Man, job interviews are scary. Especially your first one! There is so much anticipation, potential, and nervous energy. There are a million questions regarding how to prepare, what to say, what to wear, it can easily overwhelm. How pushy do I be? I don’t want to sound cocky. How do you find that sweet spot?
These are all thoughts I have had. Not in my experiences applying and interviewing for jobs, but in my experience conducting interviews. I have interviewed hundreds of students applying for student leadership positions and can tell you that you are not the only one that has to go through hours of preparation to make a good interview. Allow me to share some experiences and pull back the curtain. It is time for some confessions of an interviewer. Learn about the perspective of interviewers and then you can identify strategies to be better prepared and communicate yourself as a better candidate.
I remember my first interview as a student. I was applying for a job at a call center. I had no idea what to expect and don’t even remember much of it. Later, it was my job to interview students. Talk about flipping the script. Here are some thoughts I, and probably every interviewer, have had that you can learn from.
“Well that’s an Interesting Outfit…”
What you wear to a job interview is important. My rule of thumb is to dress one step above the expected attire you would wear on the job. You can go wrong on either side by not dressing up enough (sweats are NEVER a good idea) and by overdoing it (You never need to wear a tuxedo). Stay in that happy middle, or else you will be remembered more for what you wore instead of what type of value you could add.
“Oh that’s (insert nickname here).”
Every candidate is remembered for something. It could be a quirky hand gesture, a really good answer, a really bad answer, the list goes on and on. Take control on what you are remembered for by 1) Come prepared with good answers, but also by 2) giving them something to remember you for. For me, I wear cools socks. When I head into an interview, I am usually asked how I am doing right off the bat. I reply by saying something like, “well I have got my lucky socks on so we’ll see how things go!” I usually get a chuckle, and sometimes am asked what type of socks, which I happily show off (I really do always wear cool socks…). I control how they first remember me, then I follow through with clear communication. Don’t do what I do, it matches my personality so it works for me. Be true to yourself, but control how you are remembered by wearing something or saying something unique.
“Um… that’s my seat.”
Be polite and allow the interviewer to run the show. Nothing is more embarrassing than when I walk a candidate into the room and for some strange reason they walk past the seat meant for them and sit in mine. It happens more than you think. Wait to be instructed, or ask “where would you like me to sit?”. Assuming will not be your ally. You will be wrong.
“Did she just get here?”
Don’t be late. Be early. You put yourself at a huge disadvantage by showing up rushed with no time to spare. Show up early, use any extra time to look around the office area or chat politely with the receptionist.
“What the heck is in the bag? Do they need props?”
Unless specifically asked, you never need to bring anything more than a padfolio into the interview. No backpacks, piles of textbooks, or large bags. If you wear a coat because of the weather, take it off before sitting down. It is important to look comfortable, this helps you feel comfortable too.
“Please stop doing that!”
Do not use or move your hands longer than necessary. If you write down a question or note, put the pen down immediately. If you take a drink, put the glass or bottle to the side. If you are in a rotating chair, plant your feet. There is nothing that works against you faster than repeatedly clicking a pen, turning side to side in your chair, or loudly squirting water into your mouth from the sports bottle you brought in with you. Nothing.
“Look at me!”
Eye contact is important. It communicates trust and sincerity. Look at the person who asked the question when you answer, and make eye contact when you shake hands or are introduced to others. Be sure to have had made eye contact with each individual in the room during the interview.
“Did he really just say that?”
We don’t need to know your hobbies, how many pets you have, or your Mom’s favorite meal to prepare. Sorry. Answer the question, but don’t ramble. Find that happy middle ground. It always helps to restate part of the question to help you stay on track as you give your answer. Don’t go too long, but you need more than one sentence.
This isn’t over. There are more confessions, but for another time. Leave your number one interview tip below in the comments, or post a question and we will cover more confessions of an interviewer soon!