Preparing for a Job Interview – Tips for a Great First Impression

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Your job interview is one of the most important steps in getting a new job. Preparing for the interview is simple, but not easy. You have to convey your skills and talents in half an hour to a person you have never met. This is not an easy task unless you are well prepared. I wrote this…

Your job interview is one of the most important steps in getting a new job. Preparing for the interview is simple, but not easy. You have to convey your skills and talents in half an hour to a person you have never met. This is not an easy task unless you are well prepared.

I wrote this guide as I was preparing for interviews with two companies in my industry. Both positions offered more responsibility and growth opportunity than my role at the time. It was exciting to land the interviews, and I spent a lot of time preparing for them. This meant researching the companies, their current projects, and understanding their roles in the industry. Here are a few points that you should keep in mind while preparing for a job interview.

How to Prepare for a Job Interview

Preparing for a job interview
Come prepared or don’t come at all!

In my opinion, preparation is the most important thing you can do for an interview. It will give the company a good first impression of you, and that is half the battle. I’ve been going over my notes from the last time I went through a round of job interviews, and I’ve been practicing scenarios and possible questions.

Main Parts of the Job Interview

There are five main parts to a job interview. You need to make sure that you are nailing each of these items when you go in for an interview:

  1. Show knowledge of the company and its needs.
  2. Articulate the value you can bring to the company.
  3. Ask smart questions that illustrate your intelligence and interest in the company.
  4. Possibly negotiate pay & benefits (though it may be better to wait until a second interview).
  5. Follow up on the interview.

This means that, before you attend an interview you need to do your research. You should familiarize yourself with the company, and try to determine what you are likely to do if you got a job with the employer. Also, it is wise to think about what you bring to the table, and why it is of value.

Think of smart questions to ask about the job and the company, and consider your market value. You should have a solid understanding of what you are worth, and how your pay should stack up with others in your field. Finally, consider following up on the interview. If writing one, a thank you note to the interview should be sent within two business days of the interview, and a follow up about the job should take place with seven to 10 days.

Here are a few other tips for preparing for an interview I’ve gathered along the way:

Research the Company and the Open Position

When I last interviewed with a company, I took the time to research their company, current operations, the position they were filling, as well as the roles and responsibilities for the position. Armed with that knowledge, I made a list of questions I considered asking. I didn’t ask all the questions I come up with, but it was good to have a few different questions in mind depending on the direction the job interview went. These tips can help you prepare for your interview:

Know the Position, Company, and Industry

Review the job description before you go to the interview. You want to make sure that you appear tailored for the job. You tailor your resume, and you should tailor your knowledge of the position. Consider different anecdotes that illustrate your fitness for the position. Also, focus those traits that demonstrate your ability to perform well in the position.

Take some time to understand the company and its position in its industry. Brush up on the issues facing the company, as well as the company’s recent successes and good news. Learn about some of the challenges facing the industry, and consider what you think are solutions to the problems. Be prepared to converse knowledgeably about the company. In some cases, this might even mean rehearsing intelligent questions to ask the interviewer about your potential responsibilities.

It’s not enough to just memorize facts. You also need to understand how those facts interplay with the latest industry trends, where your prospective company fits within the industry, their current projects, challenges they face, and related topics. Having this knowledge will make you come off as more knowledgeable during your interview and potentially give you a leg up on the competition.

Talk to Employees of the Company You Are Interviewing With

I’ve worked with several companies in different industries. Each company has had a different work culture. It’s important to get a good idea of this culture before your interview, and also so you know if you will be a good fit with their company culture.

For example, I’ve worked at a job that was very hierarchical in nature. We wore formal business attire, addressed our supervisors as “Mr. or Mrs.,” and spoke in a formal manner. My next job required we dress in business casual and I addressed my manager by his first name. Having this information in advance will help you understand if this is a good company culture for your personality, and will give you a leg up when preparing for your interview.

When possible, it’s also a good idea to speak with an employee of the company you are going to interview with. They can help you better understand the company culture, challenges they are facing, hot projects, and other information that will not only help you identify if this company is a good fit for your skills, but should help you during your interview.

Prepare for Interview Questions

Be Ready with your Elevator Pitch

Another tip is to practice your elevator pitch – the 30-60 second introduction of who you are, your career goals, and why you are a good fit for the company. This is often a great way to introduce yourself during the interview.

A lot of interviews start with the standard – “tell us a little bit about you.” This is your chance to make a great first impression, as well as show your goals are aligned with the hiring company’s needs.

Review Your Career History

Your resume probably doesn’t have everything you’ve ever done on it, and unless you’ve recently thought about everything you’ve accomplished in your career, you may not remember all the projects you’ve lead or participated in. These projects and your work history can be very important during your interview.

A great way to keep track of everything you’ve done is to create a career file that tracks everything you’ve done. Review it prior to your interview so everything will be fresh. It’s amazing how much you can forget!

