Get a Job! Part 2 – The Interview

More tips for the job seeker from the other side of the desk.

“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt .” While this quote has been attributed to Confucius, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain and TS Eliot among others, in most life situations these are wise words to remember. One notable exception is a job interview.

So you’ve wowed ’em with your resumé, you’ve put together an interview ensemble that if not a suit is at least Simple, Polished and Professional, and you’ve been scheduled for an interview. What’s next?

Before the Interview:

  1. Be. On. Time. Seriously. There is no such thing as Fashionably Late when it comes to looking for a job. If you haven’t been to the interview location before, print out a map from Google or Mapquest and know where you’re going. The person arranging the interview should have given you instructions regarding parking, but if not call back and ask. Give yourself extra time to get there. Arriving early is fine, but be prepared that you may have to cool your heels in the lobby until your scheduled appointment time.
  2. Do a last minute hair/button/zipper check. Check for lipstick on the teeth, a shred of toilet paper stuck on your heel.
  3. Get rid of your gum; toss the cup of coffee and the used Kleenex. When you greet the interviewer, there should be nothing in your hands except your bag/briefcase and possibly a folder with copies of your resumé and references*. There should be nothing in your mouth, period.
  4. Offer your hand to shake when greeted by your interviewer. Your handshake should be firm but not bone-crushing.

Hopefully the person(s) who will be interviewing you will have a clue about how to conduct an effective interview, but that’s not always guaranteed. These tips are predicated on the assumption that they do and will be asking you appropriate questions that will help determine if you’re a good fit for the open position(s).

During the interview:

  1. Breathe.
  2. *You should have brought extra copies of your resume, clean, flat and in a portfolio or folder. If your interviewer(s) don’t have a copy of your resumé prominently displayed in front of them, offer one.
  3. Answer the question you’re asked. I know this sounds rudimentary, but you’d be amazed at the number of people we’ve interviewed who can’t seem to do this. If you’re asked which spreadsheet programs you’ve worked with, the answer to that question isn’t how on your last job you were responsible for keeping track of clients’ birthdays. It’s fine to ask for clarification if you don’t understand the question, or aren’t sure what you’re being asked.
  4. Keep your answers concise and to the point. Try to avoid rambling on and repeating yourself. If you’ve “run out of runway” on a particular question, just stop talking.
  5. Some disagree with me, but I say if you’ve been fired from any of your previous positions, be honest if asked about it. This is NOT your chance to explain why “they done you wrong” and what a shit your old boss was, but rather to share what you learned from the experience.
  6. Make eye contact with your interviewer(s). You don’t have to stare them down, but don’t be looking at the ceiling, your feet, out the window…. And along with this, try to avoid fidgeting.
  7. It’s fine to be warm and friendly, but be cautious about being overly familiar. Even if others in the room are swapping stories about the wacko Account Exec down the hall, now isn’t the time to share your favorite Psycho Co-Worker stories.
  8. You should have some questions prepared about the company, the position, the responsibilities and tasks. Remember, this is also your chance find out if this position is a good fit for you. It’s fine to ask about benefits in general, but if your first question is about how much vacation time you get and how soon you can take it, chances are you’re not going to get that phone call offering you the job.
  9. Depending on the position, and whether you’ll be interviewed by multiple people, an interview can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour per interviewer. When scheduling interviews, give youself enough time in case they really, really like you and want you to stick around so the department head can give you the once over.
  10. When the interview concludes, thank your interviewer(s) for their time and if you’re enthusiastic about the position, say so. If you are pretty certain you wouldn’t work for these idiots for all of the chocolate in Switzerland, you can politely indicate that you don’t think this position is what you’re looking for, but that you appreciate the opportunity to speak with them.
  11. If you think you want this job, follow up with a thank you note. This is also your opportunity to make another short sales pitch (e.g. “After speaking with you, I believe that my skills and experience make me an excellent candidate for this position.”) I may still be old fashioned, but I personally prefer a handwritten note sent snail mail to getting an e-mail. If your handwriting is atrocious or if you think they’ll be making a hiring decision in the next 24 hours and you’ve been given the interviewer’s card that includes their e-mail address, you can go ahead and e-mail your thank you note.

You’ve done your best, now relax. If you’re persistent and attentive, you will find the job that’s a great match for you. Bon chance!

Have a workplace question? Post it in the comments and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.

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  1. October 10, 2007 / 1:51 pm

    I’d be immensely flattered if you did; thank you!

  2. Shefaly Yogendra
    October 10, 2007 / 1:18 pm

    DejaPseu: Very good post! Thank you.

    I particularly like the ‘not for all the chocolate in Switzerland’ reference, although these days I would make that ‘not for all the free training hours with Cole (my trainer)’ but then again THAT might just tempt me into a bad job… 🙂

    I will post a short note on my blog with links to both these posts as my recommended ones. I hope that is ok by you..


  3. Marti
    August 15, 2009 / 2:47 am

    Great, informative post – thank you! I’ll be getting back to work after being a SAHM for a while and I’m rusty at my interviewing skills.

    I was surprised that you only advise writing a thank you note if you’re interested in the job. Isn’t it appropriate to send a thank you note, period? Besides it being good form, it cements the favorable impression that was (hopefully) created during the interview. Who knows if the interviewers know of another opportunity better suited to your skills and goals?

  4. August 15, 2009 / 3:52 am

    Marti – it probably never hurts to send a thank you note, but it definitely signals to the hiring manager that you’re interested in the position.

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