It’s been awhile since I’ve been on a serious job interview — like big, salary job. But I have interviews all the time for freelance projects, and not to toot my own horn, but rarely do I get turned down for a job.
Interviewing, much like dating, is a skill that we constantly have to work at (which is why you should be going on dates, if you’re single). It’s not a bad idea to go on job interviews, too, even if you’re not necessarily looking for another job.
There are tons of tips for nailing an interview, but here are the ones I think will have the most impact:
- Prepare. Kind of like what you’re doing now! Find out as much as possible about the company, and about the job you’re applying for. The more you know about the company and the position, the more you can sell yourself to fit the job. Plus, it’ll be easier to ask them questions at the end.
- Be kind, to everyone. When I was heading into the interview for the job I’ve got now, I called ahead to make sure I had proper directions. Little did I know that when I hung up the phone, the secretary told my to-be boss just how sweet I was. You never know who’s watching, or listening.
- Always be positive. No matter what question gets thrown your way, stay positive. You KNOW you’re going to get the question about your biggest weakness, so be prepared for it, and make it something that’s not so bad — I think I said I work too much. Ha!
- Get your answers. Ask them questions, too. After all, you’ve got to make sure this job is good for YOU. Some good questions to ask include: What is the most important quality I need to succeed in this position? Can you describe a recent stressful workday that you experienced? What would you expect a star performer to accomplish in the first 30 days? What are some of your favorite office traditions?
- Followup. A thank you note goes a long way (at least that is what my boss tells me). You can have an awesome interview, but if you don’t send a thank you note, you can kiss the job goodbye. Some people are okay with an email, but I say, go for the handwritten note. Everyone loves getting mail!
5 job-interview mistakes to avoid
…From Real Simple magazine, April 2014
1. Leave the stilettos at home. The people I don’t hire are often wrongly dressed for the interview. Usually they’re overdressed: too much makeup and jewelry or impractical shoes It drives me crazy when a woman walks in with peekaboo toes and super high heels. I know they’re very fashionable, but you should look like you can work a long day and you’ll be OK. You can also dress down too much. Recently I looked for a babysitter for my daughter and was surprised by how many women came for an interview in stretchy pants, oversize tops, and sneakers. Not that they should have worn a business suit, either. You should look one step above what is expected to be worn on the job, not a whole ladder. —B.Corcoran, founder of the Corcoran Group, & an investor on ABC’s Shark Tank
2. Don’t air your grievances. For me, the most critical part of the interview is when you explain the decisions you’ve made — especially why you went from one job to the next. The explanation tells me about your motivations and attitude. One golden rule: do not complain about a former job. Find a positive way to frame it. You don’t have to say that everything was perfect. But if you can’t find a way to explain how you handled a difficult situation or describe what you learned on the job, it can seem as if you’ll be disappointed by the ordinary ups and downs of a business. To me, then, it feels like a risk to hire you. —J.Pieri, CEO & founder of TheGrommet.com, one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs of 2013
3. Qualify Nothing. A lot of people have negative speech habits, such as using hedges like just, actually, kinda, and almost. For example: “I’m just really grateful to be talking to you today,” or “I’m kinda thinking I want to transition into this job.” These hedges make you come across as less confident, less authoritative — and less employable. Same for using disclaimers like, “Well I’m really not an expert on this.” People think these types of statements make them seem more likable or down-to-earth, but they undermine credibility. Before an interview, ask a friend to listen to your speech for any bad habits, since they are often unconscious. The give yourself a few days to focus on each one, and excise all of them. —T.S.Mohr, founder of Playing Big & the author of Playing Big.
4. Stay on topic. At the interview, talk only about the things that directly correlate with you ability to do the job: your knowledge, skills, and abilities. For legal reasons, interviewers are trained to stay away from trouble spots. But interviewees often open the can of worms themselves — for example, by mentioning problematic family situations. Most people know not to talk about religion or politics, but even sports can be dangerous. If you’re a diehard Yankees fan and your interviewer likes the Red Sox, you could be in trouble. It’s best to stay focused on what you came there to talk about: the job. —P.Polachi, partner at Polachi
5. Pare down. Too many people walk into an interview with tons of extraneous items. Do not bring your cell phone. Or if you do, make sure it’s turned off, not just on vibrate. Interviewers will not excuse phones going off or, worse, people looking at their phones. Don’t bring reading material, either. It gives the interviewer an impression that may be good or bad, when what you want is to stay neutral. A water bottle might be acceptable, but I’ve heard about folks bringing in a Big Gulp. Not a good idea. Companies hire people, not just a set of skills. They take everything you do into account to gauge your fit for their business. —M.Steinerd, director of recruiting at Indeed.com.