Common Interview Questions The Employer May Ask

Be sure to think of items of interest to the interviewer or potential questions they may ask based on your resume. It’s possible they may see something they want to know more about, or that is related to their current projects. Having this information fresh in your mind will make answering interview questions much easier. You may find it helpful to have a friend or coworker review your resume to think of potential questions an interviewer may ask.

It’s also a good idea to have answers in mind in the event the interviewer asks any illegal interview questions. Some interviewers may be trying to pry information, while others may simply not be aware of which questions are allowed, and which are not.

Have Clear Professional Goals

Be sure to have a clear idea of your professional goals, as this is sure to be a question during the interview. Even if it is not a question in the interview, you should have an idea of what you want to accomplish and where you want to go with your career. Otherwise, you may take a job for all the wrong reasons.

Practice Interviewing with a Friend or Relative

I’m one of those people who can line up everything perfectly in my mind, and then when I try to say it, the words come out jumbled. Sometimes all it takes is verbalizing things once or twice for me to really grasp the concept and speak more smoothly and professionally. Asking someone to help you with a mock job interview is a great way to handle this.

While it is a good idea to hold mock interviews with your relatives and friends, you don’t want to practice too much. Memorizing answers may make you sound too stiff and rehearsed. Think of it more like talking points, and not a memorized speech.

You also want to limit yourself to serious interviews only. I have seen some people attend each interview they get called for, even if they don’t want to take the job. I personally don’t think this is the right thing to do. This may be fine at junior levels, but after a certain point, the positions are scarce and if you give an interview, are hired and then refuse the job – you slim your chances for the future. And I wouldn’t like it if I went to an interview and found out that the panel was only practicing their skills and was not serious about hiring me.

Create a List of Questions You Want to Ask

Interviews are never a one-way street. This is your chance to not only show the interviewer you are a good fit for the company but for you to find out if a company is a good fit for you. I recommend asking several questions about the role you are applying for, as well as general company culture, challenges the company is facing, and whatever else comes to mind.

One of the most useful questions to ask interviewers is – “what would my typical day look like?” This question puts the interviewer into the shoes of the person performing that role and can help you gain valuable information about what would be expected of you if you get the job. This also gives you valuable information about the job that you wouldn’t otherwise have from the job description. There may, for example, be unwritten expectations for each employee, even if they aren’t listed on the job description.

I should note that your first interview is probably not the best time to ask a ton of HR-related questions, such as pay, benefits, time off, etc. These are important questions, but they can be answered during the second round of interviews or by contacting HR directly. Your first interview should focus on whether or not you and the company are a good fit for each other.

Showing Up for Your Interview

Know the Route to the Job Interview and Be on Time

The last thing you want to do is show up late! Plan your trip, do a practice run if necessary, and whatever you do – show up on time! Even being a few minutes late gives your interviewers a bad impression of you. If you don’t care enough to show up to an interview on time, how will you perform on a daily basis?

Bring Everything You Need

Bring a briefcase or portfolio to carry a notepad, pen, business card, and several copies of your resumes (printed on high-quality paper). I recommend leaving almost everything else behind. You don’t want to present a cluttered image or be distracted while interviewing. The cell phone? Leave it in your car, turn it off, or put it in airplane mode.

Phone Interview Tips

I have done several telephone interviews. Interviewing by phone can be very different from a face to face interview, so it’s important to prepare accordingly. These tips can help you do a better interview by phone and hopefully receive a call back for a second interview.

Schedule an Appropriate Time and Location

You need privacy and a quiet location to do your best. This allows you to concentrate on your responses and not worry about interruptions or eavesdroppers.

I work close to home, so I scheduled my interview to occur before lunch (a more appropriate time than after lunch, when people tend to be sleepy). I took a couple hours personal time, did my interview, then ate lunch.

If you can’t make it home, you can consider doing a phone screening from your car or a public location that has minimal noise and allows you to converse without interruptions.

The absolute worst place you can do a phone interview is from your cubicle at work. In fact, you probably shouldn’t do it from work at all. Even though that empty conference room might be tempting, I am pretty sure most companies would seriously frown on using company time and resources to interview for a position with another company. In fact, it may be grounds for dismissal.

Prepare for Your Phone Interview

The preparation tips listed above all apply. But you need to do a little extra to prepare for your telephone interview. You should also prepare your interview location. Have a copy of your resume, a pen and pad for note taking, have a glass of water handy, ensure your phone is fully charged, use the restroom before the interview starts, and…

Minimize Distractions

As I mentioned earlier, I did my interview from home. While this is a comfortable place to be, it can also be distracting because it is easy to get too comfortable. I shut off or put away everything I didn’t need for the interview. I didn’t do any work from my current job, nor did I use the TV, radio, computer, games, have food available, or do anything else that might distract me. I had a copy of my resume, a pen, some paper, and my cell phone. That was all I needed to do my interview.

