I’ve been in some form of Human Resources or Staffing for 17 years. That is not fun to say. Don’t get me wrong, I like what I do; I just can’t believe I’ve actually been doing it for that long. When you do one thing for that long, you eventually learn a thing or two. One thing I have learned and that I feel obligated to pass on to the world is that you don’t ace an interview with what you say. You ace an interview with what you do.
1. Be a little nervous – I have interviewed thousands of people for jobs. I don’t care how long you’ve been working or how confident you are in your abilities. An interview is ALWAYS a pressure situation and if you’re not nervous, you either don’t care or you’re arrogant. No one wants to hire who someone who doesn’t care and no one wants to work with someone who is arrogant. And if you are SUPER nervous, don’t be afraid to acknowledge it. A good recruiter will know how to settle you in.
2. Arrive in the sweet spot – Don’t be late and don’t be super early. The sweet spot for arriving to your interview is 5-12 minutes before the interview. If you commit the most egregious sin of actually showing up late, you better have a good reason and you better apologize profusely. And don’t even think of blaming your GPS. No one buys that. Interesting aside, I once had someone apologize for being 4 minutes late to their interview because they had a wardrobe malfunction. Their words, not mine. They did not elaborate on the particulars of the wardrobe malfunction and I didn’t ask.
3. Talk enough and never too much – An interviewers job is to get you to talk about you. Do some practice interviewing with a friend. Seriously, do it. I know it sounds embarrassing and ridiculous, but it’s better to make mistakes in practice than when it is show time. When you’re answering questions, watch for cues from your interviewer. If they have to ask a lot of follow up questions, you may not be talking enough. If their eyes are glazing over and they are staring blankly at you, you have probably gone on a bit too long. If the interviewer finally says, “Let me interrupt you for a moment…” don’t continue to talk over him or her. Yes, that has happened to me.
4. Prepare some specific stories – In the days prior to your interview, write down and study examples of your best work. The greatest obstacle you have overcome, the angriest customer you won over, the enormous project you pulled together. Write them down and study them. Because I guarantee you, if you don’t, you will sit across from that interviewer and draw a blank. And it will be awkward for everyone. If you plan ahead, hopefully you will avoid that . If you do find yourself in the midst of that arm pit sweat inducing moment, smile and say, “That’s a great question. I’d like to give it some thought. Can we come back to it?”. Trust me, that candor is way better than the stream of “uhhh, ummm, this one time… I did this thing… it was awesome…” that generally follows when a candidate can’t think of a great answer quickly.
5. Do paperwork happily – Ask the person who schedules your interview how long the interview process is and whether there will be paperwork or testing that you will be completing on the day of your interview. Then, when it is time to do that testing or paperwork, don’t say something like, “I have to do ALL of this?” or “You REALLY need ALL of this information?”. The answer is yes or we wouldn’t be asking you to do it. Really. And, similarly, when you are completing an application, never, ever, ever, ever write or type “see resume” in the work history section of the application. We know you have a resume. You still have to fill out the application completely. Why? The application is a legal document, the resume is a piece of paper that may or may not have any basis in reality.
6. Pay attention to small instructions – We have bells in our office. When I leave a candidate so that they can fill out paperwork, I ask that they ring the bell when they are done. I get it that no one wants to ring a bell. I understand that it is awkward. But, the bell does two things. It alerts me when a candidate is done with their paperwork and it prevents the candidate from having to walk awkwardly through cubicles to find me to let me know they are done or have a question. When I tell someone to ring the bell and they don’t ring it, it tells me that they either a.) didn’t listen to me, or, b.) deliberately ignored my instructions. Neither one of those is a good thing.
7. Never do any of these things in your interview:
- Chew gum
- Bring in your giant coffee
- Eat your breakfast
- Apologize for eating your breakfast and then continue to eat your breakfast
- Take a call on your cell phone
- Apologize for your phone ringing during the interview and then proceed to answer your phone and have a conversation
- Wear sweatpants, see through clothing or any clothing that allows your undergarments to be seen in any way. Ever.
- Overshare the crazy drama in your life
- Bring your children
- Ask to use the rest room and then never come back
- Ask your interviewer if they can help you get a good lawyer
In case you are wondering, yes, all of those have happened to me.