Job Interviewing Tips & Strategies — Part I
Whether you have an interview on your calendar or have yet to get that far in your job search, you need to know the best tips and techniques to get the job! And, if you’ve already had several interviews without success, you definitely need to brush up on your interviewing skills.
This series of articles does not cover the standard Q&A’s that nearly every other interviewing article discusses. You can find those elsewhere, and everywhere.
Hopefully, you’ll learn a few things here that you either have not yet considered, or that you have neglected to practice. Hopefully, you’ll discover what a successful candidate knows: It’s much more complicated than the perfect delivery of the perfect answers to an interviewer’s questions.
The Importance of Energy
As humans, we each exude energy. Some folks even claim to be able to see that energy, often referring to it as a colored aura. Whatever. The point is, when our energy “mixes” with the energy of someone else, one of three reactions will occur.
I’m not talking about our energy levels. Energy levels refer to the amount of gasoline we have in our tanks. It will vary from day-to-day, as well as at different times of the day. You know this.
And, I’m not talking about personalities. We can have a positive energy connection with someone only to later discover that we have what is called a “personality clash.” Those in the dating world know the concept: You get to the 4th or 5th date before realizing, “Huh-uh. This isn’t going to work.” But, you started with good energy, right? This phenomenon explains why, after a divorce or breakup, the ex’s frequently find themselves back in a sexual relationship (positive energy connection) even though they can’t have dinner together without an argument (personality clash).
Rather than energy levels and personalities, I’m talking about that “somethin’-somethin’ ” that binds us to — or repels us from — someone else. Some call it “chemistry.”
And, truly, that’s what you need at the level of the job interview.
Certain people have a tendency to exude such a strong positive energy of their own that it “cancels out” any negative energy of the people in their company. We refer to these folks as “charismatic,” “dynamic,” and “infectious.”
On the other hand, there are those who just can’t seem to escape their capsule of negative energy. It spills over onto the people around them. We refer to these folks as “drama queens/kings,” “naysayers,” and “downers.”
A person can strongly influence the energy he or she sends out into the world. The way to do that is a subject for another article. For our purposes here, what is important is to understand the significance of the connection between our energies and its influence on the job interview.
Human Connection Possibilities
1) Positive Connection: When there is a positive energy connection between you and someone else, you literally can feel the vibe. Positive energy between two people creates a bond, even on the most superficial level. When the energies of two people attract, it is a good thing! These people become our friends, lovers, confidants, spouses, customers — and employers!
2) Neutral Connection: This might also be called a “lack of connection.” The lack of a positive (or negative) energy connection leaves you with a blank or blah feeling. The person is forgettable, as is the conversation.
Those in the dating community recognize this category as well: “Sure, it was a nice date. And, sure, she looks good on paper. But, there was just something missing.” There’s no reason for a second date. Though there is nothing “wrong” with either person, a connection was not made to propel the relationship to the next level.
When it comes to the business world, we often see this neutral connection when we analyze job interviews. Most interviews, in fact, result in a neutral connection. This explains why a person can be perfectly qualified on paper but “not get the second date.”
3) Negative Connection: It is undeniable when the connection between two people is negative. Such a connection often leads to pointless arguments. Unintentionally, our brows furrow when we engage with people to whom we are negatively connected. We say things like, “I don’t know why, but he just rubs me the wrong way.”
Hopefully, you and your interviewer will not fall into this category! But, it does happen, even to the best of us. The energy between certain people sometimes repels rather than attracts, and there isn’t much that can be done about it. If it does happen, though, do your best to minimize the damage:
~Be aware of your body language. Negative energy can make our bodies say things we don’t want to say. It takes a focused, intentional effort to unfurl those eye-brows!
~ Make sure that sarcasm stays leashed. You don’t even want to think sarcastic thoughts, as that will only add to the negative energy — and it won’t go unnoticed by your interviewer.
~ Fake it. The best you can do is pretend that the negative connection is actually positive. Keep lying to yourself (and you’ll likely never hear me say that again!) until the interview is over. But, be careful not to over-do it. Sickly sweet is just as repelling as blatant rudeness.
Now that you understand the importance of the human connection issue, let’s look at some specific tips and techniques for the interview itself. Our discussion is divided into 3 parts: Pre-Interview, Day of the Interview, and Post-Interview.
Best Tips & Techniques for the Job Interview
PRE-INTERVIEW: 3 STEPS TO SUCCESS
1) RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH
Learn the company. Find its mission statement and understand it. Most corporate websites are pretty good; you’ll likely find everything you need there. Spend a good deal of time just absorbing the information on the site. Be able to adequately articulate an intelligent description of the company, as if you are already employed there.
Study the key players. You’ll get a good feel for things if you study the key players of an organization: The CEO’s, Board of Directors, VP’s and department heads. If “key players” number into the triple digits, narrow it down using your common sense.