Some people may need access to a computer depending on what the position they are interviewing for. Just use your own judgment and be careful not to surf the web or play games during your interview. Your prospective employer deserves 100% of your attention. And trust me, even though they can’t see you, they will know you are distracted.

Dress Professionally

What? You’re on the phone! They can’t even see you! That’s true. But multiple studies have proved that people who dress professionally act more professionally. I’m not saying you need to put on a 3 piece suit and tie, but you shouldn’t do a phone interview in your pajamas either. Being too relaxed can take you off your game and you may respond in too casual a manner.

Follow Standard Interview Etiquette

Telephone communication is often less formal than in person communication. But don’t fall for that misplaced sense of informality. This is your first impression with a company and you want to make it favorable. Paying attention to standard professional etiquette will go a long way in your favor.

Here are a few examples:

  • Address the interviewer by title (Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc.)
  • Don’t chew gum, eat candy or food, or smoke
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Don’t be afraid of silence; take your time and give a well thought out answer
  • Close the interview with why they should hire you
  • Thank the interviewers for their time
  • Follow up with the interviewers with a handwritten not, or e-mail if more applicable to your industry or there is a time constraint

This section only focuses on the major differences between doing a telephone interview vs. an in-person interview. Many of the common interview questions you will face in a telephone interview, and the best way to answer those questions should be similar.

During the Interview – Making a Great First Impression

Dress for Success – How to Dress for an Interview

Good First Impression at Interview
You’ve got one shot at a good first impression

The way you dress says a lot about you. Dress professionally and appropriately for the job. Try to find out ahead of time, through observation or by asking someone in the company, the general attire worn at the company.

You don’t have to spend a fortune on your wardrobe. Focus on clean, professional attire, go light on your makeup and jewelry, and be sure to polish your shoes.

If you have taken the time to get to know the company, though, chances are that you have a pretty good idea of what professional dress looks like.

Here are tips for dressing the part:

  • Choose your suit carefully. If you elect to wear a suit, choose a solid color. Focus on presenting a clean cut, professional image to avoid distracting the interviewer’s attention.
  • Wear a simple shirt. The idea here is to keep the focus on you, not your clothes. A solid colored shirt or one with simple stripes won’t distract the interviewers like a shirt with loud colors or patterns could.
  • You have options with the tie. A plain tie is a simple, elegant, and always in fashion. However, it’s probably a good idea to stay away from the loud, visually distracting ties. Ties with argyle print or Daffy Duck probably aren’t the best choice for most interviews. The emphasis should be on you and your interview answers, not your clothing.
  • Go easy on the jewelry. If you are a male, keep the jewelry light. Wear your wedding ring if you are married and maybe a watch or tie clip, but consider leaving the jewelry at home, in your car, or concealed beneath your clothing. Females should wear simple accessories and stay away from large dangling pieces which can distract the interviewer. Again, the focus is on you, not your jewelry.
  • Neatly groom your hair. Guys, get a haircut and comb your hair. But be sure not to weigh it down with half a bottle of gel – that’s disgusting. Women, consider a simple style and try to keep your hair from covering your face, which will be distracting to the interviewers.
  • Skip the perfume or cologne. Many people are allergic to perfumes and scents and the last thing you want is to have an interviewer cut short the interview because they can’t physically be in the room with you without sneezing. That is a quick way to end the interview and miss out on what could possibly be a great opportunity.
  • Polish those shoes! Many people forget this simple, but important part of their wardrobe. Your shoes don’t need a mirror shine, but they should be clean, polished, and presentable. Polishing your shoes also makes them last longer.
  • Other accessories and tips. Wear plain dark socks and a belt to match your shoes. Be sure to leave a pager or cell phone in your car, or turn them off.

Greeting the Interviewer(s)

Not only is the way you dress important, but the way you greet the person(s) interviewing is also vital. You want to show a certain level of confidence. Enter the room with good posture, and shake the interviewer’s hand firmly, introducing yourself. Make eye contact, and be sure to smile. That first impression of your confidence, when combined with your appearance, can make a big difference later.

It helps, too, to be ready with your “elevator pitch.” You may not be asked for one, but if the interviewer leads with, “Tell me why I should hire you,” you can get ahead if you are ready with a succinct statement.

Listen

Part of being a good interviewee is listening. You want to make sure you understand the questions being asked. You also need to be able to participate in give and take, so that requires active listening. Additionally, it helps to remember that many people consider a “good” conversation one that they spent a good amount of time talking during. Try not to interrupt your interviewer, and let him or her share stories. He or she will be more likely to have a favorable impression.

