I have conducted interviews hundreds of job applicants for a variety of positions and surprisingly, entry level applicants and applicants for more senior roles often make some of the same mistakes. Here are some tips and useful pieces of advice that will help you look, feel and do your best on your next interview.
How to dress: You’re not in the door yet so simple is best. It’s true that some more modern companies have changed their dress codes to more casual attire, however if you’re applying for a company like that, don’t get ahead of yourself. Remember, the casual privilege is for team members only. When it comes to your job interview clean, neat and professional should be your desired outcome.
- Do: Dress in business attire. Tailored suits are best though not mandatory. Just get as close to this look as you can afford. Do be clean, neat and pressed. Do minimize the perfume/cologne, make-up and jewelry.
- Don’t: Don’t be forgettable. A single pop of color may be that well needed item to get you noticed. Nothing spectacular, just perhaps your favorite lipstick that brightens your face or maybe your favorite formal neck tie. Don’t show all your tattoos. Tattoos are usually personal and symbolic and while there’s nothing wrong with them per se, you want to show your interviewer that you can cover them up if you need to. Don’t wear all your earrings. If you have many piercings in your ears, just keep it simple. One pair on earrings will be more than sufficient. Don’t let you hair cover your face.
- Why: There are a number of reasons to dress this way. You want to ensure that the interviewer is left talking about your qualifications and not how distracting your apparel was. It’s also a good way to play it safe. Some hiring managers, believe it or not, are actually okay with you simply being clean, neat and professional. Others are a bit more traditional and think that if you don’t dress this way, you may not be serious about the job. Since you won’t know who’s who going in, it’s best to stay on the safe side.
- But I’m an individual: Yes you are and you’ll be able to express your individuality on your own time. If you’ve chosen to sell your time to someone else in exchange for a paycheck, then they’ll want you to look the part while you’re there. Remember, you’ll be the face of the company you are applying to. They will want to know that you can properly represent their brand.
- Common Mistakes: Platform shoes or shoes you haven’t quite learned to walk in yet, ill-fitted suits, dirty nails or shoes, too much make-up, smoking before the interview (forget what you’ve heard, this scent does not go away), wearing something uncomfortable that you keep adjusting, keeping torn stockings on because you don’t want to go in without stockings (I promise you, anything is better than torn stockings- ditch them), eating smelly foods right before the interview.
How to act: Yes, how you carry yourself, this is just as important as how you dress. This could be the make or break moment in how you are perceived as a person. Anyone can put on a nice suit but your attitude usually comes from a more genuine place.
- Do: Walk with confidence, look into your interviewers eyes when asking or answering questions, end your interview with a reasonably firm handshake, speak with conviction and authority, smile genuinely.
- Don’t: Don’t look down in your interview. Your interviewers are just trying to have a conversation with you, so be natural and convincing. Don’t be distracted by your phone, this is game over for most interviewers. Don’t get distracted. If you find your mind wandering off, take notes, get more involved in the conversation.
- But I’m naturally shy: Not everyone is an extrovert so if you’re naturally a shy person try practicing your interview answers before you go in. That way you’ll be find confidence in the fact that you are prepared.
What to say: There are tons of interviewing questions flying around on the internet with so called ‘ideal responses’. Beware of these, the ones I’ve seen so far are less than ideal and quite generic. If generic is what you’re going for then what’s going to set you apart from the other interviewees?
- Do: Answer the question based on your professional and not your personal self. So for example, if you’re asked to speak a little about yourself, then you should naturally speak about your skills, aptitude, background and experience not your kids, hobbies hang ups etc. Do show off your knowledge about your areas of expertise. Do clarify questions if necessary, it shows engagement and interest. Do prepare a few questions to ask your interviewer at the end of the session.
- Don’t: Don’t give one word answers. The interviewer is trying to use 15-45 minutes to determine your suitability for the job. Don’t sell yourself short, expound on all your points. Don’t ask about the salary on the first interview, let them know you’re there for more than the money. Don’t intervene in another conversation. Your interviewer may engage in a side conversation on the phone or with a colleague in the office. This is not your moment to give a witty intrusive response, it’s your time to wait patiently and be quiet.
- Tips: Study for your interview as if it were a test. Learn about the company, the role and their expectations of you in that role. Once you’ve found this information, start putting your answers together. Next, ask someone close to you to interview you. At the end of the interview, ask them for tips and advice. Do this as many times as you need to in order to get it right.
- Popular Questions: Some popular questions include:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why do you want to work here?
- What makes you suitable for this role or What do you bring to this role?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Do you have any experience in this field?
Don’t be late!: Some interviewer won’t even make time for you if you arrive late. It shows them that you do not value their time and that you’ll probably have a trend of lateness if hired. While lateness may not be intentional, it’s best to put things in place to help make things smoother ahead of your big date. Press your clothes, put accessories together, arrange transportation, figure out the location, set your alarm, in fact set two just to be safe and get all your documents prepared. If in spite of your best efforts you realize that you will still be late, call the company and let them know ahead of your scheduled time. They may be able to give you a different slot.
Nerves: Examine why you’re nervous and then fix that issue. Are you afraid you’ll mess up the questions? Well, practice, practice, practice. Are you afraid they won’t like you? Then ask your friends for tips on what you can do to put your best foot forward. Put on some music, clear your mind, meditate. Find creative ways to calm your nerves before the interview. A nervous interview will never showcase you as well as you’d like.
Good Luck on your job interview, I hope you get that job! If you have any question, feel free to ask in the comments below.