1. Dress appropriately for an interview, no matter what the job. Even if you are a mechanic who will be elbow deep in grease all day, dress business casual for the interview. Your attire speaks volumes to the interviewer about your seriousness and desire to be employed. If you wear jeans and a t-shirt, you won’t be taken serious.
a. Business professional for a man-a suit and tie in a neutral color with neutral shoes. A clean shaven face or manicured facial hair and a neat hairstyle. If you have long hair, pull your hair back into a low ponytail. If you have long hair or facial hair and are interviewing for an office position, please be prepared to be asked to shave/cut your hair. This is a requirement in a lot of office workplaces. If this is not something you would be comfortable doing, you might try to research or call and ask about their company policy before applying for the position.
b. Business professional for a woman-a suit with a skirt or pants in a neutral color, small heels or flats in a coordinating color, small, minimal accessories, neat hairstyle and minimal makeup. While pantyhose are no longer a requirement for women, they do help to pull together a business professional outfit nicely. If you do not have a suit or do not have access to borrow one, you may also wear business casual attire. Business casual consists of a pair of slacks, khakis or a skirt with a nice or collared shirt.
2. Bring a pen. It may be simple, but it tells the employer that you are prepared, dependable and show up ready for action.
3. Bring a copy of your resume. Yes, they should already have it but what if they don’t? It never hurts to bring a copy with you. And if they have you fill out an application before the interview, you will have all of the dates and important information you will need right there on hand.
4. Bring any Letters of Recommendation, list of awards you have won, emails of praise you received from your previous manager etc. Anything that will highlight to them what a great candidate you are and what an asset you will be to their company.
5. Bring a typed up list of at least three non-relative references. These can be friends, co-workers, previous managers, landlords etc. Anyone who can and will vouch for your character. Offer them to the interviewer at the start of the interview, even if they don’t ask for them.
a. A side note on the first 3 items; bring these items in a pocket or manila folder or other professional vessel. Not only will you look professional and well-prepared for the interview, you are also ensuring your documents do not get bent, damaged or lost.
6. Research the company before you go to the interview. 9 out of 10 times the interviewer is going to ask if you know anything about the company. That is a question they ask to find out if you did your research. It takes a few minutes to go to company’s website and review the “About Us” section and get to know what the company does. While you are researching the company, look for information on your contact for your interview. They might have a short blip about them and it would be interesting to read up on their life story.
7. When the interviewer calls you to setup a time to interview, be sure to write down the time, place, the person’s name, phone number, email address and any other pertinent information they give you relating to the interview. That way you will have the information on hand and you won’t have to call to verify, which doesn’t help your image.
8. BE 10-15 MINUTES EARLY FOR YOUR INTERVIEW. I am putting in caps because it is extremely important. Nothing says undependable and “don’t hire me” like being late to an interview. If you are late and there is a good reason for it, be sure to call the interviewer and explain it them prior to showing up. Give them the opportunity to adjust their schedule or reschedule the interview if needed. Being late is never good, but it shows you are respectful and interested in the position if you call.
9. Act interested in the position. If this is the 20th interview you have been to, make sure the interviewer gets your undivided attention and you act like it is your first. Enter every interview like it is going to be your last and you might be surprised at the outcome.
10. Be prepared to talk about your work experience and skills and how they relate to what the interviewer is looking for in a candidate. Give real life examples of how/when you used computer software or certain skill set. Try to use a circumstance where you used it that would be relevant to the industry in which you are currently interviewing. For example, if you are interviewing for an architect firm and you are asked where you used the CAD program, you could say at so and so company when I was downloading blueprints to review. It is very relevant to your current interview. If you made up anything on your resume to get a callback, this is the time it will be revealed. (There is nothing wrong with overselling your skills on your resume but NEVER make up skills or experience. As they say, all lies are revealed in due time…so don’t do it!)
11. Firmly shake the interviewer’s hand when you meet them, smile, use their name, let them know it is a pleasure to meet them and thank them for taking the time to meet with you. This person is taking time out of their day to talk to you about a job opportunity, make sure they know you are grateful for the opportunity.
12. Do not discuss the salary of the position during the phone call to setup the interview or during the first interview. If the interviewer brings it up, make sure you give them the salary range you desire but do not make it the focus of the interview. Most job postings offer an idea of the salary for the position and you shouldn’t apply for positions with lower salary caps than you need. The company may not be willing to move the salary range up to meet your needs.
13. Do not discuss personal circumstances with an interviewer. If the interviewer asks about your family life or living situation, politely decline the question by stating that your family life and living situation etc. are great and do not have any bearing on your ability to perform your work well. It is a way to deflect the question but also reroute the conversation back to your qualifications. If they are insistent on you answering the questions, you can verbally decline, end the interview or answer the questions. Please be aware that if you do choose to answer, you answers may have a bearing on you being hired for the position. If you have four children or are a single parent, the interviewer may view you as a liability or someone who will be absent from work a lot. You are not supposed to be discriminated against based on these things, but we all know it does happen. It is best not to answer these questions at all. In fact, in some states, it is not even legal for them to ask. Doing some research on the laws in your state prior to any interview may be helpful and will help you prepare for interviews better.