Know Your Market Value, but Don’t Talk Salary

I prefer not to discuss salary during the job interview, if at all possible. I would rather talk numbers with the HR rep. But sometimes hiring managers will want to discuss salary numbers first – just so they have a better idea of whether or not both parties are in the same ballpark. So just in case, you should be prepared and know your market value, and have an idea of your salary range and desired benefits package. Payscale.com and Salary.com are great resources to get a ballpark idea, but keep in mind these may vary substantially from what you are offered or what your market will support.

What Not to Do in Your Interview

Here are some things “not to do” at your next job interview.  If you avoid the things on this list, maybe next time you will be called back for a second job interview – or offered the job:

  • Arrive unprepared for the interview: have you ever just shown up to a job interview and figured you would “wing it”?  Most job candidates will spend several days preparing for an interview.  If you come in unprepared and hoping to “wing it”; your interviewer will know and everyone who came prepared will have a better chance at getting the job than you do.  Know the business you’re applying to work for, update your resume and references, and spend some time thinking about responses to questions you will probably be asked.
  • Say too little: do not give one-word answers to the interviewer’s questions.  Even if it seems the question can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” response; take some time to elaborate why you’ve answered it the way you have.
  • Say too much: on the other hand, you don’t want to say too much and forget the interviewer should be leading the conversation, not you.  Make sure you show your listening skills by allowing the interviewer to talk uninterrupted, and then keep your answers on topic to avoid rambling.
  • Be a comedian: sure, you may think you’re funny and you may relieve stress by making people laugh but a job interview is not the place to show off your comedy skills.  An interviewer might think you are not serious about wanting the job if you make jokes during the interview.
  • Use your cell phone: it is never acceptable to take a phone call, read or respond to a text message during an interview.  Turn your phone off before the interview and give the interviewer your undivided attention.
  • Dress casually: even if you know the dress code is business casual, do not show up casually dressed for an interview.  Your first impression is made with your appearance.
  • Complain about your last employer: when asked why you’re leaving or why you left your last place of employment, do not take the opportunity to bad mouth the employer or the workplace.  No one wants to hire someone who bad mouths the company they worked for, or complains about everything.  Also, don’t blame incidents at your previous employer on co-workers. If something happened, talk about it honestly and don’t place blame.
  • Cry about your problems: a potential employer could care less about how much debt you have, or that you’re trying to support your children and need to make more money.  They don’t hire candidates based on the financial need of the candidates, so don’t use your interview to cry about your problems.
  • Stretch the truth or lie: one of the worst things you can do in an interview or on a job application is lying about your experiences, education or qualifications.  A good company is going to do a background check and verify the information you’ve given them, and lying during a job interview is a sure way not to get called in for a second interview – or grounds for dismissal if it’s discovered after you’ve been hired.
  • Show up late to interview: someone who can’t make it to the interview on time is also someone who is likely to be late to work regularly.  Plan to be fifteen minutes early.  If an emergency or traffic jam is going to make you late, call the office and let them know.
  • Not following up: sending a quick e-mail or letter after your interview is a great way to thank the interviewer for their time, ask any questions that might have come up since you did the interview, or clarify any issues that may have occurred during the interview.

Yes, some of these are the opposites of the tips above, but they deserve being repeated. They are that important!

After the Job Interview

Afterward, Send a Thank You Note

It’s never a bad idea to follow up with your interviewer after the interviewer unless they specifically ask you not to. Sending a thank you note after the interview reinforces your interest in the job, and reminds the interviewer of who you are.

If you know the company plans to make a hiring decision relatively soon, the quicker you send the note, the better. However, if you are aware that the interview process will take a while longer, consider waiting a few days (but not more than a week) to send your note. That way, you will refresh the interviewer’s mind at a time when you might have been fading. Timing is a fine line, so if you are in doubt, send the note promptly.

I have sent the interviewers a thank you note directly after an interview. I did this via e-mail, which some people say is a no-no. However, others think it is fine depending on the industry and whether or not it is time-sensitive (i.e. they need to make a decision quickly). Going the extra mile doesn’t hurt.

Preparing for a Job interview is Just as Important as Doing the Interview

You can’t do well in an interview without preparation. If you want the job, take the time to properly prepare for the job interview. It will show as soon as you sit down with your interviewers.



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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of Cash Money Life. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started Cash Money Life in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about military money topics and military and veterans benefits at The Military Wallet.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free account here.

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  1. Dividend growth investor says

    I agree that you need to act as if you were meeting with the interviewer face to face. I would also tell you to smile and/or keep a positive facial expression while on the phone. It sounds silly but research shows that people can sense it whether you are smiling or not..

  2. Mrs. Micah says

    I’ve done a few phone interviews and looking the part has really helped. However, I stuck by the computer in one case because we were discussing an online assistantship and thus he’d ask me to check out web pages and the like.

