So… you scored the interview. YES! The hours you’ve spent crafting the perfect professional portfolio have paid off, and the hiring team has called you to request an on-site meeting at their company headquarters.
That first job search hurdle, the “FIRST IMPRESSION”, has been accomplished and you’ve soared over it. Now, your next mission is to win these people over in person. How do you guarantee that you get everything right? Has it been awhile since you’ve had to succumb to job searching? Don’t worry, I’ve got your six… I’ve been to plenty of interviews to know the right and the wrong way to approach them. Here is my 10-point checklist you need to follow before arriving at headquarters:
1. Dress appropriately.
This may seem obvious, but I have been to one too many career fairs and professional environments where shorts and sandals were surrounding me everywhere! This is not okay. That old saying, “Dress for the job you want” is true- and dressing too casually will look lazy and like bad manners. If you are unsure of the company dress code, it is appropriate to ask Human Resources beforehand.
Ladies: wear a dress at the appropriate length, pants suit, pressed slacks and a blazer, closed-toed shoes, etc.
Gents: wear a suit and tie, blazer, slacks, belt, etc.
2. NO GUM!
Chew all the gum or breath mints you want during the car ride over, but once you enter the building, throw it away. Not only will it look sloppy to your interviewer, but worse, it will be distracting. They invited you to interview with them because they were impressed by you, so don’t let the gum showing in your teeth distract them during your answer to “Why should we hire you?”
3. What time is it… are you early?
Always arrive 5-10 minutes early to your interview. This is key. Everybody’s time is precious and should not be wasted. If a candidate arrived even 5 minutes late to my interview without a good reason, or a head’s up phone call, they’d be immediately reconsidered for the job. Why? Because I need to know that I can count on you.
4. Get directions.
Expanding on step #3, always know your final destination ahead of time. Use the GPS on your phone to calculate the arrival time AND consider all possible traffic scenarios. Again, I would much rather wait 30 minutes in the parking lot for my interview time, than to be 5 minutes late due to unforeseen circumstances.
5. Have printed copies of your resume.
I cannot tell you how many interviews I’ve been on where the hiring team says, “I have also brought in Jane Doe from Accounting to sit in on this interview. You’d work very closely with her in this position.” If I were a gambling woman, I’d guess that she has no idea of my past experience and probably had very little notice that she’d even be a part of this interview. This is your opportunity to showcase your professionalism and preparedness by saying “Hi Jane, here is a copy of my Resume for you to review during our conversation.” Score one point for you! Also, it can be your cheat sheet for answering tough interview questions. (see step #8)
6. A pen and paper.
Arrive to your interview prepared with your resume, contact cards, and something to write with. You will be provided with a lot of information that, if not written down, will be forgotten amidst the nerves. Be prepared to jot down quick notes about the names of the people you talked with (to follow up with and thank later), directions on next steps in the process, and job description details.
7. Perform high-level company research.
I once had a college professor tell me he never hired someone to work in his private practice if they asked a question where the answer could have been found on the company website. Asking questions is great, but only ask the quality questions. My favorite question for someone interviewing for a sales role is: I know that your company is a top leader in selling and providing commercial grade carpet nationwide, can you elaborate on the benefits of how this type of carpet sets you apart from your competitors in the area? Nice, right?
8. Know the highlights of your resume.
As I have written before, the purpose of an interview is to see how your skills listed on your resume will transmit in person. Spoiler alert: they WILL ask you about details of your past experiences and supporting examples of your qualifications.
Know your resume inside and out, and practice good ways to describe your last few jobs effectively. You wrote your resume with your key strengths in mind, so use it! The more versed you appear to be about your past, the more likely your meeting will simply be a conversation, rather than a stoic interview.
A good attitude is just as important as your resume itself. People hire people they like, and could enjoy working with every day. So, smile. Be genuine. Be REMEBERED. Show some personality. Crack a small (appropriate) joke.
10. Bring A Strong Handshake!
If you take nothing else away from this article, please READ this last tip!!! Adopt a good, strong handshake. As a woman, my biggest pet peeve is when a man gives me a weak handshake. Please… no floppy fishes or lady fingers. If you actually shake my hand, I won’t break! Maybe this is etiquette that is lost in today’s world, but I feel an obligation to bring it back. The trick is for both parties involved in said handshake to: use your full hand from fingertips to palms, grip their hand with a firmness like you would a doorknob, shake 2-3 times, and release.