A résumé can get you an interview, but it’s the interview that gets you the job.
So, the smart ones (that’s you!) prepare for that interview. Here’s what to do.
Study the Navigation Charts
Research the company interviewing you.
Doing a little homework to learn about the particular business will give you confidence, let you tailor your résumé and cover letter for the job, help you identify the real hiring honcho(s), and increase the chances that you’ll have the right answers — and the right questions — during the interview.
At a minimum, you should:
Check out their website. Go to the “About Us” page. If it’s a publicly traded company, look at the information for investors. You’ll gain insights on their people, performance, and plans.
Google the company. Do a regular Google search as well as a search on Google News. The Google News search will identify any recent news articles featuring the company. You can also set up a Google Alert for the company, so that you will be notified via email when there is something new about the company online. You want them to know you are up-to-the-minute, and interested in them.
Snoop around their social media. Scan their Facebook business page, their company page on LinkedIn, and their Twitter account. They may also have a company Google+ page, Instagram account, or Pinterest boards. Taking the time to look at what the company posts on its social media accounts will help you get an idea of the company culture, how they brand themselves, what their mission is, how the employees dress, and what kind of community involvement they support.
Log on to Glassdoor. At Glassdoor.com you can get the inside scoop from people who work there and folks who have interviewed at the company. There is no charge to join the site, but the site uses “crowdsourcing” to collect data, so you will be asked to provide information on previous or current employers to add (anonymously) to the Glassdoor database.
Know the Home Port
Learn about your interviewer.
Job searching is a competition. Whatever you can do to gain an advantage over other applicants (and still play a fair game) is just savvy maneuvering. If you know the name of the person who will interview you, that’s one advantage.
You’ll be comfortable using the person’s name when introduced, and more likely to remember it when departing. You can also do some more detective work.
So, once you have been contacted for an interview, ask for the name of the person who will be interviewing you (if it’s not the person who contacted you). An easy way to do this is to ask, “Who will be conducting the interview?” You can also ask, “Will anyone else be participating in the interview?”
Make sure you get the correct spelling of the interviewer’s name. Conduct a Google search on this person, and look them up on LinkedIn. If you are going to be interviewed by a committee or group, ask for the names of all participants, if possible. On LinkedIn, you may discover that your networks overlap. Name dropping is permitted.
Work with the Tides and Weather
Choose the best interview time.
This is a tactic not everyone knows about.
Surveys reveal that when a hiring manager has to interview lots of candidates in a short period of time, he suffers what’s called interview fatigue. By the end of the day, he’s tired, and the interviews all start to run together.
You’re just another résumé with a face. It’s hard to stand out.
You’ll have a better chance of making a positive, memorable impression if you interview early in the process.
When you are contacted to schedule the interview, you may be offered a choice of times. Ask the interviewer how interviews are being scheduled. If all interviews are being conducted in a single day, or on consecutive days, choose the earliest slot you are offered.
However, if the interview dates are separated over several days (for example, on a Friday and then the following Monday), your best bet is to choose the earliest slot available on the last interviewing day.
Also, ask how much time you should allow for the interview. If the interview goes exceptionally well, and the interviewer offers to show you around (or introduce you to the people who would be your co-workers), you don’t want to have to beg off because you need to go back to work or go to another appointment. Make sure you schedule enough time for the interview and anything that goes along with it, like completing paperwork, taking tests, or getting a friendly tour.
While we’re on the subject of timing, be sure to arrive early for your interview. Ten minutes is normal. My grandfather prided himself on never being late. He told me, “Always plan on having to wait at a railroad crossing when you’re on your way somewhere.” I like to give myself a buffer for emergencies like that.
But don’t show up an hour early either. If you get to the company more than 30 minutes early, wait outside in your car or take a walk around the block. You’ll have a chance to clear your head while you practice deep breathing.
Wear the Right Gear
Finally, dress for success.
The usual advice for choosing interview attire is to “dress appropriately.”
But what that means isn’t exactly clear.
Depending on the kind of business, the size of the company, the level of the job you’re applying for, the part of the country where you live, the season of the year, your age, and even the day of the week…there are variables.
You’ll have to do more homework. Find out if there is a dress code at the business. If you have to stalk the parking lot or the elevator to get a handle on what employees wear, do it. When that interviewer shakes your hand, he’ll be making eye contact, but his peripheral vision will take in your whole body, and 90% of what he sees is clothing.
You want to demonstrate that you understand company culture and can be a team player. You want to present yourself as an individual who is already successful, has self-esteem, and possesses enough social intelligence to take care of things like grooming and yes, even fashion.
Going into an interview even slightly sloppy is an affront to the person interviewing you. You might as well stay home. Be clean. Be professional.
The key is to over-dress rather than under-dress. The old adage that you should dress for the position one rung up the ladder is still valid.
It’s usually recommended that men wear dress slacks, a sport jacket, and tie. If you choose a suit, blue or dark gray is preferred over black. A shirt should be white or a light color, and long-sleeved. A tie should be conservative in both pattern and color. Shoes should be brown or black dress shoes, comfortable, in good condition and polished.
In traditional office settings, women are usually advised to wear either dress slacks or a skirt with a classically styled top, nothing flashy or sexy. A dress is another option unless it is too short or form-fitting. A jacket always looks professional and makes you feel put together. You can choose a colorful blouse or one bold piece of jewelry, but understated is usually better. Go easy on cosmetics and fragrance. Choose conventional shoes, ones that are comfortable, in good condition, perhaps with a small heel. Peep toes need not apply.
For both genders, a briefcase is the finishing touch that spells professionalism.
However, if you are a man interviewing at a start up company where everyone who works there wears dark wash jeans or khakis, that’s what you should wear. With a really good shirt. If you’re applying for art director at fashion ezine, you won’t wear a dark suit. You’ll wear something totally trendy. Maybe a bright shirt or a statement tie.
And if you are a woman interviewing for a non-traditional kind of job – in the creative or entertainment field, for example — all bets are off! Unless you are changing professions, you probably know what standard dress is in your chosen field.
I’ll craft your résumé to get you in the door, but the rest is up to you. With these tips, I have confidence that you’ll sail through those interviews. Don’t forget the breath mint!