  3. Erik1904 says

    You bring up a good point about making sure your phone is charged. Take it a step further and try to use a land line if possible. If you are going to use a cell phone make sure you are in an area with good reception. Nothing irritates me more than talking to someone with poor phone reception.

    Great article. The phone interview is the first foot in the door, you have to POP!

  4. Ryan says

    DGI, Great comment. I have read similar things. I’ll try that on my next interview!

    Mrs. Micah, If you need your computer for your interview, then I don’t think it’s a problem – as long as you won’t allow yourself to be distracted by e-mail, web surfing, word-process… – “What was the question again?”

    Ron, I’ve never thought about it from the interviewer’s perspective, but that is a great idea!

    I think a phone screen is designed to save the company both time and money by filtering out some of the applicants before companies commit to an in-person interview. This would be critical when dealing with people from out of town.

    The interviews you mentioned are a little different, and sound more like a journalistic type interview. I try to find an example and use that as a guideline. Good luck!

  5. Natalie says

    I recently got a job after an intensive round of phone interviews. I think the best advice anyone gave me was to do the interview standing up, even pacing around a little. You’ll project your voice more, communicating confidence and sound more energetic. I ended up picking from three offers, so I must have been doing something right! 🙂

  6. Alan says

    Some people who are experienced with in person interviews find it a lot easier to do a phone interview while there sitting at a table. You can’t make yourself think that since this is a phone interview you can slack off. Sit at a table or in a chair and concentrate on the task at hand. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do in an interview. Don’t pick your nose, chew bubble gum, wear a Kiss t-shirt et cetera.

    These little things do influence you. As stated in the article, multiple studies have looked at this and have all came to the same conclusion, that you must act as professionally as if you were doing the interview in person.

    Good post.

  7. Alan says

    Oh one more thing, make sure you blast them away with your interview as you can’t use your stunning good looks on the manager anymore, only your angelic voice. haha

  8. Broke Grad Student says

    Excellent tips. I’ve had a few phone interviews for jobs and internships, and I agree with all of the tips. However, I’d add a note to the “Dress Professionally” tip, because depending on your industry, the dress code will vary. I’d suggest wearing what you would wear to an on-site interview, which could be anything from shorts and a t-shirt to formal business attire.

  9. Dividend growth investor says

    Good luck as well Ryan! Practice telling stories in a behavior based format using the STAR approach 🙂

  10. Shanti @ Antishay says

    These are great suggestions! I am a good interviewer and your list is spot-on. I don’t interview with a friend though, I just interview myself aloud when I’m alone 😉

    Good luck!

  11. Ryan says

    Shanti, I sometimes talk aloud to myself as well, but practicing with someone else is also a great way to go. I don’t generally have a problem speaking in front of people, so for me, it is mostly gathering my thoughts and knowing how to verbalize them.

  12. Ken Clark - CollegeSavings says

    I have a “two sentence” rule… Don’t offer more than two sentence responses to any one question… keeps me from over-selling myself or sticking my foot in my mouth!

  13. My Dollar Plan says

    I don’t mind when candidates send an email thank you. Unfortunately, if they snail mail it, I usually don’t get it until after my decision is made.

  14. Dividend growth investor says

    Interviewing is more of an art than science. What could be totally inappropriate in a certain situation is totally appropriate for other situations.
    For example some people say that calling your interviewer after an interview is a good thing because it shows that you are interested in the job and are willing to go the extra mile. On the other hand though, the interviewer might see you as overly pushy, which might ruin your chances of getting a job. ( In your situation i really wish you to take the job you want).
    Yet another example is about writing down thank you notes. Some people say that you should definitely send a thank you letter/ greeting card with your handwritten reminiscence of what you have to say.
    Yet others claim that in the era of the internet, its far more convenient to send an e-mail thank you note. In the companies that I have applied for before, most of the people were known to have been out of office the majority of the time( college recruiting). So they wouldn’t have received your thank you note for weeks. In my current company very few people that I know of ( even managers who are hiring) check their mailboxes..

  15. Mrs. Micah says

    Good luck with them! I think sending a thank-you by e-mail is quite relevant for many situations…particularly those involving IT and the like.

  16. [email protected] says

    Good Luck Ryan. Hope it turns out well for you. Every job interview where I sent a thank you note, I received a job offer. Batting 1.000 with that.

    Even if you do send it snail mail, I have one already prepared and jot down something right after the interview, then drop it into a mailbox just around the corner. It usually gets there in a day or two.

  17. Dividend Growth Investor says

    I would also advice you to remove any keys or coins from your pockets.. Otherwise you might be making funny ( unprofesisonal) noises as you walk..

  18. [email protected] says

    It always amazes me that people don’t intuitively know this stuff. We’ve become so casual in our society and lax in our appearance that it comes across as lazy and sloppy. Hey–if he/she dresses sloppy for an interview, he/she probably won’t do good work. Interviewers don’t explicitly think this but it DOES register in their minds.