Use sites like LinkedIn to read profiles. Find and read any publications by or about the key players. Again, absorb the information until you have a good “feel” for who these people appear to be, what they tend to believe in, and how they might think. You’re going to have to draw some conclusions in most cases, but there are lots of clues “out there” just waiting to be found by an intelligent and observant future employee.
Identify and study your interviewer. Finding out who will interview you may be as simple as making a phone call or reading the email that says, “I’d like to meet you. Are you available for an interview on….?” In other cases, it may take a little digging — but DIG. You need to know. You then need to follow the same “study” process that you conducted for the key players in the organization. Trying to get a feel for your interviewer before you meet the person gives you a head start on your competition (unless, of course, they also read my blog). 🙂
Get to know the receptionist. Introduce yourself over the phone. Use a pseudonym if you prefer. (Personally, I wouldn’t. S/he might really like your phone personality and have some influence with the hiring manager. Ya never know!)
Don’t be afraid to say, “I’m preparing for an upcoming interview with Mr. Smith. Do you have a minute?” He or she will be a huge source of information, if you approach it correctly. Assure the receptionist that you are only gathering information and that you consider the conversation to be confidential, to encourage him/her to spill the beans. You can learn things that aren’t easily discovered elsewhere like:
- “How do most female (or male) employees dress?”
- “What is the average age of most employees?”
- “What can you tell me about Mr. Smith? Is he generally an optimistic, happy guy, or do people avoid him when they can?”
- “What would you say is the best thing about working for ABC Co.?”
- “What do you dislike about working there?”
- “What can you tell me about the person who held the position for which I’m applying, and why s/he is no longer there?”
- “What’s the best advice you can give me when it comes to getting this job, something that I couldn’t otherwise possibly know?”
Make a list of questions. As you research, write down questions that come to mind. If you find the answer(s), mark them off the list. Any unanswered questions will become your “List of Questions” to use during your interview.
2) PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Practice being interviewed. Find someone willing to conduct an interview of you, formally. From first hand-shake to the final one, you’ll want to go through each step of an interview. In a perfect world, you’ll find 3 different people to interview you, on different days — because our energy levels change from day-to-day. You’ll be too “rehearsed” if you try to do more than one in day.
Keep these tips in mind:
~ An acquaintance — or even a virtual stranger — are better sources than friends and family because they know less or next-to-nothing about you.
~ You might have a connection in your network, for example, whom you’ve never met but with whom you’ve exchanged an email or two. If they offered to help you in any way, take them up on the offer. It’s as easy as sending a note that says, “I’d like to take you up on that offer of assistance, when you have a bit of free time. Let me know if you’re available to practice a mock interview with me. I’d be happy to return the favor.”
~ Give your mock interviewer the same materials you provided to the real interviewer. Make sure s/he has sufficient time to read these documents, but advise the person to not “study” the resume’. Very few actual hiring authorities will do so, so neither should your practice interviewer.
~ Video tape the interview, if at all possible. The camera, of course, should be focused on you. Later, watch the video and take notes to remind you how you need to improve.
~ Ask someone else to view the video and likewise take notes. Tell that person to be “brutally honest.” And don’t hold it against them when they are!
~ Knowing what your practice interviewer thinks about your performance is important, but it’s also important to find out how you made him feel. It’s critical, actually. If you put him at ease and made his job easier, you’re right on target!
~ After a first mock interview and review of your video, schedule your next mock interview, and so forth, until you’ve “mastered” your interviewing skills.
Practice being the interviewer. Read articles about “How to Interview” and “How to be a good Interviewer.” Then, take the seat of the interviewer for someone who likewise needs to practice. By interviewing others, you “get into the head” of an interviewer. You’ll discover how difficult it is to follow a resume’ and ask pointed questions while simultaneously trying to be cordial and conversational. Not only will you learn to appreciate how hard the job is, you’ll ultimately perform better when you are interviewed.
3) PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE
Your Appearance. Days before your interview, make sure everything is ready: your suite is fresh from the dry-cleaners, shirt is pressed, and shoes are shined. Don’t wait until the night before to discover that your favorite tie isn’t back from the cleaners. And, pay attention to the following:
- Men and Women:
- Make sure your nails are properly manicured. Dirty or scrappy nails are just as unattractive on a man as they are on a woman.
- If you color your hair, make sure the new growth is a 1/4 inch or less; otherwise, it’s time to do a touch-up.
- If you have a full head of gray hair, you should seriously consider coloring it. There are exceptions, of course, but if you instinctively know that your hair is aging you more than it should, go for the color. A salt-n-pepper look, for example, is often better than straight gray. (It’s my personal favorite, in fact.) It says “Experienced” without saying “Old.”
- Cover any facial blemishes. Even at our age, those unwanted blemishes pop up from time to time, especially when we are stressed. There is “invisible” blemish cover for men and women at your local pharmacy. And whatever you do, don’t otherwise mess with those blemishes within 24 hours of your interview; you’ll only make it worse.
