Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Nailing your job #interview

Alright girlfriend, this is it.  You searched and found your dream job, wrote a killer resume, and soared in your telephone interview.  Now you are ready to hit it out of the park and prove to your future employer that you ARE the right person for this position with an in person interview.  Here's how you do it.

The Basics
Let's start with the things you will do automatically and instinctively.  These include being on time (early but preferably no more than 10 mins), no gum chewing gum, not smelling strongly of anything (including but not limited to food smells, perfume, BO), and dressing for success (we will talk more on this tomorrow).

Ensure you have already eaten, have had enough to drink (though not too much!), that you have already visited the restroom, and that your phone is ALREADY switched off BEFORE your arrival.  Don't underestimate the important of the basics.  If in the most extenuating circumstances and you are going to be late, ensure you call/email ahead and let them know (and you better have a REALLY good reason).

The Meet and Greet
The majority of the time you will first check in with reception and will have a few minutes to wait until your interviewer or their assistant arrive to get you.  Use this time to compose your thoughts, review the job description and observe the company atmosphere.  Since your phone is already off and away, there is no chance you will be distracted (right?!).  And of course it goes without saying, ensure you are nice and friendly to everyone that you encounter.

Once your escort has collected you, ensure you smile and make eye contact, shaking hands with a firm grip (not too hard, not too week). Gauging on their body language, make small talk.  If they are part of the interview panel, it will help you begin a rapport.  But make no mistake, your interview begins the second you enter the building and every employee you encounter may provide feedback on your behavior.

The Conversation
Hopefully your interview will be conducted in a comfortable room.  Your host may offer you something to drink, which you should politely decline unless your throat is dry and it will prevent you from speaking clearly (just don't spill it!).   Bring several copies of your resume with you as you should assume those that are interviewing you have NOT had a chance to review it yet.

At this point, your interview may take several different forms.  They may have a set of standard HR questions that must be addressed first, or it might take the form of a conversation.  It is important to read the situation and answer to the best of your ability.  HR questions are generally looking for you to hit a few key words or responses while general questions by the hiring manager are looking to gauge your ability and how you will likely fit with the rest of the team.

The best interviews are those that feel and act like a conversation, not a tennis match.  Never interrupt your interviewer, but feel free to jump in with examples as needed.  Follow their lead and let your personality shine without being overbearing.

You've had a good conversation and now here it comes, "Do you have any questions for us?"  Well girlfriend, the answer is always YES.   Even if all of your questions have been answered, make one up.  Asking questions shows you have interest in the position and have thought about this opportunity.  However, your questions should be something the interviewer can answer easily.

Ask questions about the company or about the position, but you cannot question the strategy or direction the interviewer has decided to take the position or make them feel defensive.  Also, continue to read body language, as usually after a handful of questions, the interviewer has had enough.  You should refrain from firing endless questions their way, especially if you have already had a long conversation.

The Follow-up
Thank everyone for their time and if they haven't mention a timeline for follow-up, feel free to ask at the end of the conversation.  Later the same day, ensure you send a thank you email.  Some experts argue that a hand-written note is the only way to go, but I have found that an short, brief email is more than sufficient.  Now go back to your normal life and resume your job search.  Never stop your job hunt because you think you had a great interview and you are sure an offer is coming.  Things change, situations change, and you may not be successful.  

If you haven't had an update within a couple weeks, feel free to follow-up again. You should hear one way or the other, but it is completely possible you will never hear anything.  It's rude and in poor taste, but it certainly happens.  Knowing that you did your best and gave it your all is all one can expect.  Good luck #workinggirl!

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

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