    One of the best ways to find out what to wear (I’ve found) is to ask. Ask the person on the phone interview when you’re asked to come in for a face to face, “What’s the typical style of dress around the office?”

    If you don’t feel comfortable asking your interviewer, ask the receptionist!

  19. Frugal Dad says

    Good advice, particularly on the cell phones. Best to just leave them in your car. I recently interviewed a lady for a position and her cell phone rang about 5 minutes into the Q&A. We hired her anyway because she was so graceful about handling the interruption (never skipped a beat in her answer and maintained eye contact while muting the phone), but it could have been a deal-breaker.

  20. plonkee says

    If you don’t know what to wear, and you have time, you could hang around the place at hometime or lunchtime and see what people are wearing – might give you a clue.

  21. Shanti @ Antishay says

    I’m also surprised by how much this information has to be drilled home with some people. For me, it’s just common sense!

    I would advise also to WOMEN: don’t wear heavy makeup. You’ll most likely be under fluorescent lights, which will make you look paler and a little more washed out. The result is that your subtle eye makeup and blush suddenly seem a lot more harsh. Couple that with any possible sweating, and a lot of makeup is a road to disaster. Think about how you do your makeup when you’re going out for errands in the bright afternoon, vs. how you do your makeup for evening dates. Lean toward the afternoon-style makeup for interviews.

  22. Andrew says

    Another thing I’ve noticed occasionally is that some people don’t press their clothes. This is particularly true for those in town just for an interview. They’ve packed their suits/shirts and didn’t iron. It looks sloppy.

    Ron, good call on the dress code issue. As a consultant, I’m always meeting clients and often ask my contacts’ admins about the dress code. This works just as well for interviews.

  23. Myfinancebutler says

    Good post… I’d add to make sure you aren’t chewing gum when you go in.

    But really, I’d also add that you should be comfortable in what you wear. If you’re wearing the ‘right’ clothes, but they feel wrong, no other part of the interview (besides the first impression) will go well. It’s about rules, sure, but it’s also about comfort.

  24. Jon says

    I totally agree about matching the wardrobe of the company. When I was younger I applied to work at a smoothie shop. I went there almost every day after I worked out at the gym next door. I knew a lot of the people that worked there. After being called back for a group interview, I went dressed up in slacks, a dress shirt, and a tie. When I got there, I was the only one dressed up. Even the guy interviewing was a lot more casual than me. Needless to say I didn’t get the job. Not sure if that was because of the way I looked or because my schedule didn’t fit their needs. Either way, I doubt my appearance helped any.

  25. Ryan says

    Andrew, Great comment! I’ve also noticed a lot of people don’t pay attention to the details – wrinkled clothing, unpolished/worn shoes, dirt under the fingernails, non-matching clothing, etc.

  26. Robin May says

    I have a phone interview tomorrow and jumped on the computer hoping to find suggestions how to handle such an interview and was really happy to find all these suggestions. With the economic situation as it is right now, employers are getting hundreds of applications and this particular company has someone from HR probably whittling down the applications they have received. Their job was just posted yesterday, on which they stated that expecting a huge amount of applications they would only respond to those they feel really qualify. I was gratified to get a response within hours of having sent my resume to them so I guess I said something right. But what worries me now is if I am one of the first to be called, what do I say so they won’t forget me by the time they have interviewed maybe 25 other people after me? That has concerned me with face to face interviews when I have been told they will be interviewing more people over the next four or five days after me. By the time they are at an end, I have become just a vague memory!

  27. Ryan says

    Robin May,

    Since your interview is tomorrow, the most important thing you can do is prepare for the interview. Research the company, the job position, go over your resume, and review sample interview questions (just use a quick Google search and you should find a few things). Practicing by speaking a few answers aloud might be helpful.

    Don’t stay up too late though, because just like a test, you can get burnt out by trying to force it. Tomorrow when you call the company for your interview, make sure you are in a quiet location and have the ability to speak freely. Answer confidently and honestly, and you stand a good chance of being remembered.

    Even though they may be calling multiple people, they will likely make a quick decision on those people they either want to call again or see in person. I just received a job offer from one company that I had two phone screens, then an in-person interview. So be prepared to do this more than once. Good luck!

  28. Slinky says

    While I do agree that people should be dressed appropriately for interviews and for the company and job they’re looking for, I think interviewees can dress distinctively without going overboard.

    How do you make that first impression if you look like all the others? Obviously don’t go crazy, and take the job and field into consideration. Your age must be taken into account as well. Personally, I have a light grey suit with a bit of stripe, not a pinstripe, more textural than anything. It’s got lace…yes, lace on the collar and such. I generally wear a bold colored shirt with it and carry a small, but interesting purse and a portfolio. It’s served me very well. I’m just graduating college next week, but I’ve had my job lined up since last fall and I have been called back for a second interview every time I’ve interviewed. Obviously, that’s more me than my suit, but it’s obviously not hurting anything, and is hardly conventional.