- Nightly for at least a week prior to your interview, apply a light-weight, grease-free lotion to your hands. When you meet your interviewer, you want to present a warm, inviting hand-shake, not one that reminds your interviewer of the desert or the ocean.
- When choosing what you will wear, remember this: It’s about YOU, not fashion. You want to be remembered for your talents, not your duds. The exception, of course, applies for those of you actually in the fashion industry. In that case, go for “creatively understated.”
- Trim your hair — all of it! — especially all those spots where we don’t like to see hair.
- Don’t forget your eyebrows. It’s amazing how distracting crazy eyebrow hair can be! If you have only one eyebrow that covers both of your eyes, please schedule an appointment at your local salon. I promise you won’t regret it (but, it will sting a bit!)
- Shave. Unless you are adamant about keeping a beard or mustache — which you can regrow after employment — let it go. My only exception to this is when you know that your interviewer wears a beard and/or mustache, and so does at least one of the key players in the organization. In that event, make sure your facial hair is neatly trimmed.
- Wear socks that match your trousers. Please.
- Everyone wears the red “power tie.” Go for something slightly different, something that still says “power,” but has a different accent than every other male interviewee.
- Keep your accessories to a minimum.
- Leave your purse behind; carry a briefcase instead.
- Wear neutral colored nail polish, or go for a clear shine.
- Your make-up should be natural. Dark eye-liner and red lipstick is best saved for your nightlife activities, and is wholly inappropriate for a job interview.
- Keep your heel height to a minimum. I know, I know … Those gorgeous 7″ Manolo Blahnik’s make you feel so good, but save them for another time. If you insist on designer footwear, Jimmy Choo makes a nice business shoe that translates seamlessly from the office to sushi at The Ritz.
- Portfolio. Buy (or find) a leather or pleather portfolio. If you don’t have one, it can be purchased for as little as $8.00 at a superstore. Simple is best.
- Credential Documents. Gather together your resume’, biography, references — whatever documents you submitted for consideration. Make sure to have 5 clean copies printed on white paper. Put them in your portfolio.
- Correspondence. Print out all of the emails you exchanged with the various players involved in getting you to this interview, and gather together any snail-mail you received. It may have started with a recruiter you approached, for example, who referred you to someone at the company, who put you in touch with the hiring manager, and so on. Print them, put them in reverse chronological order, and tuck them away in your portfolio. You may not need them, but you’ll have them at hand if necessary!
- Business cards. Don’t leave home without them. And don’t use one that is out of date. For example, if you no longer work for ABC Co. , don’t use a card that states you are the VP of ABC.
- A list of questions. When you did your research, you came up with questions regarding this particular employer. Type them neatly, and print them out. Again, put them in your portfolio so that it is quick and easy to retrieve and refer to toward the end of the interview.
- Pens. At least 3. You don’t want to have to ask your interviewer to use a pen. And don’t put it / them in your shirt pocket!
Your Vehicle: If you’re driving to your job interview, don’t wait until the morning of your interview to fill the gas tank, check the oil, and inspect the tires. But DO do all these things a day before. Running out of gas is simply unforgivable if it causes you to arrive late for your interview. A blown tire is a bit more excusable, but only if it couldn’t have been prevented. (For those of you who have no idea how to check a tire: If your tire(s) has bulging rubber — a bubble in it — or wire showing, you’re at high risk for a flat.)
Also, wash the car and clean out the interior. I once was asked by an interviewer if I could drop him off at the court-house after our interview. Who woulda thought, right? Thankfully, my car was clean that day! Also, many interviewers have windows, and many of them look out those windows, especially after an interview. If they have a view of the parking lot, they may very well watch you to see what you are driving. Your vehicle doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should at least be clean to show you care about such things.
Do a test run from your home to the location of the interview if you’ve never visited the location before. If you can arrange to make the drive at the same time of day as your scheduled interview, you’ll get a great idea of traffic patterns, construction delays, and parking availability. When the big day comes, you’ll feel confident that you’re leaving sufficient time to arrive 10 – 15 minutes early when it counts.
Confirmation. If your interview was scheduled more than 48 hours in advance, you need to call or email to confirm the interview. It’s best to do it late in the day, the day before the interview.
If you send an email, all you need to say is:
“This is to confirm our appointment tomorrow at (time). I look forward to my interview with you, and I’m eager to learn more about the position. Please call (number) in the event of a change in your schedule or an emergency cancellation. Otherwise, I’ll see you at (time)!”
If you make a phone call, ask for the interviewer’s secretary. Say something like, “I’m just calling to confirm my interview with (name) tomorrow at (time).” Then, leave a number with him/her “in case of an emergency cancellation.”
Your Mind. The final thing you need to prepare is your psyche. The night before your interview, simply relax. You’re ready. Avoid alcohol, and get a good night’s rest. If you’re so excited that you can’t stop playing out the interview in your head, read a book or watch a movie — but turn your mind off! Let it chill. Tomorrow is the day that just might change your future!
Continue with the series:
~Lynda C. Watts