14. Be prepared to discuss extracurricular activities you do, these are ok to discuss. If the interviewer asks you what you like to do in your spare time, try to describe the things you enjoy doing. Really delve deep to come up with activities. You do more than you think you do. Everything can be spun to paint you in a good light. But please remember, do not lie. Here are a few examples:
a. If you love video games, it’s ok to say you love video games. But if you stay up all night playing them, try to refrain from telling the interviewer that tidbit of information.
b. If you go out and bar hop every night or stay out partying until the sun comes up, first, try to calm that down when you are job hunting and especially after you get the job, second, tell the interviewer that you have a healthy social life and love to go out and explore new venues.
c. If you loaf on the couch and eat junk food until you pass out, tell the interviewer that you are a foodie and love to relax at home.
d. If you are a room parent for your child’s school; you like to do some volunteer work. If you love to go to garage sales, flea markets, antique stores etc. tell the interviewer. You might be surprised what you have in common with them.
e. If you love to read celebrity gossip magazines all the time; you are an avid reader!
15. Going back to number 14, do not show up your interview sleep deprived and still half drunk from last night’s shenanigans. You may not know this but even several hours after binge drinking, you are still drunk, exuding the alcohol smell and don’t look/act your best. You do not want to go to an interview unless you are well rested and completely 100% sober and clear minded. It is ok to go out and have a few drinks every once in a while, but if this is an every night thing, you might consider getting some help.
16. Expect to be given a drug test. If the interview is going well and they want to hire you on the spot, be prepared to take a drug or other test required by the employer. That means bringing any prescriptions or notes from the doctor that explain any medications you are on that may show up on a drug test. And that means NOT taking substances that will show up on the test. These substances are illegal, harmful to your health and won’t get you hired, so you shouldn’t be taking them anyway. There are no employers I know of that will ignore those results and still hire you. IF you are taking these substances, make a pledge to stop so you can get clean and STAY clean. Most employers that drug test at the beginning will also do random tests throughout your employment with them. If you need more help to get clean, contact your local health department for information on a rehabilitation center in your area.
17. Ask about benefits, allotted vacation and sick days and other perks to the position if salary is brought up by the interviewer. Make sure you know everything they offer before you make a decision, if you are offered the position. If the interviewer doesn’t bring this subject up, please refrain from asking about it until a second interview, if there is one.
18. Ask why the position is available. This may seem like a weird question, but knowing why the previous person is no longer in that position is important. If they say the person just got up and quit, there might be someone or something at the company that caused that person to quit in that manner. It might make you rethink accepting the position.
19. Make sure that you have the skills you advertised on your resume and be prepared to show them. If you say you type 90 WPM, they might ask you to do a typing test to prove that. If you say you have specific computer software experience, they might have you take a test on that software. Be sure you are accurately describing your expertise level for each skill you list on your resume. If you have extensive knowledge in a program, describe it that way. If you have limited knowledge, tell them that. That way you won’t be falsely advertising your skills. If you are having trouble wording your resume properly or creating one at all, hiring a resume service would be a great, affordable option.
20. Have a 5 and 10 year plan for yourself. That is one of the top questions interviewers asked. I think it is in the interviewer handbook. They want an idea of who you really are and this question helps determine that. There are many good answers to the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 year (or 10 years)?” But the main formula for this answer should include working at that particular company and having moved up the ladder. “In 5 years I will have proven myself to be an asset to the company as the Assistant Administrative Director and will have been promoted to the Administrative Director.” You can then add pertinent personal (but not too personal) information to the remainder of the plan. A 5/10 year plan is a good idea to have in general. If you have clear goals in mind for yourself, you will be more motivated to achieve them in the timeframe you have given yourself or sooner if you are a real go-getter!
21. When they ask if you have any questions for them; have a few questions. Ask about the company’s competition, ask about turnover rates within the company, ask about advancement opportunities, what the interviewer likes about the company, how long they have worked there, did they advance to the position they are in now etc. Have questions, it makes you look very interested in the position and will give you more insight that the interviewer didn’t share with you earlier in the interview.
22. Think before you speak. Really think about what you are going to say or how you are going to answer the question and speak in a confident, professional manner with no slang or abbreviations.
23. Be readily available if they ask to setup a second interview. A second interview wouldn’t be taking place if they were not extremely interested in hiring you. A second interview is a good indicator that you will be offered the position, not every time but most of the time.
24. Don’t set up appointments around the time of the interview or schedule them during a lunch hour at your current job. If you feel rushed, you will not be at your best. The interviewer might want to take you on a tour of the facility, take assessment tests or you might have to wait past the appointment time to be interviewed. Be completely honest with employers about your current employment status. They might be willing to schedule the interview after hours to better accommodate your schedule.
a. If you are offered the position let them know that you will be giving your current employer a two-week notice and be sure to give them one. If your current employer makes you leave the day you give your notice, which is becoming more popular in large companies, than contact your new employer to see if you can start earlier. Never burn a bridge with an employer by not giving them a notice, even if they don’t deserve one.
25. Last but not least, be yourself. That is the only person you are great at being! There is no harm in shining the penny before you offer it to someone, but don’t lie about yourself to get a job. Lies are so much harder to keep up with than the truth and the real you is so much better than a fake version. Be yourself, laugh a little, speak highly of yourself, sell your skills and experience and really get the interviewer pumped about adding you to the team!
BONUS: After the interview, be sure to send a short email or thank you card (my preference) to the interviewer thanking them for their time. Express your interest in the position and let them know you hope to hear from them soon with an offer for the position! This small gesture will go a long way with leaving a lasting impression with the interviewer.
Good luck and happy interviewing! Comment below, I would love to know if any of these tips helped you master your interview!