you have some time, I would recommend you ordering them from Amazon because their prices are usually going to be easier on your pockets.
- Get your appearance squared away: Sad to say, but looks are important and you’re judged by them. You cannot show up looking like you’re about to go out to the club right after you leave the interview. Take the time to ensure you have professional attire and that your appearance matches your clothing. Piercings and tattoos are great; and I get that they are a part of what makes an individual unique, but the visible ones do not have a place during the interview. One recent poll revealed that a great deal of people still believe that body modifications that are visible are inappropriate in the work place. So, before the interview begins, be sure to remove all visible piercings. This does not apply to earrings. One pair of stud earrings (in the lower lobe) are acceptable for women. Men however, should refrain from wearing any piercings during the interview. You should also try to cover up your tattoos. Neck, face, and hand tattoos are usually frowned upon in the workplace and, depending on what you have, your ink may offend the person determining if you get hired or not. So, if you have them, aim for some tattoo make-up to try to mask them.
- Now ladies, if you are getting ready for an interview, your hair should be neat and presentable. The color also matters. Showing up with lime green hair is not a good idea. Keep it simple, and go back to whatever color after the interview. The same for the makeup. Make sure the color combination is not too over the top. Nails should be a reasonable length, clean, and the color should be simple as well. If you can, save the glitter and rhinestones for the celebration of getting the job. Now for the dress code… let’s take it from the top and work down to the bottom.
- Jewelry and accessories: Keep it modest and keep it simple. A simple ring and a watch will get the job done. The purse, if you have to bring it in, should be small in size.
- Tops: blazers are nice with a dress shirt, but it’s not the only option. A button down or blouse (that’s light in color) worn alone will suffice.
- Bottoms: you have options ladies. You don’t have to wear slacks, skirts and dresses are fine as well, just remember these simple rules when deciding: The skirt or dress should not go above your knee and big side slits are a no no. Stockings should also be worn if you plan on rocking a skirt or dress.
- Shoes: Flats or small heels (no more than two inches) should be the go to. The shoes should also be closed toe (a little shine ain’t never hurt nobody as well) Whichever route you take regarding clothing, remember the three most acceptable colors regarding the pants or dresses will always be black, grey and navy.
- Fellas: It’s quite simple, a suit and tie. The suit should be tailored to fit YOU. Don’t show up with something that your big little brother let you use because it will show. It should also be single breasted and match your belt. You do not need to button every single button on that suit either. Your tie should be a simple design and classic in color (blue, red). The tie should also come down to the top of your belt buckle. Your shirt should be a simple white or light blue. A slight deviation from wearing a suit and tie would be a sweater in place of the blazer.
- Jewelry and accessories: A watch and ring is all you need.
- Shoes: A dress shoe that matches your belt would be a good pick. Of course, the shoe should have some shine to it. Your socks should be actual dress socks that go to the calf portion of your leg. White socks are considered unacceptable also.
- Your scent matters. Good hygiene is must. Granted, no-one deserves to be smelling another person’s body odor, but you don’t want to blow the interviewer away with an overpowering scent. I have read some articles about not using fragrances, but I don’t agree. A few sprays won’t hurt. Just be mindful.
- Research the company: I cannot stress how important this is. It’s not enough to just show up and answer questions. Know your perspective company and some information about your role. This will not only allow you to better answer the questions, but it will show initiative and give the impression that you have a genuine interest in the company. I’m not saying sit and read every news article about the company or follow their stock, but at least have a general idea about the history and the mission.
- Write down some questions: remember that notepad and pen in the beginning, this is where they come into play. When the interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions?” No is never the answer. You should have questions. Just as they are interviewing you, you should have the mentality that you are interviewing them as well. I usually pick three to four questions and you can choose from here if you’re in doubt about what to ask.
- Level of professionalism: This starts the moment you walk in the door. Regardless if the person conducting the interview isn’t standing directly there, their receptionist is. Be sure to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early and have everything that you need (resume, notepad, writing utensils). Being prompt is vital, but arriving more than 15 minutes is a little excessive. If you’re extra early, sit in the car and review and meditate. This is usually the time that I boost myself up because being nervous is a part of human nature. I pretty much tell myself that I am the shit and that the spot is mine. Claim it and speak it into existence. It does help.
Dun dun dunnnn: The actual interview
- The initial encounter: Smiles are always warming. Just as we were taught as children, speak back when spoken to (or even speak first). Make sure that your hand shake is a firm one. The way you shake hands apparently says more about you than many people may think. Ladies, this applies to you as well. Do not shake hands as though someone is supposed to be kissing your hand after you extend it. After the handshake, pass everyone in the room a copy of your resume and be seated. Be sure to maintain a good posture and cross your hands if you feel as though you will be unable to control them. Remember to breathe. They are people just like you are and don’t forget that. Throughout the entire interview you should be maintaining (or giving the impression that you are) eye contact. Look at the nose if the person if you have to, no one will know the difference.
- Questions: Pay attention to the question and think before you respond. Hell, if you need to, ask them to repeat the question. There is nothing wrong with taking some extra time to respond. Of course, you shouldn’t be sitting there silent for minutes at a time, but taking a moment to answer is encouraged. Do not be afraid to be honest with the questions that may exploit the areas you are not the best at. One question that is common is, “What is your biggest weakness?” Last time I checked, no one was immune to shortcomings. We all have them. By not saying you do not have any is 1. Dishonest (because you aren’t perfect) and 2. Ridiculous to say. Be honest with your flaws but give examples of how you are working to improve it (even if it’s a little fluff in there).
- Your turn: Once you have answered their questions, the floor will be turned over to you. Your interviewer will ask you if you have any questions. Pull out that notepad and fire away. After I ask each question, I take notes as they respond (it looks good).
- The end: Thank them for their time (because everyone wants to be thanked). Hand them the thank you card, and shake their hand again. The thank you card does not have to have an essay written in it, a simple “thank you for taking the time to meet with me. I look forward to hearing from you soon” –Your name will do just fine.
- Walk out like a BOSS: Keep that head up high, you did your thing and you should not be ashamed of doing so. Be proud that you made it through the process and wait for the next steps. (CLAIM IT)