    Definately keep it professional, but that doesn’t have to mean boring. And make sure your suit fits well. An ill fitting suit can make you look sloppy even of you’re not.

  29. Ryan says

    Slinky,

    Great comment. I agree, adding a little flair can definitely work in your favor, just stay away from too much “bling” unless you are interviewing for a job that calls for that. I also agree people need to wear a suit that fits well.

    A lot of what you decide to wear depends on where you are interviewing and your industry. The important thing is to be comfortable with yourself and in that environment.

  30. Erik says

    Whose idea was it to send thank you notes to people who are not taking as much time and effort to be at the interview as you are? Card companies, that’s who. Don’t do this. It’s more of a risk than an accepted practice and it’s one more thing we don’t need to piss away our resources on. We are not the Japanese. Worker and employer is a symbiotic relationship. Be polite. Thank them for their time at the interview.

  31. Ryan says

    Erik,

    A thank you note can be as simple as a quick e-mail thanking the interviewer for their time, or a hand written note expressing the same. I would think it a bit weird if someone sent me a Hallmark thank-you card after an interview. The key is to be professional.

    I also don’t think it is a risk to send a follow up e-mail or note to an interviewer. It gives the job seeker a chance to maintain an open line of communication and shows the interviewer the job applicant is likely to be assertive when following up on assignments.

    By all means be polite and thank for their time at the interview, but consider following up as well. It shows them you are interested and willing to continue working toward your goals – a trait every employer I’ve worked for values.

  32. Erik says

    Based on what evidence is this effective? All I’m seeing out there is anecdotal stuff from unverifiable employers. I know how I would feel about an employee who sent a thank you note and while I wouldn’t hold it as a huge strike against them, I’d wonder about their confidence. Bad news if I was just on the wire about them vs. another potential employee.

  33. Ryan says

    Erik, in my experience, following up after an interview shows the interviewer you are interested in the position and have the ability to follow up with important tasks.

    Simply going through the motions in an interview does not always qualify as being interested in the position. There are many people who interview to see what jobs are out there or to get an offer simply to gain leverage in other negotiations.

    Sending a thank you note is very similar to making a follow up phone call to express your interest in the position, only it is a written record. I am not recommending sending a flowery Hallmark card, but a simple handwritten note or e-mail (e-mail is generally acceptable and even preferable in most cases).

    As for evidence of effectiveness, I have not read any studies and my “proof” is only anecdotal as well. I was hired after sending thank you e-mails to my interviewers after my interview. I will ask my manager if the thank you e-mail I sent had any negative or positive effect on my interview.

    The other thing to consider is the industry and location in which you work. I am sure standards vary based on these factors. I live and work in the Midwest in an industry (consulting and government contracting) that is fairly knit. There is a lot of communication and flow across leadership from various companies. I am sure things are different in a large city or in other industries.

    (I should also note that I did not follow up with a hand-written thank you note. I simply sent a quick e-mail to the interviewers thanking them for their time and leaving my contact information in the signature).

  34. Craig says

    The bottom line is to be prepared for an interview. Do your research, make sure your resume is up to date and relevant, make sure your online channels are set appropriately and branded.

  35. RB @ RichBy30RetireBy40 says

    Please do everything possible to click the company’s website and understand several of the challenges and opportunities the company faces at this very moment.

    Interviewers are always amazed when you discuss their company fluidly. It makes it seem as if the candidate has always been there.

    Humility is also key.

  36. tina says

    Thanks for the GREAT post & all the insightful comments. I have my 1st of 2 phone interviews this week. I know this information will help me prepare for them more effectively.

  37. Kim P says

    I just had my first phone interview last week. I had received a call from the HR department of a company I had submitted my resume to. I was asked if it was a good time for us to talk. I replied yes, still not knowing that I was about to begin a very unexpected phone interview! Immediately I was asked questions such as why I wanted to work for them, describe my previous work experience in detail (job title, duties and responsibilities, and why I left the company). I was also asked about what type of position I was looking for (full-time/part-time) and what my salary requirments were. I was so nervous and caught off guard that my throat was dry, I was stumbling and fumbling over my words. I was so embarrassed.

    When all was said and done I was told by the HR department that these notes would be sent over to the Hiring Manager and if they were interested in meeting me for an interview, I would receive a call. I thought for sure I would not hear back to them after my initial phone interview. Sure enough, the next business day, I did receive a call from the Hiring Manager. I was asked similar questions pertaining to my work experience, type of position I was looking for and salary requirements. I was then told I would receive a call back, the interviewer received a page and had to take another call. I’m hoping that I will receive a call back but this time to set up the “actual” interview.

