Nailing a Job Interview: 7 Tips To Prepare For The Interview
Hey there! Today I’m going to share with you my tips for nailing a job interview and how to show up making a solid impression. I’m hoping this list of tips and suggestions helps save you the anxiety and heartache I experienced last year while I was on the hunt for the perfect job. This is part one of a series on landing the perfect job so stay tuned for future posts that dive deeper into what to expect AT the interview and more.
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Let me give you some context: In 2018 I lost my job unexpectedly. I was quickly thrust into the job market and I was grossly unprepared for what lay ahead. I thought, that because I had mad skills, and I’d worked for the same company for almost 15 years, AND I had a college degree that I would have NO PROBLEM finding a job within a month. Man, what a wake up call when I didn’t land my permanent job for NINE MONTHS.
My background is in finance, specifically corporate fraud and risk investigations, so VERY COMPETITIVE. Fortunately, I was able to find a job as a contract employee pretty quickly working on a project that (thankfully) was never ending, but if you know anything about contract work, you know that there are no paid holidays, no sick time and probably most important of all, NO BENEFITS! I had to find a permanent gig and fast.
I decided that the only way to land my perfect job was to prepare and research what employers look for in candidates and I want to save you some time by sharing what I lear leaned here today. So without further ado, let’s do this.
1. EXPECT IT TO TAKE A MINUTE
If I could share ONE piece of advice that I wish someone had told me when I started my search, it’s this: you MAY NOT find a job right away. Everyone said, “oh you’ll find a job so fast with your skillset”, but that wasn’t true. Not even close. I probably submitted 75 applications over the nine months I was searching and it was VERY discouraging to receive those emails letting me know they chose to go with other candidates. Don’t get down on yourself. Keep going and push forward.
In a competitive market it can take a number of applications and interviews to get your name out there. I had interviewed with the company I’m currently working for THREE separate times before I was offered a job. By the time I interviewed with my current manager, he had already heard about me from the other managers I had interviewed with. I learned that while they were impressed, I lacked some of the skills they were looking for but that they mentioned me to other department managers where they felt I’d be a better fit.
2. THE RESUME
Possibly the single most important item in the list is the resume. I recommend hiring someone to put together a professional resume but if you’re strapped for cash you CAN do it yourself. Etsy has some great templates to help you write a crisp, concise resume. Keep the content to two pages max and don’t get too wordy. Trust me, they won’t read it. Bullet point your key skills and experience and be sure to share areas where you excel, for example:
“Lead a team of 10 sales people and achieved top tier for the region three years in a row.”
Don’t be shy; you’re marketing yourself as the only candidate they should be considering. Again, this is why it’s great to have someone help with your resume, because if you’re like me, it’s hard to talk about yourself and if you really want to nail that job interview, you HAVE to! Take some time to write out your skills and experience before you hit the computer so you can gather your thoughts and see them on paper.
3. DRESS FOR THE JOB YOU WANT, NOT THE JOB YOU HAVE
One of my managers said this to me many years ago and I later learned that it was coined by Austin Kleon, but I never forgot it. Some of the articles I read online said that this advice was outdated but this is absolutely not true. If you show up to an interview (or to work) with wrinkled trousers or scuffed, dirty shoes do you really think they’re going to give you a second look? Hell no! You don’t have to spend a fortune on work clothes but consider it an investment in your future.
Personally, I don’t love shopping for clothes so I tried out Amazon Wardrobe and I absolutely love it. You can learn all about Amazon Wardrobe by clicking below but basically, you select the items you want to try and have 7 days once you receive them to decide what to keep and what you want to send back. No charges until you decide what you’re keeping!
Find a sharp looking suit that fits well, is comfortable and flatters your shape. It doesn’t matter if it’s a skirt or pant suit, whatever your preference. Personally, I never wear skirts or dresses so I found a great suit jacket and dress slacks on Amazon. I also recommend a black or brown tote or backpack to carry your umbrella, wallet, computer, and other necessities. Also, I’m a HUGE fan of carrying a portfolio )more on that later.
4. RESEARCH THE COMPANY’S MISSION AND HISTORY
Take some time to learn some basic information about the company such as who the CEO is, what the company mission statement is and any important historical information. This can include mergers, acquisitions, and recent news stories. Also learn a little bit about what the company sells, creates or manufactures.
I’ve had several interviews where the hiring manager asked if I had heard about a recent event that occurred at one of the branches and fortunately I had. He was obviously impressed and, incidentally, I did receive an offer from that company but had already accepted the position I currently have so I had to turn it down.
It’s also wise to understand the company mission because it may not align with your goals, values or career aspirations. Why would you want to work for a company who’s mission goes against your own values?
I mentioned the portfolio above and I think it’s a key piece in your wardrobe. Look for one that is either black or brown and has some compartments for a notepad, pen, additional copies of your resume and business cards (if you have them). I like to carry a portfolio that fits in my tote so I don’t have to carry it in my arms. When walking downtown I like to be hands free!
Make sure your pen works and that your resume copies are stapled and uncreased. The portfolio is a great place to jot down your questions for the interviewer. Also, be sure to take notes during the interview, and write down important phone numbers or instructions. Which brings me to the next tip…
6. PRINT DIRECTIONS AND INSTRUCTIONS
Don’t rely on your phone to get you to the location! One time, my phone decided to crap out as I was walking to an interview and I was very close to being late! Not only is this incredibly unprofessional but it adds to the anxiety of interviewing. Save yourself some time and stress by printing directions to the interview location and any entry instructions.
Sometimes, corporate offices have security measures in place that require you to call a certain number or have a code for access. Don’t show up without this because you don’t want to be calling all over the place trying to figure out how to get in. You end up looking disorganized and unprepared…no bueno!
7. PREPARE QUESTIONS
It always shows your interested when you ask questions relevant to the position. The interviewer may answer your questions before you get to ask them but that’s ok. If you whip out your portfolio and they see your list of questions, it still shows you prepared. Plus, it’s not likely they’ll answer ALL of the questions you came up with.
NOTE: this is typically NOT the time to ask about vacation, salary or benefits as those are questions you should ask the recruiting coordinator. If there is no recruiting coordinator and you’re dealing directly with the person who makes these decisions, wait until you receive an offer and ask these questions. Otherwise it looks like the only thing you really care about is how much vacation you get and how much you’re getting paid. While these things are important, many employers want to see that you’re career driven and motivated by success as well.