Let’s talk job interviews! Call me weird, but I’ve always enjoyed the interviewing and hiring process. I’ve done a lot of it, too. I’ve probably been in a few hundred job interviews at this point…on both sides of the table. I’ve also done some various interviewing classes for high school students and others for front-line hiring managers. So when someone contacted me recently and asked if I could offer some pointers, I thought it may be of use to all of us to go through some interviewing basics…an Interviewing 101, if you will.
First and most importantly, remember that every job interview matters. Whether you are voluntarily looking for a new position, interviewing for a promotion, or desperate for a j-o-b to make ends meet, every interview gives you the chance at a fresh start to convince a captive audience that you are awesome. With that in mind, be awesome!
Resumes and Cover Letters
Before you can get to the interview, you’ve got to get the interview. This is where networking and your resume come into play. Your resume should be professional, grammatically correct, accurate and as complete as possible without being too lengthy. Your resume doesn’t get you the job, so don’t put EVERYTHING on there. Instead, aim for including relevant, useful information that a hiring manager can digest in 20-30 seconds. That’s all the time you’re going to get when someone is scanning resumes.
A common rookie mistake is to put together an awesome resume and just send it to everyone on the planet. That’s a terrible plan. Instead, I recommend you build a nice, complete resume to save as a template, and then tweak it slightly to fit the position for which you’re applying. Same goes for a cover letter. It should have the same personalization/customization as your resume. Don’t be lazy here. Since you’ve only got 20-30 seconds and you don’t want to overwhelm, aim for clean, minimalistic and extremely professional.
Recommended Resources: One of the best books I’ve ever found regarding how to write a resume, cover letter, follow-up letter, etc., is a book by Dan Miller: 48 Days to the Work You Love. I’ve used this book myself and recommended it to dozens. No one has ever told me it was a poor investment in their job search. The appendix itself is worth the price of the book. Another great resource I’m reading now and enjoying a lot is Jon Acuff’s Do Over. Jon’s wit, common-sense attitude and love for queso make it a fun and useful read.
Let’s get into the interview itself. You’ve sent a nice resume, cover letter (and an application, if required). You’ve impressed the hiring team enough that you’ve gotten the call to come in for an interview. Now what?
Here’s a starting list:
- Be prepared (know about the company and the interviewer, if possible, have a copy of your resume and supporting materials)
- Look professional
- Take notes (if allowed; be sure to ask)
- Remember interviewing is a two-way street. The company may want you but you get a bad vibe while you’re interviewing. Don’t be afraid to trust your negative feelings.
- Ask questions when given the opportunity. Be sure to ask at the end, “is there anything we’ve discussed today that makes you feel I’m NOT the perfect candidate? I’d like to address those.” Also be sure to ask, “when you hire me for the role, what will be your top two or three priorities when I get started?”
- Focus on pay. Pay is important, but if you start off focused on pay, benefits, time off or similar, it will be a big turn off.
- Assume you’re the best fit (remember, it is an “audition” and both you and the company need to decide if you are the best fit)
- Be sloppy
- Be fake
- Forget to find out when you should follow up on next steps (and be sure to grab contact info for the person responsible to handle follow-ups)
After the Interview
Write a thank you note. Seriously, write a hand-written thank you note on some decent stationery. Don’t wait a day or two. Write the note the same day and drop it in the mail within 24 hours. Why? Because other people are interviewing for the same role you are. You had your 20-30 seconds to impress with your resume. You had a bit of face-to-face time to impress in the interview. Now follow up and impress once more with a sincere thanks for the opportunity to interview for the role. 48 Days to the Work You Love has a really good example or two of this in the appendix.
You are guaranteed to foul up some interviews and hit home runs on others. You are guaranteed to be told ‘no’ a few times. If you are one of those rare people who submits one application/resume, has a single interview and is hired, then you either are too qualified for the job, are paid too little for what you do, or the company wasn’t doing a good job hiring. The job interviewing process is just that…a process!
Obviously in this short space I couldn’t have possibly covered all you should know about interviewing. My goal was to help get you started thinking of how to improve your interviewing skills and maybe even give you the nudge to find a better job if the one you have now isn’t where you should be. If I can help, please contact me. If you have a tip to add, please do so in the comments below. Thanks!