I just found this old post that I wrote August 2008 – literally 15 years go. Even though the world has changed a lot since then, job interviews are still the same.
Yes, many today are online, and that changes the perspective for a number of my points, but many are as true today as they were then.
So here is that post again:
Focus on the Objective
If you are called for an interview, the company has decided it is interested in you. They already have your resume, you have made it past the first round of eliminations, and at least on paper you appear qualified. They called you in because they want to get to know you. They want to know what you are like to be with. Do you live up to the impression you made with your paperwork?
Keep this in mind when you go into an interview. You are qualified. You have the right education. None of that is all that important now. What is important is that you show that you can do the job, and that they like you. Who wants to work with somebody they don’t want to be around.
Focus on that, and make sure everything in your interview is consistent with that objective.
Look Right for the Job
Make sure you appear congruent with the job you are applying for. Lawyers wear suits and have neatly trimmed hair. Rock musicians wear blue jeans and tie-dyed shirts. Marketing professionals wear suits, dresses and stylish clothes. Computer programmers wear blue jeans, but when they go for interviews, they wear suits.
Take out your earrings if you are a man. Cover your tattoos. Remove visible body piercing objects. Now is not the time to show your individuality. Do not wear too much jewelry. One ring is ok. Do not wear bracelets, whether you are a man or a woman. They get in the way when you shake hands and they jingle and thus distract.
If you don’t have a suit, now is the time to buy one. You don’t need many. Just one good one. That counts for men and women. You always look good in a suit.
Unless you are applying to be the creative head of an Internet company or record label, make sure you are clean shaven and properly groomed. If you are a woman, makeup is ok, but make sure it’s understated. The interviewer does not want to notice your makeup.
And no matter what the job, no cleavage, short dresses or unbuttoned shirts for men.
Walk the Walk
Remember that the first impression you make is usually the final impression. The scary part is that if you are walking from the lobby to the office, and it takes 30 seconds, you have just passed or failed the entire interview before you have even taken a seat.
Therefore, when the interviewer meets you in the lobby and takes you back to her office or a meeting room, make sure you stay with her. Don’t fall behind by walking too slowly. Make sure you wear shoes that allow you to keep her pace. I personally always test my interviewees by walking fast and watching if they keep up. I don’t tell them that, of course.
Politely decline coffee or water or any other refreshments you might be offered. Those would simply distract you. And getting them would divert valuable attention from you in the first 30 seconds. Every second should focus on you.
Find Something in Common
People like people who are like them. So when you enter somebody’s office, find something you have in common with the person. If they have artwork in their office, and you know anything about art, ask. If you see family pictures, and there is something you can relate to, comment on it or ask a question about it. Better yet, if you can determine that you have mutual acquaintances, or you share a hobby, or you went to the same school, or you grew up in the same town or state, that is wonderful. Engage the person with questions about this subject you share. People love to talk about themselves. And they automatically like you, because, after all, you are just like them.
Remember that above all, your job, as you enter the interview space, is to find something in common with the person and note it. This is easier when the interview takes place in the person’s office. It’s harder in a conference room or other neutral space.
But try, try hard, because that alone can make the interview.
Study your answers to the questions you should expect. Some basic questions are:
- What are your goals?
- Where do you want to be five years from now?
- Why have you left your last job (if this is not your first one)?
- What do you do in your spare time?
- Why do you want to work for our company?
- Why should we hire you over somebody else?
Prepare answers to those questions, write the answers down, and read them every day. They should become completely effortless.
After every interview, immediately write down any questions you were asked that you didn’t feel comfortable answering, and then prepare a stock answer. This way you expand your wealth of responses and with every interview you become more prepared.
Most interviewers will expect that you ask them questions. You need to have questions prepared. There is nothing more deflating than to interview somebody that does not have a question.
Make sure you express interest in the company. The more questions you ask, the more they answer, and when they are answering, they are doing the talking, and you are doing the listening, and that’s how a good interview should be.
At the end, the interviewer will simply realize she enjoyed talking with you, and it won’t cross her mind that she did all the talking.
Most people like to talk, and talking is much easier than listening. So, have lots of questions you can fire off, so you can do lots of listening.
It will be a successful interview.
Questions Not to Ask
There are some questions that you should not ask.
1. How much does the job pay? – This is not the time. You’ll figure this out later after they decide they want to hire you.
2. How much vacation do I get? – You want a job, or do you want vacation?
3. Do you have casual Friday? – Duh.
4. What are the benefits? – While this is not an unreasonable question, I recommend that you hold it for later. It’s premature, takes the focus away from the objective, and is awkward. When they offer you the job, you’ll have plenty of time to negotiate the benefits.
Don’t fake anything. Don’t make up anything. If there is something you don’t know, about the company, the job, a subject, anything at all, don’t lie. The interviewer will know. You will look like a phony.
There is nothing wrong with not knowing something. Freely admit it, state that you will find out, or ask them. They will be flattered that you asked.
Always be honest about everything, your education, your grades, your previous salary, the reason you left your last job. If you get the job, the truth will come out. If you were deceptive, you will be embarrassed. If the interviewer does not like your answer, or the truth, you really don’t want to work there anyway.
So always be honest.
Ask For the Job
Before you leave, always ask for the job. You would be amazed how many people interview and never ask for the job.
As the interviewer, it is very easy to give the job to the person that actually states that they want the job and that they are excited about it.
If there are two candidates, both fully qualified, both nice, both would fit into the organization, the interviewer will much more likely offer the job to the person that actually asked for it. Very, very simple.
Before you leave, at the latest when you shake hands, explicitly ask for the job: “I think I’d be great in this position. I would like that job. I am looking forward to hearing from you real soon.”
What interviewer can then ignore you after that?