Saturday, April 13, 2013

Job Interview

Job interviews are fun, in my humble opinion (IMHO). Side note, whenever I see or say IMHO, I think of this guy:

Imhotep from The Mummy

Man I loved those movies! Anyways, job interviews are fun. I know, I am weird. I also enjoy going to the dentist. It's more about my teeth feeling amazing and getting free dental care accessories. But back to interviews...

Interviewing well is not a difficult thing, believe it or not. I have seen first hand (and heard of) a lot of really bad stuff that you should never do at an interview. I have been to quite a few job interviews. I mean, I am not that old or anything, but I do have some life experience in that department. I have also interviewed people to work where I work, and you wouldn't believe some of the crazy shiggen I have seen. I have done phone interviews and in person interviews (both as interviewer and interviewee), so I know how it works from both ends. So take some notes, and bonne chance! I will prepare you well, and you are going to ROCK this interview.

Nope, not this kind of rock

Not this kind of Rock either

Now we're talking!!! Rock that interview!!!
Preparing For the Interview

-Make sure your résumé and LinkedIn profile (if you have one) is up-to-date. This should go without saying, but make sure to have current contact information, job information, etc. on your hard copies, as well as anywhere you have your résumé posted online. If the old cell phone number that you no longer have is on there and the employer tries to reach you, you are making them jump through hoops and do extra work to reach you, which is a bad impression from the start. Also, review your résumé beforehand, because some older experiences may be difficult to recall if an interviewer asks about them.

-Consider changing your Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/MySpace/Pinterest settings to private for pictures, information, etc. In this day and age, you better believe that this company is going to be doing their research on YOU. If they see pictures of you getting wild on spring break with a beer bottle in your hand, they are probably going to hire someone more professional (or at least smart and savvy about their FB privacy settings). In general, keep the alcohol/scantily clad pictures off of Facebook. Trust me... nobody wants to see that stuff anyways. I have a friend who is FB friends with their boss, but blocks them from seeing any pictures.

Party time!!! Woooo!! If it's on the internet, it's fair game to search.

-Make sure your voicemail message is professional. In other words, "Leave me a message, bitch!" is probably not going to get you hired. Just sayin'...

-Do be prepared and know a little about the company. Know the name of the company before the interview also. Don't show up to learn about the company from the interviewer. If the company you are interviewing for has a website, check it out. Read about the company and their mission, browse around, and spend some time getting familiar with it. No need to memorize facts and figures, but during the interviewer if you could casually drop in something about what you read, it shows you have done your homework and that you care enough to find out more information about your future employer.

-Choose your references wisely. Make sure they are people in your life who have worked with or supervised you, know your work ethic and character well, and who you have a positive relationship with. If you have references listed, make sure to let them know that they may be contacted by the company. This way, they can prepare what they might say about you, and it's just courteous. One time one of my family members was interviewing for a job and her interviewer showed up at my place of employment unannounced. That was quite surprising! (Gee, thanks for the heads up on that one!)

-Here is a great resource for the 50 most common questions employers ask. Practice answering each of these questions with a specific example (if possible), and thinking of answers to scenarios (when you have worked as a team, when you had to prioritize multiple tasks, when you had to handle a difficult customer/ situation, when you had a conflict with a co-worker etc.). Practice with a friend or family member, and have them be the interviewer.

-Get enough sleep the night before, and eat breakfast (or lunch/dinner depending on what time your interview is). It's important for you to look and be well rested and fed so that you can be alert, and you don't want your stomach growling loudly during the interview.

I have been awake for 3 days straight...

-Have a clean, neat appearance before you leave the house. This means clean shaven, clean body, hair brushed and styled, teeth brushed, minimal perfume or cologne (one light spritz on your neck and wrists, if any at all--someone may be allergic), deodorant, clean nails, minimal makeup and jewelry, and dressed professionally. No need to pay for an expensive manicure or pedicure, but make sure your nails are clipped, filed, and throw a coat of clear nail polish on there to make them shine. Yeah, don't do that while you are waiting in the lobby before your interview--take care of it the night before. If you are wearing open toed shoes, don't neglect your toe nails either. Make sure to take any pet hair off of your clothes and jacket/coat with a tape roller. Again, these are all things to do at home BEFORE you leave the house, or in your car, at the very least if you must.

This girl is going to get hired
-Do show up looking clean and polished, like a shiny, new penny. Don't show up looking like you just got out of the shower. Or just rolled out of bed. If your hair is all wet/crazy, it looks like you didn't put any effort into your appearance, so what's to say you will put effort into coming to work at this job every day? If you wear your pajamas and slippers (I have seen this, no joke), I am going to assume you are here to sleep on the job. Or you are going to shop at Walmart. I told that interviewee in pajamas that was not appropriate attire to wear to an interview--ever. Make sure your clothes and shoes are clean and ironed, and free of holes, stains, rips, etc. Don't smoke before the interview or you will smell like smoke.

