Ooo, the interview! This step of the job application process is the best. I have always been the person who doesn’t wow on paper but seals the deal in the interview. You might see yourself, however as someone with all the right boxes ticked on a resume but tense up in person. No matter which side of the line you find yourself on, we all have the following in common:
easy things to control in your interview:
what you bring to your interview
A PORTFOLIO. If you are a creative, this is a no-brainer, but us corporate folk can take a tip or two from your industry. Why should your interviewers “take your word for it” regarding your skills and talents….show them! Bring evidence. You’re saying you’re a “hard-worker” and very “organized” but what shows it more than coming way more prepared than any other candidate?
What to include in your portfolio: resume, cover letter, and references. Other things that are great to include are samples of your work, projects you’ve worked on, stats/numbers, feedback you’ve received, etc. Not all apply to every job, just take the bits and pieces that make you who you are. For more specific portfolio advice, I love this article on The Muse: The Secret Weapon That Anyone Can Bring to an Interview to Stand Out
WHAT YOU WEAR to the interview
By this stage you should have already researched the company. (You haven’t? Stop and go do that!) Are there ping-pong tables in the office? Are you meeting at Starbucks? Is the building on the 37th floor in the financial building downtown? Scope the vibe so that you don’t walk in underdressed or worse… overdressed.
In a corporate world with less and less strict office dress codes (go Jeans Day!) showing up overdressed can be just as awkward as if you were walking-in in your pajamas. If the corporate culture is casual, dress one step-up and always finish your look polished and professional.
Try to stand out from other candidates by parting ways with mostly black for girls and that blue button down shirt for guys. Boys, maybe a blazer, but no tie for a sleek, causal, professional look that doesn’t screen I’d like to be your financial advisor?
Girls – work with color! How many women do you know wear a business suit that aren’t over 50 or running for public office? Maybe those gray pumps with a buckle instead of black shoes will catch your female interviewer’s eye and perhaps that green blouse with your pencil skirt will separate you from everyone else in black and white. Just be sure to stay away from statement jewelry or bold makeup that can distract from your pretty face or your rockin’ resume.
do yourself justice without gloating
Once you are in the door of an interview there is no way you should NOT be offered the job. I have received an offer on every job I have seriously interviewed for.
Tips for conversation: don’t be shy. This is the one time in life it is okay — critical even — that it is okay to brag about yourself. Sure, there is a fine line at “annoying” or “gloating” but it’s pretty hard to cross that line if you have your tone right.
If you feel uncomfortable speaking so highly of yourself it’s even okay to reduce the tension by saying something like “well, I guess in an interview it’s okay to brag” or own it by saying “I’m proud of this accomplishment and happy to share it with you because I think it applies to this position in X way”. Laughing at how you are bragging or casually mentioning that a lot of work went into an accomplishment so large will take pressure off the awkward situation and will allow you to present how successful you truly are but also show that you are still a real person that doesn’t always talk like that.
ask the best questions you can
Almost 100% of the time, at the end of the interview the interviewer will ask “do you have any additional questions?” Throughout the interview, you’ll have worked in questions regarding the position, or they’ll at least have come up in conversation. (Ask any additional you have now). Sometimes this question catches people off-guard. Not because they didn’t expect it (they did!) it’s just that all of the questions they had planned have already been answered throughout the 30 minute conversation.
More often than not, the one question that most likely did not get answered (and the one question that will SEAL THE DEAL) is this:
now that we have talked, what hesitations, if any, do you still have about me being the right candidate for this position? … i’d like to address any shortcomings you may be concerned about before i walk out the door.
Give your interviewer some time and some space for back filler as they truly think through the answer to this question. You may have taken them by surprise, but nevertheless will have impressed them. This is not, however, an uncomfortable situation for them. You interviewer will most likely privately commend you for being brave and asking a straightforward question. Just plan on defending yourself by knowing your answer to these following hesitations:
- You lack experience
- You don’t show much stability: the longest you’ve been with a company is X
- We have an internal candidate we are considering/I have other people to interview
- You are overqualified
Go in to the interview knowing how to defend those answers (or other shortcomings you think may be a concern on your resume). You’ll at least be able to address the question instead of the interviewer making assumptions. For example:
You don’t show much stability: the longest you’ve been with a company is X. Answer: That’s true, I have worked with 5 different employers in the past 7 years, however, the first three positions listed were various internships/contract positions. They are listed there as 6 months/1 year/etc. with an agreed upon end date and was not a termination/leave. So I really only just left that one position when a recruiter reached out to me on LinkedIn about my current role.
USE THE INTERVIEW time WISELY
INTERVIEW THE COMPANY
So much time is dedicated to interviewing the candidate – you. However, most importantly, this is your time to decide if this is the right fit for you. Are you going to be happy and engaged in this position? Working for this boss? Working is this company culture?
Use this time to ask questions that mean something to you: What is the structure of the department? How much visibility does this position have? Tell me what a successful employee at this organization looks like? The answers to these questions will help you figure out how organized the team is, what the goals are, and what the organization values.