By Melissa Suey, Career and Leadership Coach, RedSkyLeadership.com
If you are invited for an interview, the job is yours to lose. You have at least some of the qualifications on paper, so the interview process is designed to "weed out" those who won't be a good fit for the team or the company.
I experienced this first hand recently as I was interviewing candidates for a professional position within the department I oversee. Having worked as a Career and Leadership Coach for years, and now as a Hiring Manager within an organization, I was intrigued to experience this process from "the other side."
Many of the unlimited interview tip resources (this newsletter notwithstanding) are free and offer tried-and-true, basic advice about interview do's and don'ts.
Imagine my surprise, then, when some of the very basic "interview don'ts" showed up in the interviews I conducted! These aren't groundbreaking, but basic and easy to put into action:
1. Arrive on Time
Better yet, arrive 10 minutes early. This gives you a chance to arrive calmly, collect your thoughts and be pleasant to be the person greeting you who will announce your arrival to your interviewers. You don't want to rush in, out of breath, looking disorganized and disheveled. Your first impression starts long before the actual interview takes place.
2. Bring a Copy (or Copies) of Your Resume
Even if you emailed a copy, or sent one in through an online application, you'll want to bring clean, hard copies of your resume on nice resume-quality paper. Online applications can do quirky things to resumes and are often hard to read (trust me!), so make it easy for the hiring manager to view your qualifications. Even if you think only one person is interviewing you, bring extras. Remember, this is your marketing material and you WANT people to have this, so don't skimp. It reiterates your interest, showing you are prepared and professional. True story: A corporate recruiting manager I know well told me that in the past month he has had not one, but two candidates hand over a flash drive when he asked for a copy of their resume. They (both!) told him they hadn't had time to print it, but asked if he could print it for them. Are you kidding me?! In both cases, he told the candidate that he didn't think they would be a good fit for the company and the interview was over.
3. Use Professional, Appropriate Language
This common sense, standard practice for professionalism in any workplace should be a given. However, after my recent experience and the stories I've heard from my recruiting friends, apparently it's not so common! An interview is your chance to make a positive impression upon the interviewer and offer them assurance that you would be an asset to their team, not a liability. As a hiring manager, I can assure you this is one of the most important factors I take into consideration. Typically, you don't know the person across the interview table, so don't make assumptions that they have a similar sense of humor. Don't take any chances ? instead, err on the side of caution. Avoid colorful language, phrases that are sexist and stories that involve topics that are illegal or simply uncomfortable. If you don't, in an instant, you may have just weeded yourself out of the job.
4. Use Examples to Illustrate Your Experience
Even if the interviewer doesn't ask for an example, offer one. Don't answer in terms of what you would do, or could do, tell them what you have done. Take the time to prepare these examples in advance. You know where you have succeeded in the past, so be prepared to talk about it. Help them to understand how what you have done in the past enables you to be productive in the position they are hiring for. If you can't make the connection, you can be sure they won't.
5. Thank the Interviewer(s)
It is so easy to do, and still so few people do it. Thank the interviewer(s) in person when you complete the interview. Then, preferably the same day, follow up with a thank you note or email. It is the single, simplest way to stay "top of mind" and to reiterate your written communication skills, your professionalism, and your interest.
Remember, getting an interview is a great challenge, especially in this job market. If you've made it onto a list of candidates they are seriously considering, pat yourself on the back, then review these tips, take time to prepare and you will be on your way to "weeding yourself in" to that next job!
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