She was up all night partying...with her cats.
-Do show up with a natural (or close to natural) hair color and cut. Don't get a weird haircut or dye job. If you have blue hair and a mohawk, chances are your future employer is not going to appreciate your avant-garde look. It's just not cool in the working world. You hair should be tangle free, brushed, and styled.

-Do wear minimal jewelry and makeup. Don't wear your biggest earrings or every piece of jewelry you own. If jewelry is ragged or cheap looking, wear none. No facial piercings, but if you must have them, keep them to a bare minimum, and wear your smallest ones.

Nicki Minaj's hair, makeup, nails, jewelry, and clothes are about as unnatural as it gets.

-Do wear natural, daytime makeup. This means foundation (don't cake it on and make sure you blend at the neckline. Oh, and that it matches your ACTUAL skin color--not the one you wish you had), concealer, loose powder (if you need it), a natural, neutral eye shadow color (no blues, greens, silvers, purples, etc.), minimal eyeliner, if any (not a thick bold line like Cleopatra), a little mascara (no fake lashes), blush, and a little chapstick or lipgloss (not a bright or bold lipstick--natural is fine). Don't experiment with a new makeup product or look right before your interview. Don't look like you are about to go out on the town. This is not Halloween or date night--it's a job interview, for goodness sake!

Maybe if they are looking to hire a vampire...
-Do arrive early. Don't be late. Arrive no later than 15 minutes before the start of your interview. If you have never been to the site, before the day of the interview, time yourself to see how long it takes you to get there from your house, and plan to leave early (don't forget to factor in weather and traffic). That way, you have time to get yourself together, take a deep breath, and knock 'em dead.

I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date, oh yes, I'm LATE!
-Bring 3 clean (i.e. not written on, wrinkled, stained, etc.) copies of your résumé, a list of at least 3 professional references and their contact information (not related to you, and not necessary if they are already included on your résumé) and a notepad and a pen. You can jot down notes, if needed, and those notes of what you learn will be helpful later for your thank you note.

-Get your confidence on. You are the best person for this job, so prove it! Don't brag about yourself, but be prepared with some specific examples about how you are punctual, dependable, hard-working, a team player, etc. Also, think about your strengths and weaknesses. If you can't think of any weaknesses, that's a problem, because everyone has stuff they can work on. Spend some time thinking about it and come up with at least 2 to have ready.

What to Wear

Ask the interviewer what the dress code is. The person wearing a suit and tie is going to make a much better impression over the person wearing a scruffy, wrinkled t-shirt and jeans. Plan your outfit out the night before. Make sure the clothes fit you appropriately (for your shape and size--nothing baggy or skin tight--well proportioned and well fit to suit you are best), and are clean, ironed, and all laid out. Also, your fashion shouldn't be dated, as in from the 1990s or earlier. If you need a wardrobe update, you don't have to fork out a lot of money...there are affordable options at K-Mart, Walmart, Target, TJ Maxx, and Kohl's. Then you won't be rushing around or trying to decide what to wear in the morning. I have done a lot of research on what to wear, and here are some good examples of what to wear for high school interview attire, and men and women for summer employment, internships, startup companies, and professional, business, and business casual attire.

He's a dapper young lad, don't ya think?

-Wear neutral colors (this includes your coat/jacket, briefcase, or purse as well). Avoid clothes that are skin tight or sexy, plunging necklines (especially with a blazer, wear an appropriate shirt underneath that is not too revealing), skirts so short that you can't sit down without showing your hooha, really high heels/platform shoes (and hooker boots), hats, hoodies, Crocs, athletic clothes, see-through tops, nighties, scrubs, pajamas, wizard robes, costumes of any sort, flip flops, sunglasses, headphones, novelty ties, sneakers or athletic shoes (especially if they are raggedy and worn and even if they are brand spanking new), and anything flashy, neon, glittery, bright, bedazzled, revealing, skin-tight, or over the top that is going to take away from the main focus--YOU. A little pop of color as an accent is ok and is even on trend. Ask yourself, would Richard Simmons wear this? If the answer is yes, it's an automatic HELL NAW. Put it back in your closet. Right. Now.

Richard Simmons and his AWESOMELY not interview-friendly fashion
Phone Interviews

Phone interviews are cool because you CAN do them in your PJs. Obviously you don't have the visual cues like facial expression or what you are wearing, so that's a bonus. But you do have to be on your "A" game in terms of what you say, because your tone and courteous manner are all that you have to work with on the phone.