    • Ryan says

      Kim, It sounds like they caught you off guard! I don’t like the idea of doing an interview without advance notice because it doesn’t give either side time to prepare, and could really catch you off guard. I hope the practice worked well for you and will hopefully help you be better prepared for the next phone interview!

  38. LoveBeingRetired says

    You can gather a lot of information on the company website ahead of time. I always take a look at the News Releases to see if anything noteworthy has happened recently so I a on top of it. I watch product demos and press videos to get a feel for the company positioning and message. And I create a list of questions specific to my role to ask during the interview so I better understand the company direction and how I would fit in with their culture and direction. Preparation is the key!

  39. EasyFinanceAdvice says

    Great post! Great advice about the phone interview… that also happened to me as well. Be sure to make your resume POP in order to get that interview.

  40. Stanley says

    Great points Ryan. At the same time, one must add:

    – Fitting is even more important than color. The fit MUST be right: not too big, not too small. One can wear the most expensive suit with all the right colors, but if the fit is wrong, one is rendered ridiculous

    – Ryan mentioned belt and shoes. This point is crucial: they must match and must be impeccable. As an example, the first thing that many women notice on men is the belt/shoes combo. Thus, men must keep it in mind when being interviewed by the opposite gender

    – Regarding colors, I think that one should be a bit bolder than prescribed by Ryan. I find being too color safe boring. However, using bright colors is a gamble. Too much bright colors will create a clash with people. Using a slight touch of bright coloring emphasizes a sense of elegance, confidence, and accentuates one’s attractiveness. Remember that the goal is to differentiate oneself from the crowd with one’s skills, character, and also fashion. Like Ryan says, “a first impression is the most important thing you give to a prospective employer.”

  41. Keith says

    If you have a specific time for a telephone interview (and you don’t have the specific interviewer’s telephone number), how much earlier should you be ready to take the call? If you miss the interviewer’s call because they called a little early, who is at fault? Thanks.

    • Ryan says

      Keith, You should be ready a reasonable amount of time before the scheduled call. I think 15-20 minutes should be plenty. Any more than that and the interviewer should contact you in advance to reschedule the call. They can’t assume an interviewee will be waiting by the phone at all hours. As far as “fault” goes, I would hesitate to place blame. The best course of action is to contact the other party and explain that you thought the interview was scheduled for “x” time and you were unavailable at other the time they called. Then politely ask to reschedule. If the interviewer is reasonable, this shouldn’t present too much of a problem. If it does, then you probably don’t want to work there.

  42. krantcents says

    In most cases, the mistakes were obvious! Being on time is a pet peeve of mine! A little practice is all it takes to do well in the interview.

  43. Jon says

    You should know about the job in which you are interviewing. Companies like forethought and if they think you have an edge on what their company is all about and why you want to work for them their interest will be peaked. Also, do NOT chew gum during an interview — that is the antithesis of professional!

  44. Squirrelers says

    It’s always amazing how some people violate some of the basics – like showing up on time, being dressed for an interview, etc. Hard to imagine missing on these obvious ones!

    The area where I think many well-meaning candidates fail, though, is preparation. It requires more than a general knowledge of the company, and it isn’t just about knowing your own skills/experience/interests. It’s also about demonstrating why you’re the best fit for the job, and part of that is showing that you’ll work hard to learn about the company. Again, it shows initiative and drive – traits employers look for.

  45. Money Infant says

    Those are great interviewing techniques. I think the combination of confidence and knowledge about the company and industry will give you an edge over many of the other applicants. Cemented with a quick and gracious thank you note, you shouldn’t have to be on the job market long. How do you feel about sending a follow-up email a week or two later to inquire about the status of the open position and your chances?

  46. Nick says

    I especially like the note tip. I once sent a handwritten note to the coordinator of a trade show that booked me to speak. It’s a really, really competitive speaking gig. She called me to thank me for the nice note and said it’s been years since she got a handwritten note. Next thing I know, I have an open invitation and I’m turning down spots from them because it’s just too much. Nuts.

  47. Krantcents says

    Good tips! Making a connection during the interview is the key goal for a candidate. Hiring managers usually hire people they like. Making a connection means separating you from the other candidates and hopefully the hiring manager likes you.

  48. Ann says

    I wish I could send this out to my candidates before they are interviewed… especially the part about listening. When people are nervous they tend to go on and on, and often end up saying things that don’t work in their favor. I can’t count the number of times a candidate gave me a good answer off the bat, then proceeded to sink themselves with a bunch of useless gibberish, often contradicting their first answer. Another irritant I would add is candidates ‘fudging’ answers when they don’t know. I can always tell when you don’t know, and would much rather prefer a mature and honest response to one that is made up.
    Have confidence in yourself and stay grounded during an interview. Remember that the person on the other side of the table wants you to be the right candidate for the job…

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