Congratulations! You've been diligent about finding a new job, and you've finally landed an interview. What happens next?
If you want to be seriously considered for the position, you must prepare carefully. One or two missteps can disqualify you as a candidate, even if you have the right experience and skills. If you really want to get hired, study this list of things NOT to do before and during an interview.
Want to be counted out? Before the interview, do NOT:
1. Research the company.
Go ahead and show up, then ask what the company does and how it's organized. The message: You're just looking for a paycheck and don't care where it comes from.
2. Print extra copies of your rÃ©sumÃ©.
You're so outstanding that the interviewers will likely have seen and memorized the rÃ©sumÃ© you sent, right? Wrong! And you'll look like an amateur if you don't have some freshly printed rÃ©sumÃ©s to hand out.
3. Dress appropriately.
Sure, you want to express your unique style. Why should you cover up your magnificent tattoo sleeve for some corporate guy? If you go casual to any interview other than one for a startup dot.com, don't expect to be invited back. A quick call to the company's HR department to ask, or simply wearing your best interview suit (You do have one, right?), will put you in proper attire for the meeting.
4. Practice interview questions.
Hey, you like to be spontaneous! That's swell, but if you hesitate or stammer during any of the standard interview questions, you will seem unprepared and unpolished. A quick internet search will give you a list of questions that many companies ask. Don't rely on instincts -- study the list and create short answers that include your own experiences.
5. Arrive on time.
Google Maps says you only need 15 minutes to get there, so that's all you need, even though you have no idea where to park. And everyone understands about traffic jams...so what's the big deal if you're late? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that you aren't organized. Or that you have no regard for others' time. Arriving 10-15 minutes early allows you to use the restroom, check your hair, watch the people in the office and...chat with the receptionist.
6. Be courteous to the receptionist.
This one seems crazy! Be nice to the entry-level person who signs you in and offers you a cup of coffee? Really? Don't be fooled. Many companies include the receptionist's feedback when considering candidates. How you interact with all levels of the organization says a lot about you as a person. Receptionists are the eyes and ears of the company, and often serve as gatekeepers. Besides, like all people, they deserve respect and courtesy. Be pleasant, smile, chat about the weather, accept the visitor's badge, and thank him or her on your way out.
You've been invited to come in for an interview! In today's hiring market, this is a true success. Of all the applicants for the position, only a handful make it past the initial screening process. It's up to you to show that you're the best candidate for the job.
So, now you've arrived at the interview. Let's talk about the actual meetings and what can go wrong during your time at the company.
If you want to disqualify yourself during the interviews, do NOT:
7. Turn off your phone.
Tempted to keep the world updated about your day? Or receive those encouraging texts from your friends? Online hiring forums are full of Human Resource stories about candidates who spend more time looking at their phones than answering questions. There are even tales of job seekers who answer calls...then wonder why they didn't get hired. Phone. Off. Period.
8. Answer questions with an example.
When asked if you have any experience that relates to the new position, surely your rÃ©sumÃ© speaks for itself, right? What more needs to be said? A simple yes or no should suffice, right? Actually, that's the worst way to respond. Every question is designed to elicit more information from you. If you have an example from your experience (personal or professional) that shows how you'd handle a situation, this is your moment to shine. If you don't, then now is the opportunity to say how you would solve a problem, or that you would be eager to learn. One-word responses = uncommunicative.
9. Shake hands and look your interviewers in the eye.
What's up with all this etiquette? Why is this stuff so important, anyhow? While you are at the interview to be evaluated for your skills and talents, your ability to follow business practice is also up for review. Nonverbal communication -- including a firm handshake and good eye contact -- accounts for 55 percent of all interactions. Everything is on display during an interview. Sit tall, don't fidget, keep your arms and hands relaxed. Look at each person when you speak. All of these things make you look confident and ready to tackle a new job.
10. Ask questions.
Why would you ask questions -- isn't that the interviewer's role? What are you supposed to ask, anyway? Well, guess what? You are supposed to ask questions! But never -- ever! -- questions about how much vacation you'd get or how soon you can get a raise. You need to decide if this job is a good fit for you. Ask about a typical day or about training opportunities. Ask where the company expects to be in five years --and how you can help. You can even ask what the worst part of the job is. Come to the interview with at least three questions that can help you make a good decision.
11. Maintain a professional demeanor.
You want to show the interviewer that you're not a stuck-up snob. In fact, you're just like everyone else...so you launch into a story about your ex-wife. Or your credit card debt. Maybe even what a jerk your last boss was -- who can't relate to that? But will you notice how uncomfortable you are making others? It won't matter; you've crossed the boundary of professional behavior and have probably blown your chances of advancing in the hiring process.
12. Follow business etiquette.
More etiquette? Again? Yes, and yes. You have a firm handshake and you're sending good nonverbal signals. What else? Following an introduction, do not sit until invited. Even though it's appropriate, ask if you can take notes. Write the names of all people you meet with, or ask for their business cards. You'll need those for your follow-up thank you emails.
13. Ask for the job.
Why would you do this? Doesn't it seem pushy to ask for the job? Quite the opposite! It shows that you are interested and that you are confident enough to let the interviewers know. Too many applicants walk away from the interview without asking. A simple "This is very exciting! I would love to be the successful candidate." is enough. Or, "I'd love to work with you and the team!" Spoken sincerely, this is one of the best things you can do at the end of the interview.
With good preparation and attention to details, you really can land that job. Good luck!
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