If you’ve been following the Job Hunting Success columns so far, now comes the real fun of job hunting: interviewing. If everything has gone well so far, you’ve managed to get your foot in the door at one (or hopefully more) businesses, and have the opportunity to speak with one or more interviewing professionals at said businesses. It’s a time of fun and enjoyment for all involved, particularly the ones being interviewed
Alright, you probably detected more than a little sarcasm in some of my comments in that first paragraph. Interviewing, by and large, is a tricky, sometimes difficult to handle subject for most people, and one of the harder parts of getting a job. Luckily, it can be surmounted, as long as you take some time to prepare yourself. How do you do that? Well, you should make sure that you:
1. Familiarize Yourself with Common Interview Questions: I already started to cover this in my Further Preparation for Your Job Hunt piece, as it is one of the things you should start looking into when you first begin your job hunt. You’ll have to interview at some point in the job filling process (barring extraordinarily odd circumstances, someone higher in the company and/or someone from the Human Resource department will want to speak to you personally, whether in person or sometimes via the phone). You can’t script out every detail of an interview ahead of hand; each interviewer is different, and even the same interviewer might ask different things on different days.
That said, there will be some common questions and areas of discussion that come up in many interviews, things that you can prepare for and be ready for most types of interviews. The three I covered in the above linked article (‘Tell Me About Yourself’, ‘Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?’, and ‘Do You Have Any Questions for Me?’) are classics of the interview scene, and having solid answers for each is a good start. Look up more questions, get decent answers, and be ready to answer them is a solid start to your interviewing process. For that last one, asking questions in return, you’ll need to make sure that you:
2. Study the Business that is Interviewing You: An interview is where the business gets a chance to study you, to gain more information than is provided by your resume, cover letter, and any online research the company does prior to said interview. (Yes, companies look up information about potential employees online; be sure you keep the information about yourself out on the Internet as positive as possible.)
At the same time, you should be preparing for your interview by studying the company as much as possible. Nowadays, every company that isn’t run entirely by senior citizens (and many that are) have a company webpage where you can start your research. Beyond that, check news sources, journal articles, and even the discussions from past workers, all of which are easier than ever to access online. While you don’t need to spend every spare moment between scheduling the interview and attending the interview (usually about three days to a week, in my experience) studying the company, you should have a pretty decent understanding of what they do, and at least a few questions to ask your interviewer, by the time the interview rolls around. You can use some of the other spare time in order to:
3. Make Sure You Have the Appropriate Outfit Available: What is the appropriate outfit, you ask? Well, that will depend on the type of job for which you are interviewing. A fast-food position will require jeans and a nice T-shirt (if that much), while if you are trying to become a major opera star, it’s probably best to break out your tuxedo. (Or possibly a Valkyrie outfit, if you are a female with, how to say it, a bit of girth.)
For most positions, though, you will probably want to stick to something in between, a nice business outfit that falls short of tuxedos or similarly ornate dress. For men, the answer is generally pretty simple: a nice business suit, with a modest tie, comfortable but appropriate shirt, and nothing particularly flashy (leave the glowing tie clip and matching cufflinks at home; the slim chance that your interviewer is also a huge fan of your favorite show is greatly outweighed by the chance that they just look at such things as tacky and gaudy). Even if you will be wearing something much less formal in the job itself, it’s good to look professional during the interview.
For women, the issue is tougher (as is women’s fashion in general, but that’s way outside my area of expertise). From deciding on a pant suit or a skirt to what type of jewelry to wear (if any), there’s more than a few questions that average professional women will have to ask before settling on an appropriate interview outfit. There’s no hard and fast rule (while guys can pretty much count on suits being appropriate, or overkill, for any job they could want), but the best thing to do is probably to try to dress as closely to how the women working at the location dress themselves. When in doubt, try to make sure that what your interviewer remembers is not your outrageous outfit, but your highly appropriate resume and professional attitude.
4. Sleep Well, Eat Well, and Be Sure You Know Where the Interview is Held: These are all pretty standard suggestions for any interview (or any major event; I’ve said much the same things for college finals, for example). Get a good night sleep before your interview date, eat a solid breakfast the morning of in order to keep yourself running strong (along with a lunch, and possibly even dinner, depending on when the interview occurs), and be sure you know where you are going.
This last one is vital: if you want to make it to an interview on time, you have to be sure that you have directions from a trusted source. If the distance to your interview is short and you have the time, try going there at some point before the interview itself, to practice the route. Be sure to leave early enough to make it there with time to spare, preferably at least ten to fifteen minutes; it’s better to have to wait for a while than to show up late. Also, if you don’t get a chance to practice the route yourself, try to add even more extra time to your trip; everything from roadwork to traffic accidents can slow you up, and some extra time in your plan will help get you there on time, if not before. (Just for a rough rule of thumb, add an extra twenty minutes for trips of fifty miles or less, with a further twenty minutes for every additional fifty miles, up to an hour.)
I know this is quite a lot to try to handle, when all the while you keep up the job hunt (as there is a fair to good chance that any given interview will not, unfortunately, lead to a job) and handle all the normal stresses and pressures of everyday life. Still, if you want to be as prepared as possible for the interview, you’ll need to take care of all of this, preferably well before you find yourself with your first interview appointment.