-Do be positive. Don't complain about anything (even the weather), or have a negative attitude. If you have to say something negative at all, try to put a positive spin on it.

Which dude would you rather hire?

-Do smile. An interviewer can hear the smile in your voice. Have a courteous manner and tone throughout the call. Don't interrupt or talk over the interviewer, or if you do accidentally, apologize.

-Be yourself. Don't be fake, or pretend to be someone you are not. Otherwise, you will have to hold up that facade for as long as you work there. It's easier to be honest and real.

I'm a really, I am!

-Don't eat or chew gum/candy/cough drops/food while on the call. It's extra loud in the person's ear that you are talking to. Don't sneeze, burp, or cough into the phone either. There's a mute button for good reason.

Om nom nom!

-Do be polite and respectful. Don't say anything to the interviewer that you wouldn't say in court to a judge, or to your dear old granny. For example, A good opener to a conversation is not, "Hey, I remember you--we got drunk together that one night!" Don't use slang, swear, use offensive language, or tell any jokes that may be considered offensive (racial, sexual, etc.) Remember, even if you know the person who is interviewing you--this is an interviewer, not your homie. Use please and thank you where appropriate, and remember your manners.

You said WHAT?!?!

-Do be honest. Don't lie about anything (this included what you put on your résumé). Seriously, don't lie about finishing school if you haven't, how much you make, the jobs you have held, or anything. The employer may do some research on you, and the last thing you want to do is be caught in a lie. What employer wants to hire someone who can't even be honest in the interview for hire?

I always show up to work on time! *nose grows*

-Do talk your skills and strengths up. Emphasize why you are perfect for this job with the experience you have and use specific examples. Talk about what you can uniquely contribute and why you would be an asset to the company.

-Ask questions if you need clarification. Don't think you are going to look dumb if you need something repeated, or phrased in a different way.

-Do jot down any important information that the interviewer says.Write down anything you didn't know prior to the interview, anything they stress, or anything they say more than once. One interviewer I had kept mentioning customer service skills and the follow up interview I had later on had a lot of customer service based scenario questions, so listen and pay attention--it can only help you.

In Person Interviews

Take it from a fashionista--your appearance matters, and first impressions are everything. The second you walk through the door, you are going to be judged based on how you look--your appearance, your gender, your ethnic background, your income level, etc. I am not saying it's right or fair, but the reality is that's the way it is. Here are some good body language tips from Career Builder.

-Remain calm. You got this! Take a deep breath before you begin the interview.

-Do smile. You will appear to be friendly and approachable. Employers are more likely to hire someone who is positive and happy, versus someone who is bored, uninterested, or negative.

-Turn your phone off and put it away during the interview. End of story. The last thing you want is to get a call or text, and have "Baby Got Back" as your ringtone. No texting during the interview either!!!!

Dude, really? Put that thing away.

-Don't bring a drink to the interview other than water. You might just spill it on yourself, and that would be a recipe for disaster.

Oopsies! I don't think my Clorox pen is going to get this out...

-Pop a breath mint before your interview. Don't chew gum/candy/cough drops during the interview. It's distracting, annoying, and unprofessional. If you must chew gum beforehand, spit it out before the interview.

Something smells...
-Do be confident. Use a firm handshake to greet the interviewer in the beginning of the interviewer and at the end (not a limp, loose one like a dead fish), and make eye contact. For people who avoid eye contact, often times the employer thinks that they are hiding something, or not confident. You are the best person for this position, so prove it to the interviewer. If they ask you a question that you don't expect, take a moment to think about your response before you start vomiting out words just for the sake of answering.

A nice, firm handshake is a good start to an interview
-Don't fidget or shake your leg. It's distracting, and just shows the interviewer that you are nervous and uncomfortable. Don't click a pen, rock or roll your chair, or tap your fingers on the desk either. Place your hands in your lap and keep them still. Also don't scratch or rub your neck, face, nose, ears, or anything else.

-Sit up straight in your chair, and lean slightly forward toward the interviewer. Don't slouch or get too comfortable. Don't lean toward the door either or it will appear as though you are trying to make a fast getaway. Don't sit with your arms crossed, as that is a defensive and unfriendly posture.

She has good posture and seems very engaged

-Do not invade personal space. This means don't be any closer than 20 inches to the interviewer, or you may make them feel uncomfortable.

-Pay attention. Maintain eye contact and listen well to the interviewer--do not zone out. Nod ocasionally (not constantly like a bobblehead) and keep an interested expression. Don't have a blank look on your face, or you will appear bored or disinterested.

Good eye contact goes a long way

-Be brief and to the point when answering. Do not overtalk. Do not monopolize the interview by doing all the talking or by rambling on and on, but give enough information to get your point across. Don't get sidetracked or go off on a tangent--stay focused, and make sure you answer what the interviewer is asking. Also, avoid talking about your personal life, unless specifically asked about it.

-Do not badmouth previous employers. "Yeah, working at Target really sucked. They don't treat their employees well at all," is not a good thing to say. It's a smaller world than you think, and your interviewer might know the boss or company you are badmouthing. You also don't want the interviewer to think that is how you will talk about their company, especially if you leave on terms that are not the best.

-If you know someone at the company, it is ok to name drop. Let the interviewer know that you know Jack Nelson (and also make sure Jack Nelson is talking you up!) Sometimes, it can help. It's a small, small world, and a lot of the time for jobs, it is all about who you know to even get your foot in the door.

The 3 Questions You Should Always Ask

After all is said and done, when the interviewer asks if you have any questions, always say yes, even if you don't. Why? Because I have 3 fool-proof questions you can always ask that are sure to impress (courtesy of Forbes):

1. As an employee, how could I exceed your expectations? This way, you are putting out there that you are going to be meeting the job requirements, but also that you are willing to go above and beyond what is required of you from the start. This question shows confidence, and the answer can reveal what the interviewer hopes to accomplish by taking on a new hire, and that information can help you determine whether to accept the position if you get an offer.

2. What excites you about coming into work/ What do you love about working for this company? This can give you some great insight into the company that you might not otherwise get, from a personal experience. If the interviewer can tell you why they love and are passionate about working there, that is generally a really good sign. People also love to talk about themselves, and this provides an excellent chance to get to know the hiring manager and find some common ground.

3. Is there any reason why you wouldn't hire me? I know--this question seems really forward and ballsy. It is! I was hesitant to say it, but it really surprises the interviewer (in a good way). I always explain that if there is any reservations or concerns they have about hiring me, then I can go ahead and address those right now. It shows you have confidence and that you want to know where you stand and are willing to clarify or dispel any doubts they may have about you.

-Get the contact information of the interviewer (if they don't have a business card, get their full name correctly spelled, title, the company name, phone, email, and most importantly, mailing address). You will need this to follow up with any questions and the status of hiring, and send a thank you note.

-Do maintain your cool. Don't do a celebratory dance, song, yell, or gesture (Tim Tebow style) until you are back home, or at least well out of sight of the employer.

Dear Lord, please let me get this job!

After the Interview

Within a day (yes, 24 hours) of the final interview (because sometimes there are multiple interviews), send a thank you card to the interviewer. I know this may seem really archaic, but seriously, it puts you in the top 10% of applicants--since most people don't even bother in this day and age. Here is the website where I got these "how to write perfect thank you note" tips. Handwritten is most personal, and snail mail is the way to go. Typing the letter and signing it is also fine, but snail mail it. As a last resort, you can email a thank you note, but keep in mind it is not nearly as personal as a handwritten note. An interviewer might see it as you just copied and pasted a message. Also, send a thank you to each person from the company you interview with. It's not necessary to send one to a recruiter, but definitely to anyone who interviews you that works at the company.

Format of the Thank You Letter

1. Thank the interviewer for their time and consideration for the job. Remind them of the day/date you interviewed on. Be specific about the position you interviewed for (i.e. the customer service representative position), because sometimes companies are hiring for multiple positions that same day.

2. Show that you listened. Say something specific that you previously did not know about the company before the interview.

3. Briefly refresh the interviewer's memory on what you can do to do the job well. Or, tell them something specific that you didn't get a chance to (I have been thinking about this position and I know I can help because I can do A, B, and C).

4. Let the interviewer know that you are ready to begin. Let them know you are looking forward to hearing from them, and give them your contact information. That way, they don't have to go searching for it in a stack of résumés.

Following Up

If the interviewer specifically tells you that you will be hearing from them by a certain day within a week, wait it out. But, if you haven't heard from the company within a week, don't be afraid to follow up. Call the interviewer and let them know of your continued interest in the job and ask if there is any further information they need from you. You are NOT bothering them by doing this, and they are not too busy to consider getting back to you. The reason they make you wait in the first place to hear from them is so that they can see who actually follows up. If they are not available, just leave a message including that basic information on their voicemail along with a number to reach you at.

As a rule, don't ever text the interviewer. Unless they specifically say that you can, and if so, do it between the hours of 8am-6p, if possible. It's impersonal, but I did have one interviewer tell me that if I needed a quick response, I had her cell phone number and could text her.

Finally, treat yourself. You survived that interview, now don't stress about it. Take yourself out to dinner or have a drink. You will be doing that soon enough when you get the job!

Well, I know that was a lot, but that's all I have for you--the rest is up to you. In the near future I will have a post on cover letters and résumés. Good luck!

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